To understand art is to be able to grasp in some meaningful way its vitality. The vitality, what Hofmann calls its 'spirit', is always there and apprehensible in great paintings. We just have to give a little, we have to admit that we can feel the vitality and experience the reality.
'Hans Hofmann' edited by James Yohe,
In a recent post I tried to show that while new ideas were necessary in the arts to keep us on our toes and mere repetition of the old and traditional did not challenge us, that it was not in the end as simple as that:
It seems that the 'art' part of the vast quantity of art production is a very ephemeral quality and is not directly tied to the new and novel or to the familiar or traditional.
What then is that 'ephemeral' quality that is at the center of the arts? If not pushy and new and not traditional, then perhaps we are framing the question as an 'either or' on a time line while the answer may lie somewhere or somehow else.
In the above quote from this beautiful book about Hofmann's work and thought we are lead into a realm that is best approached intuitively and not through categories. When Hofmann, uses the word 'spirit' we may automatically step back, but the word 'vitality' carries no such baggage to trip us up before we enter. Great paintings, (and other works) of all sorts and from all eras and cultures have a vital quality that communicates if we can 'give a little, 'feel the vitality and experience the reality'.
How do we judge, evaluate, quantify to know where on the scales to place a work of art? What is a work of art worth then? Even monetarily? In the end these are questions best answered by the business of art marketing. If we wish to really understand we have to stop seeking to intellectually 'understand' and begin to let that 'spirit', that 'vitality' work its magic in our relationship with a work of art that has taken the ephemeral and formed a reality that we can apprehend if we have the mind set to follow the messenger and participate in its voyage.