Art Is a Lie That Brings Us Nearer to the Truth

1 January 2017

Art is different from most areas of knowledge primarily in terms of its objective and also the means by which it reflects, transforms and expresses them. For art, like philosophy, reflects the reality in its relationship with man, and represents the latter, his spiritual world, and the relations between the individuals and their interactions with the world. Pablo Picasso was known for representing his work in a non-realistic manner. However, the audience could relate to his works; Guernica is an example of his success, since it represented the tragedies of war, which the audience could sympathize with.

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Hence, we shall ask if by distorting our perception to reality, how art is a lie and how it brings us nearer to the truth? As a result, we will discuss three main points of the Picasso’s quote; art, lies and reality. Then, this will be highlighted with the effect of art in Ethics and, through pertinent examples; we will emphasize the distinction between ethics and art. Finally, we will analyze Picasso’s quote in relation to literature and visual art in contrast to his art. Firstly, how can we assess this quote in relation to art? And what does Picasso mean by the lies and the truth?

First, we need to understand that art is an imitation of reality. Indeed, Picasso was an impressionist who produced this imitation with his cubist methods, which was a new form of art as a development of illusionism, and this was the reason why Picasso had denounced art as a lie. On the other hand, the full quote from Picasso was: We all know that art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies. Zayas) Indeed, not only did Picasso distinguish that the artist had to make art seem like a lie that helped us come nearer to the truth, but he also knew that the arts had to do this in a way that the latter’s manipulation would give the effect of a lie to then justify the art’s link to the truth. Moreover, the truth can be found if someone questions the impact of a work of art on its surrounding. Therefore, the question defines the understanding of a person in the arts through the subjective perspective of the latter.

In the work The Glass Menagerie, the opening monologue of Tom Wingfield is almost identical to Picasso’s ideology: Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion. (The Glass Menagerie, Scene I) Clearly, if both the latter quote and Picasso’s are put in parallel, we may deduce that art does not tell the truth as it is. Moreover, art distorts the truth in order to highlight certain aspects. In order to communicate an idea, the artist must represent some tricks and ignore others.

Therefore, art is not straightforward in an objective manner, but it is certain that it shows the truth that was not as obvious at first. So, the lie helps art convey and evoke particular emotions through the artist for the audience. Henceforth, can we acknowledge artistic expression as the lie revealing the truth? Not only is artistic expression an expression that evokes the dreams and imaginations of a person, but also if an artist feels certain emotions about something, instead of just describing it, he will create a world, a story or piece of music, in the case of Picasso a painting, where there is the evocation of his own emotions.

For example, Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield, which is a fictionalized autobiography so that he could express his own personal experiences. So it is a lie, but due to the fact that the emotion is genuine and subjective in itself, the lie brings the audience closer to the truth in order to feel the artist’s emotion, in this case Dickens’. For a musician, it is known that when an artist is involved in his work and gets lost in it, he is not aware of most of what he or she creates, it depends on his subconscious, as the emotions come from it.

Consequently, if an artist analyses his own work after finishing it, on one hand, can reveal a new truth in order to understand him or herself and, on the other hand, the audience can learn a new aspect of truth with a lie that the artist had created. But even if a lie opens one’s eyes to the world, whether it is the audience or the arts, does art reflect the artist’s thoughts or are they influenced by facts and current events? Since art is, in effect, an imitation of reality, the realistic movement in literature proves to be one of the most important movements to show life as it is in a work.

In particular, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert is one of the best examples to demonstrate that the realistic movement does this. And although the work had great success in France, it raised much debate concerning ethics since it criticized the 19th century French woman and also represented them in a vulgar way. Therefore, Flaubert was considered controversial in his work, which calls into question the degree of freedom given to artists in a society. Indeed, this limitation adds to the lies of art. Furthermore, to what extent are ethics limited when one gets closer to the reasonable truth in relation to the arts?

The reasonable truth in art can be determined only by the artist himself, ensuring that the ethical interpretation is always subjective even if a person tries to be objective in his or her interpretation. Take for example, the exhibition of Gunther Von Hagens – the Bodyworlds. Von Hagens is an anatomist who tried to create art using unclaimed bodies, he puts them in positions of everyday life and yet his art was only recognized after an ethical shock that was to such an extent that his art refused to be exposed in Paris.

Moreover, Hagens removes the skin from the bodies to prevent racial separation of the latter by his audience. On the one hand, we find that people still culturally tied refuse such a technique of art, placing it as a desecration, due to their respect for the dead. On the other hand, Gunther Von Hagens could be accepted in the future as a pioneer who changed art, as we know it. Therefore, the reason of the “ethics of art” depends purely on the emotional perception, due to cultural attachment, of the person who is subject to the work of art.

However, can art, as a domain of emotion, be related to any domain in the world? Of course, art can be found in everything that surrounds us. Since contemporary art, it looms that “anything” can be classified as art. But even if anything can be art, this does not mean that the latter’s artistic message will be well received. It depends on the level to which the audience shall appreciate the art, and it is because of this that contemporary art is still a controversial subject.

In addition, compared to areas of knowledge, to what extent is art related to the truth suggested by Pablo Picasso? As already explained, the truth of art is achieved through an understanding of a work and that is why the relationship between ways of knowing and art related in a subjective way because, ethically, each person has his or her own thinking. Thus, even if a person thinks in a mathematical perspective, he or she will try to frame the art in an absolute truth, but will always be limited by what brings them closer to this reality.

Finally, to what extent is art a lie bringing us nearer to the truth, why is it so abstract when it binds the different types of art from the truth? Two types of art can be distinguished: Literature and Visual Arts. In literature, we often find that authors writing their works under the influence of external factors affecting his subconscious. However, there are exceptions such as the latters’ biographical novels, fantasy, etc. But compared to Picasso’s quote, all literary works have this concept of a lie that reveals the truth.

An example would be the novel Animal Farm by George Orwell. By, using allegory to tell his story, he manages to criticize the situation in the USSR during the Cold War. This lie is a truth disguised as animals, which is the reason that this novel allows us to conclude that art is a lie that brings us nearer to the truth. Furthermore, in visual art, lies used depend on the manipulation of the artist. But, particularly, in abstract art, the manipulation of shapes that the audience recognize aides in hiding the truth by an ambiguous lie.

It is through this lie that art could be appreciated. To conclude, we can see through the various examples used that art shows us something that have not already realized, and it is due to this notion that Pablo Picasso declares such a quote. Indeed, the latter is reflected in all fields of art and its difference with ethics is not far away. However, instead of distinguishing this truth directly as in ethics, it is best to keep in art the hidden truth to be better noticed and valued because the lie bringing the audience nearer to the truth is what gives art it’s true significance.

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