There is no doubt that art is incredibly powerful. It inspires intense emotions in its audience and can be tremendously moving.
The bursts of feeling that art inspires are exactly the reason why art is so often abused. The artist is able to harness the power of art and uses it to his or her advantage, manipulating the audience into feeling a certain way. This is why art has been used for propaganda since ancient times, producing artwork such as Trajan’s Column, which depicts the strength of ancient Rome, till today, with posters such ‘Lest We Forget’, a poster that criticizes David Cameron.
Some may be swayed by these artworks and have a tendency to believe passionately in the message behind them. Some may look at the piece and dismiss it as propaganda and not art. However, a balance between these two extreme reactions needs to be reached. For this to be achieved, the artistic value of an artwork has to be separated from the purpose behind it. You should retain a form of objectivity in looking at the piece, which requires an acute sense of self-awareness, while appreciating its artistic value. I recently looked at a Nazi propaganda poster titled ‘Mother and Child’ which was a painting of a German mother holding her baby and a man working a farm in the background. While I admired the way in which the artist painted the soft features of the mother and the radiant sunlight, it did not move me to believe that all women should be mothers while their husbands worked, which was the message of this poster. The intention of this piece was not of the purest, but it still held artistic value. Thus, no art should not be labeled as mere instruments of propaganda and dismissed as ‘bad’, as this is a simplistic and one-dimensional view of the artworks.
We have to be aware of the fact that sometimes, art is used to put forward a selfish agenda. The most sensible viewer should be able to discern this, and instead of falling into the influence of this art piece, would instead be prompted to think more deeply about the issue presented. Being aware of why the artist has tried to manipulate his or her viewers could help you discover interesting insights.
Art is almost always eye-catching, and every art piece will capture your attention to some extent. The interest that art sparks could be educational in nature and could prompt viewers to go home and find out more about whatever the art represents. Furthermore, no matter what the intention of the artwork is, one could always learn from the techniques and creativity of different artists, especially if the viewers are artists themselves.
Though artists can have wrong intentions for producing art, there is always some value the piece produced that we need to recognize with an objective eye. Art may move our hearts, but we must never let our minds be completely unguarded against its influence.