How to Evaluate Good Art

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Epoch Times, Singapore Edition (Issue 497, Oct 17 – Oct 30, 2014)

By Howard Yu
For the Epoch Times

With the proliferation of myriad forms of “art” in modern society, how do we assess whether a piece of art is “good”? In other words, what constitutes a good work of art?

Before we proceed to discuss this topic, let me first define “aesthetic art”. In my opinion, “aesthetic art” is an art that expresses an idea or emotion in a beautiful manner. While there are many art forms such as performance arts or digital media arts, we will focus purely on visual arts in this discussion.

Firstly, the piece of art must give the viewer a sense of harmony, beauty or peace. Since time immemorial, visual art was created to direct and inspire mankind towards the Creator and His creations (the seasons, scenic landscapes, floral and fauna, and so on).

“Art is like a staple, like bread or wine or a warm winter coat in winter. Man’s spirit grows hungry for art in the same way his stomach for food.” The words of Irving Stone eloquently describe the necessity for art in our human existence.

However, over time and with the negative influence of man’s sinful nature, the original intention of the visual arts has somehow become tainted. Influences by the media and pop art over the past decade have further added to the already-confusing state of the visual arts.

But the truth cannot be hidden forever. It is vital for the preservation and promotion of aesthetic art that we remain steadfast in the appreciation of true art, and not be confused or challenged by incorrect teachings. The Five Pillars of Art Appreciation are Subject Matter, Form, Colour, Lines / Brushstrokes and Composition. These academic subjects will be dealt with in greater detail in the next issue.

Thankfully, there are four basic avenues through which we can equip ourselves to appraise art confidently. Firstly, one should be familiar with the works of master artists. These masters are usually born before 1950. Locally, we have Choo Keng Kwang, Aw Tee Hong, Liu Kang (deceased), Chen Wen Hsi (deceased), and others. Most of them pursued the arts out of passion, rather than to seek acclaim. The Lee Kong Chian Reference Library at the National Library Building and the Li Kai Shing Library at SMU are excellent resources for their works.

Secondly, to immerse oneself in the art, the best way is to interact with the artists themselves if they are is still alive, or to speak with a curator. I remember attending a curatorial talk by the National Museum of Singapore (NMS), which helped me understand and appreciate the Pioneer Artists who have shaped Singapore’s art scene. One can also search the Internet for reliable sources on the artist or his creations, or join the free docent talks at the Singapore Arts Museum (SAM) or NMS.

The third method (also the most enjoyable one) is to visit the many free art exhibitions hosted by the 80-plus private art galleries across Singapore. Interestingly, Singapore has boasted the greatest concentration of art galleries in the world since 2013. It is literally possible to visit a new art exhibition every week in Singapore.

Not to be missed are the Affordable Art Fair (AAF) and the Singapore Art Fair, which will be held in November 2014. Last year, I spent three days at the fair admiring the various artworks from different countries, and learnt much from the small talks given by the curators. Who knows, you may meet your Prince Charming or Cinderella at such an event. Well, I fell in love with the mystical artwork of Park Chul-Hwan at the 2013 AAF. Sparks flew… and now I am hosting Park’s artwork in my gallery. Other great places to meet art lovers and collectors include the opening day for new art exhibitions and art auctions.

Finally, one can register and login to free art forums online, to engage in discussions with other art lovers. For the more serious like myself, one can also enroll in online courses with reputable art institutions such as Sotheby’s Institute of Art. There are also several onsite art management courses available at some of our local art institutions. An additional art qualification may open doors for better jobs or investment. The sky is the limit. Appreciate Art. Art Appreciates.

Howard Yu is the director of Da Tang Fine Arts Enterprise Pte. Ltd. He was a professional teacher and a former docent with Singapore Art Museum. Currently, he curates art exhibitions, gives art talks to private organisations, and welcomes business collaborations.

Contact details: ( +65 8268 5299

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