Art as expression in Canada
The view that “art is imitation (representation)” has not only been challenged, it has been moribund in at least some of the
arts for more than a century. It was subsequently replaced by the theory that art is expression. Instead of reflecting states of
the external world, art is held to reflect the inner state of the artist. This, at least, seems to be implicit in the core meaning
of “expression”: the outer manifestation of an inner state. Art as a representation of outer existence (admittedly “seen through a
temperament”) has been replaced by art as an expression of humans’ inner life.
But the terms “express” and “expression” are ambiguous and do not always denote the same thing. Like so many other terms,
“express” is subject to the process–product ambiguity: the same word is used for a process and for the product that results
from that process. “The music expresses feeling” may mean that the composer expressed his feeling in writing the music or
that the music when heard is expressive (in some way yet to be defined) of human feeling. Based on the first sense are theories
about the creation of art. Founded on the second are theories about the content of art and the completion of its creation.
Art is a diverse range of human activities in creating visual, auditory or performing artifacts (artworks), expressing the author’s imaginative or technical skill, intended to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power.12 In their most general form these activities include the production of works of art, the criticism of art, the study of the history of art, and the aesthetic dissemination of art.
The oldest documented forms of art are visual arts, which include creation of images or objects in fields including today painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, and other visual media.
Architecture is often included as one of the visual arts; however, like the decorative arts, or advertising,3 it involves the creation of objects where the practical considerations of use are essential—in a way that they usually are not in a painting, for example.
Music, theatre, film, dance, and other performing arts, as well as literature and other media such as interactive media, are included in a broader definition of art or the arts.14 Until the 17th century, art referred to any skill or mastery and was not differentiated from crafts or sciences.
In modern usage after the 17th century, where aesthetic considerations are paramount, the fine arts are separated and distinguished from acquired skills in general, such as the decorative or applied arts.
Art may be characterized in terms of mimesis (its representation of reality), narrative (storytelling), expression, communication of emotion, or other qualities. During the Romantic period, art came to be seen as “a special faculty of the human mind to be classified with religion and science”.5
Though the definition of what constitutes art is disputed678 and has changed over time, general descriptions mention an idea of imaginative or technical skill stemming from human agency9 and creation.10