What is Fine Art, Conceptual Art, High Art?

I’ve continued the process of painting over an older painting. I the process I started thinking; 

  • What type of artist am I? 
  • Can I call myself an artist? 
  • Is my art serious or not serious enough?
  • I see myself as a Fine Artist, and what does it mean to be a fine artist, and is it correct?

With these questions in mind, I though I’d go and have a ‘Google’ at the internet. 

A Working Definition of Art
In light of this historical development in the meaning of “art”, one can perhaps make a crude attempt at a “working” definition of the subject, along the following lines:

Art is created when an artist creates a beautiful object, or produces a stimulating experience that is considered by his audience to have artistic merit.

What is Fine Art?
One definition of fine art is “a visual art considered to have been created primarily for aesthetic and intellectual purposes and judged for its beauty and meaningfulness, specifically, painting, sculpture, drawing, watercolor, graphics, and architecture.”[2]
The word “fine” does not so much denote the quality of the artwork in question, but the purity of the discipline.
Also, today there is an escalation of media in which high art is more recognized to occur.
Fine art is any art created for its own sake, as opposed to commercial artwork.

What is High Art?

What is Conceptual art? 
Sometimes simply called Conceptualism, is art in which the concept(s) or idea(s) involved in the work take precedence over traditional aesthetic and material concerns. 
Through its association with the Young British Artists and the Turner Prize during the 1990s, in popular usage, particularly in the UK, “conceptual art” came to denote all contemporary art that does not practice the traditional skills of painting and sculpture.

