Is There an Ultimate Form of Art?

Is there an ultimate form of art? Well, that depends on how you define art. Is art a beautiful piece of realistic painting that took months to complete, or just about any creation that evokes emotions in the viewer? Does art have to be a self-expression of the artist, or can it be something practical? Can anything be considered art if the viewer believes so, or should it be universally received as a piece of art? Is everybody an artist of some kind, or only the select few whose masterpieces survived centuries after their passing? All of the above can be a definition of the word "art." I, personally, define art as storytelling, no matter what the story is or how the "telling" is executed. At this point, whether or not there is an ultimate art form, I'm still unsure.

What types of art are there? Painting seems to be the most common answer and almost synonymous with art for many. The most famous artists are painters, such as Vincent van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Frida Khalo, Raphael, Botticelli, Gustav Klimt, Salvador Dali. Different art history sources are often most focused on paintings. Art galleries are usually painting exhibitions. Furthermore, painting and drawing can be a gateway activity for artists who later work on different art forms.

Sculpting, another old and established art form, takes 2-dimensional visuals to the next level, so the finished works occupy the 3-dimensional space we are used to in this world. Still, despite the differences between sculpture and painting, these art forms are experienced in similar ways. The viewer usually looks at static visuals and appreciates its beauty or tries to understand the meaning behind it. Both paintings and sculptures are the go-to art forms to decorate indoor and outdoor spaces. It's also important to note that the viewer is separate from the artwork, outside looking in, which, of course, has its charm.

Not all artworks are experienced from afar, though. In some cases holding and smelling an object of art is part of the experience, and yes, you guessed it, I'm talking about literature. Whether it's long or short, rhymes or doesn't, is read, spoken, or sung out loud, a combination of words can express, inform, provoke or take you to magical worlds you didn't know could exist. This sort of art makes our brains work the hardest, and not because it probably requires the most generous amount of focus compared to other art forms, but because, as visual thinkers, we sometimes imagine the written word as a series of visuals. Since printing became a thing, we've been devouring books, and now, thanks to the internet, anyone with access to it can publish their literary pieces. Literature seems to be an ever-growing form of art that won't be going anywhere unless climate change wipes us out, but is it the ultimate form of art?

For those of us too lazy to read, performance artists act out narratives for us. Theater and other performance arts, such as dance, mime, circus, stand-up comedy, puppetry, magic, and music, are the most engaging types of art. First of all, the viewer's aural senses come into play. Next, the audience gets to interact with the performers sometimes. Even if the audience isn't necessarily communicating back, they aren't just watching. Take music concerts as an example where the audience jumps, dances, sings along or does all of the above to make the experience that much exhilarating. In other cases, for instance, in stand-up comedy, the comedian is directly talking to the audience and often calling out or chatting with people one on one. Close-up magic takes the audience-performer interplay up a notch as the viewer becomes part of the show. If performance arts were the ultimate form of art, would it be because of how engaging and exciting it can be, or is it because the viewer sometimes becomes part of the act? What about when a piece of art becomes a part of you, such as a tattoo? Or does a work of art have to be useful for people to grant it the title of being "the ultimate form of art"?

Not all art forms entertain or allow artists to process their emotions. Some art forms are practical first and art second. For example, architecture, interior design, industrial design, ceramics, automotive design, fashion, graphic design, and illustration produce functional outcomes. When art and design work together, they create something that is not only serviceable but something that can be beautiful, expressive, and even thought-provoking. Combining art with functionality brings comfort to our everyday lives and, at times, makes mundane tasks more exciting when having to interact with these objects. Types of applied arts might be the most valuable art fields. Nevertheless, can they even be one of the candidates for the title of being an "ultimate art form" when art is not their primary definition?

Earlier I talked about how readers could opt for theater instead of reading to enjoy a more engaging experience that requires less time commitment. However, the reality is that people go for films more often than theater nowadays, the main reasons being convenience and special effects. Whether you're looking at a giant cinema screen or your smartphone, watching a motion picture is like looking through a window into the magical world that people of various skills and talents created for you. It's a bit like dreaming, where you become part of the world you're seeing. It can be any world you choose too since cinema is so diverse - watch anything from font documentaries to gory horrors. Cinema has something to offer to everyone. That's why watching cinema is undoubtedly one of the top pastimes of the century.

The final art form I'm going to talk about is part of cinema and, in my opinion, the ultimate art form - animation. When Disney decided to make the first feature-length animated film, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’, he wanted to see if animations could make viewers laugh or cry, like they do when watching live-action movies. You know the answer to Disney's query, because people, probably including you, have felt all sorts of feelings while watching animated films. But that's not the only reason why I consider animation to be the ultimate art form. All types of artists I've listed above take part in the production process of animations in some way and work hard for a very long time to produce one.  Painters draw and design characters, settings, and, essentially, everything we see in the films. Sculptors, especially with stop motion animation or 3D animation, ‘sculpt’ characters and the environments.  Performance artists, such as actors and actresses are hired to see what different movements look like so they can be replicated, and depending on the project, voice actors and actresses also take part. Musicians, like singers, compositors, instrumental musicians, and orchestras, are responsible for the added meaning, intensified emotions or ambiance sounds and scene-setting. Applied arts specialists do all the designing, engineering, marketing, and whatever else is needed for the production. And lastly, of course, filmmakers are the ones making the animated films. Noteworthily, suspension of disbelief is easiest with animation because a drawing doesn't have to make sense. For instance, I never questioned how fish and mermaids could talk underwater when watching ‘Nemo’ or ‘ The Little Mermaid’. In contrast, when I saw ‘Aquaman’ (2018) do the same, I went off about all the ways it wouldn't work to talk underwater, even though I knew a movie didn't have to follow the laws of science. 

Animation being a superior form of art, is, of course, my subjective opinion. All art forms are unique in their ways and are experienced differently. Preferring one over the other is purely a matter of personal taste. What do you consider to be the ultimate form of art, if there even is only one?

Tamta M.

September 3, 2021

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