There are certain things in life that if placed in a proper perspective, give more meaning to human existence especially in a society where paramount values guiding the general conduct of people have lost shape. For example, in most traditional African societies ‘reason’ was a yard stick used not just in measuring ‘the cause’ but also in justifying the action of an individual. The common ground on which reason for action was being established is that, no action is taken by an individual without a reason. It is to this very end that the Tiv people in Nigeria puts this proverb: Kwagh gbe eren ga, sar kwagh ka a er; charteracatamaraninthebvi which literally translates that: ‘Nothing just happens, something must have prompted it’.
Ironically, in today’s world, many societies care more about what happens without tracing the root cause. For example, it is easier to point accusing fingers to an armed robber without knowing the circumstances that warrant such acts. No wonder, even in the court of law judgments are entirely passed base on facts instead of truth. While it is easy to fabricate facts within a short period of time in defense of the wrong in the society, it takes a relatively longer period for real truth to be revealed. What then can one say of art?
For an artist to settle down in his/her studio for several hours or days if not weeks, to create a piece of work of art is clear indication that there must be something behind it. Whether an embodiment of his/her ideas about the society or something that is relatively far from just creating for creating sake. A piece of art, being it a painting, sculpture, song, a write-up, decoration, a play etc, is meant to serve a certain purpose in the society that creates it. By definition, I have often seen art as any product or activity produced for a particular audience which involves the expression of thoughts, feelings, ideas etc in a creative manner through a given medium. Going by the above definition, a song is a piece of art.
The rhythms that accompanied it with the sound of musical instruments are the creative attributes of the song. The meaning of the song’s wordings have to do with the message while the singing in this case is medium which the artiste expresses his/her feelings, thoughts or ideas about the society he/she lives in. Those who listen to the song are automatically the audience. Also, a piece of painting is an art work. Painting itself is a medium which the artist expresses his/her ideas, thoughts, bostonhaikusociety or feelings about the society he or she lives. The manipulation of colours on the canvas to achieve harmony/colour rhythm or good composition is the creativity involved. The viewers of the painting are automatically the audience.
Who is the art work made for? A work of art once produced is like a finished product in the market. This does not necessarily mean that the art work must be bought in the same way other products are being purchased in the market. In the art world, art receives its highest reward not by people who by it but those who ‘appreciate’ it most. The implication of this word “appreciate” is that, there are others who will not appreciate it for obvious reasons, yet that will not affect the art piece itself. This means that, it is not every body that will like it; and again, it is loved by many.
Some get attracted to it probably because of the style in which the artist used in executing the work, while some like it just because the title reminds them of something they are familiar with or even experienced in the past. Another person might like it just because of the colours while others will not. To this end, people will react to it differently base on how they view it. But most importantly, people often forget that someone (an artist) creates the work and probably it is his/her comment about something in the society he/she lives. Such a comment is probably meant to correct a wrong or an indirect way of exposing an evil practice for the benefit of a target group or a particular audience in the society.
It therefore means that, every art work so long as it created by an artist, it is for a purpose. It either serves the artist that creates it or the society which the artist lives in. Good art for wrong audience: One of the reasons why art is often misconstrued is when a good piece of art work is located in a odd environment. Imaging a grotesque looking African mask of either the Ibibio tribe or Benin people hung in hospital OPD (Out Patients Department) where people are waiting for the doctor to receive treatment for their various ailments. The scary looks of such a mask alone is enough to trigger other sicknesses or more pain than it ordinarily supposed to be. It means that if a work of art is truly positioned in right environment, sho it will serve the society better than mere occupying a wall/space in the name of decoration.
Hence, every art work is created for a particular audience and unless it is positioned in a right place it will lost it essence. In traditional African societies for example, art was highly functional such that where ever a piece of art was found, it has a link to the environment where it is positioned. Taking it out of its original place, changes its meaning contextually against certain beliefs of the community that has such art. In trying to understand the meaning of a particular art piece, two things are paramount in this case. The first is the perceive meaning of the art work and the second is the environment where the art work is situated. The perceive meaning has to do collectively with physical attributes such as the lines, the colours, the form, shape or the portrayed imaging of the work, while the second helps one to understand the environment where the art work is found. In view of this, the art work some times act as a sign which helps in defining the meaning of the place one find him/herself.
A work of art: A truth or a fact? A piece of art work can be a ‘fact’ as well as ‘truth’ when placed in a right environment and can be none of these when found in a wrong place. It can be a fact when the physical components/attributes: the motifs, forms, colours, the styles point to recognizable issues in the society which people are familiar with. It can be ‘truth’ when the people understand the message and act in the direction that will correct a wrong or evil in the society they live. Indeed, no art is just created, in one way or the other it is meant to serve a certain purpose in the society that creates it.