The shunned and the sought-after:
How do you know what’s good and what’s not? Although many contemporary artists still paint, sculpt and draw, the more traditional standards of beauty and skill no longer necessarily apply. For example, the Scottish painter Jack Vettriano, he of the dancing couples and greetings cards, might be Britain’s “most popular” artist, but he is largely shunned by the art world. The canvases of Peter Doig, on the other hand, which also feature enigmatic figures in landscapes and command awesome prices, are frantically sought after by collectors and galleries.
What makes Doig more desirable? The fact that he paints to explore what painting can be made to say and do, and because his works have no single easy reading. In my view, Vettriano goes little further than the illustration of a scene and the evocation of a mood. One is intellectually challenging and unsettling, while the other is catchy and commercial.
It is therefore important to park your preconceptions and prejudices. Focus on what each artist is trying to communicate.
David Richardson, 61, retired railway personnel manager
We’ve got two landscapes by Sue Lawson. They’re views of Yorkshire, but very abstract. They have a brooding presence. We know the locations she paints, because we go walking in those areas. The size of the sky, the wildness and emptiness – she really brings them home. If I look out of my window now, the sky looks grey and listless, but Sue makes it compelling. If I had to describe her pictures in a single word, it would be “desolate”. They don’t raise your spirits, but they are as it is.
It’s difficult to describe just how hard they hit us. My wife Gill and I saw her pictures at an exhibition and we were immediately taken, but we couldn’t afford to buy anything. They were quite expensive, and this was nine years ago. Because we liked them so much, we decided to get in touch with Sue, and we’ve become quite friendly. We ended up paying about £400 for each picture. They must be worth up to £2,000 in galleries by now.
The paintings never have any figures in them. If they did, we probably wouldn’t like them as much. We’re loners – we both enjoy our own company, and I think Sue feels the same. She’s a very intense sort of person and loves being out in the countryside. Getting to know her has made us appreciate the paintings; I don’t think they would mean as much if we had just walked into a gallery and put down our money. They’re part of the furniture now. If we took them away, a piece of our house would disappear.
Duro Olowu, 41, fashion designer
I tend to spent a lot on things I consider beautiful. I bought my first picture, by an American artist called James Brown, about 12 months ago. It was my first major purchase, and it cost something like £4,000. I couldn’t bear the thought of not being able to look at it every morning.
For a while, I was trying to collect contemporary work by black artists. Obviously, there are people like Chris Ofili and Steve McQueen, but the size of those works, and their price, put them out of my range. Then, at a Vogue party, I met a gallerist called Thomas Dane. He introduced me to the work of Hurvin Anderson, and now I have two of his small acrylic-on-paper paintings. One of them came from Hurvin’s private collection, and they said it wasn’t for sale. But I pleaded and pleaded with them to ask him, and he agreed.
I’ve caught the collecting bug now. I look on the work I’ve bought as an aesthetic investment. I can’t afford to buy fast cars or Rolex watches, and in any case those things don’t appeal to me. What I look for is something that makes me weak at the knees. I like art that is strong, not just sensationalist, but something that is familiar for no apparent reason. I have to look at it every day. The little time I have to myself, I sit in my living room and look at my pictures. You know when you’re a kid, you put up posters in your room? Well, these are my posters.
My collecting tip would be to seek out the small but high-end galleries, because you don’t see everything at the exhibitions. You need to make it more personal. Also, don’t buy immediately. Go home and work it out. If you feel you can walk away from it, then it’s not for you.
Matthew Swynnerton, 32, solicitor
I used to live in a big house, and I started collecting because I needed something to put on the walls. I went to student shows, buying and commissioning bits and pieces. My next step was buying editions, which is an affordable way of owning work by more recognisable artists. I’ve got a few editions by well-known names like Sam Taylor-Wood, the Chapman brothers, Patrick Caulfield, Bridget Riley, Helen Chadwick and Gillian Wearing. I’ve got two Tracey Emin editions and a Gary Hume.
Some extremely accessible and unpretentious companies sell editions online, like Counter Editions in Shoreditch. Editions can be quite cheap. They will normally start at around £300, and as they run out they become more and more expensive. So if you get in early, you can own something reasonably unique for not much money. Edition-buying is the gateway, but buying originals is trickier and I’m really just starting out.
Fairs like Artfutures run by the Contemporary Art Society are good for originals if you find galleries intimidating. It can be expensive, but it’s also very addictive. I got lucky with my Stella Vine; I got it at about the time she was bought by Saatchi. It’s a picture of Jackie Onassis riding a horse. I did a little research before I bought it; the internet has made this a lot easier, but my starting point is always loving the piece. I’ve no idea how much it’s worth now. I should probably have it valued, just for insurance purposes.
I go through phases of buying art, and then it falls away and something else will take over. I’m not out every weekend buying art in the way that some people would go clothes shopping, and I don’t think there’s any theme to what I buy. A few of them are pretty unsettling, I suppose. I’ve a couple of paintings by a new artist called Michael Ajerman in this vein and the Chapman etching is typically grotesque. It’s in my office now, scaring colleagues.
James Lindon, 26, gallery sales director
I should ‘fess up and say I’m not a genuine collector. I’m a gallerist, but I have a private, amateurish, very, very modest collection. I’ve got two flatmates and they’re often shocked by the things I bring home to inflict upon them.
These pictures were painted by Lali Chetwynd as part of an ongoing series called Bat Opera. They are redolent of 18th-century portraiture, but featuring giant bats and bat swarms. They’re supertheatrical, kind of Wagner meets Meat Loaf. I’ve known Lali for a number of years, but her paintings are almost impossible to get hold of, because she only makes about eight canvases a year. I had to literally beg her dealer in Germany for five days running before she surrendered these to me.
I spend all my spare money on art. My funds are limited, so I need to get in early. I bought my first piece, a William Kentridge print, when I was 17. He didn’t have the international profile that he has now. It was a piggy-bank-raiding affair. At the moment, I’m saving up for an Ian Hamilton Finlay – I want one of his neon pieces from the 1970s. They’re still just about affordable. It would probably cost me about £20,000.
I think I’ve made a profit overall. There are obviously artists you can speculate on, but my collection isn’t about that. It’s a private thing for me. They’re pieces I live with that feed my life.
· Interviews by Paul Arendt

I suppose the question still remains…what type of artist do you see me at?


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