Artists are members of society. They see things from a certain perspective, either artistically or philosophically, and comprehend the order of the world in an individual way. Artists are bound by the circumstances they live in, but they have been striving to break away from traditions and express personal thoughts.
Social context, including its traditions, tastes, and ideas, set the background of art work.
On the one hand, artists are, in one way or another, bound by the aesthetic values and sometimes bias of the public. The Greek style of beauty has been greatly influencing all kinds of Western art. The Spear Bearer incorporated the sense of symmetric, balance, finished, and motion into the figure of an athlete. In contrast, the Japanese Shino Tea Bowl illustrated the traditional Japanese values of beauty in its asymmetric and natural design. It is not so smooth and balanced, but it’s closely related to the unique tranquility of Japanese culture. In Goodman’s article, he suggested that it is impossible to have an “innocent eye” in creating art works. Artists are born in special cultural contexts which give them naturally different views about art. The Japanese artist who created the bowl sees the bowl from a natural way of appreciating life, without being influenced by the Greek culture.
On the other hand, artists are inevitably influenced by the function of art in different societies. In ancient times, art is considered more a tool of conveying political or religious beliefs than a vehicle to express personal feelings. The work Sha Jahan on the peacock throne adopted Western technics such as chiorascruro and linear perspective, because it was a diplomatic present. Political power, instead of the beauty of the figure, was emphasized in this painting. Art works also convey special religious meanings which features different regions. Seated Couple from the Dogan Tribe of Mali presented the couple in highly abstract forms and put great emphasis on their roles in the society. The unique and sometimes hard-to-understand style is largely determined by its function in the African society as a tool for rituals and admiration towards the ancestors.
Individual artists have been increasingly active in expressing their own thoughts about the society as a whole and human beings.
Artists have taken a pioneering role in the society. Gustav Courbet first put forward the idea of avant-garde in his work The Stonebreakers. He broke away from the traditions of using the perfect body to depict religious stories. Instead, he illustrated his own political views in his work. In the reading by Jonathan Finesberg, avant garde suggests artists should express their own views about the society and lead the society in some way. The artists, therefore, have been using their sensitive “eye” to detect the hidden problems of society, and try to express them and revise them in some way. Andy Warhol also used his comprehension of the commercialzation in America to create a series of art work, including Marion Monroe and others, to suggest the mundane duplication of modernization and give people more insight of the new life they are living in.
Artists also dig more into the inner world of human beings and express individual feelings regardless of social conventions. Orlan expressed her concerns about multinational identities in her work “american indian hybridation”. In the work… Gu Wenda, a Chinese artists, collected human hair from various countries and weave them into Temple of Heaven. The use of genetic materials is highly debatable, but artists are couragous enough to adopt this way to show the merging of the new world.
To summarize, artists sees the world with a sensitive eye and have been trying to express their feelings in a unique way, however, the topics and scopes remain bound by the cultures they are in.