Critical and Cultural Theory: Thematic Variations written by Dani Cavallaro states the significant concepts, issues and examines critical and cultural theories nowadays. “The Aesthetic”, the second chapter of this book observes the definitions of “aesthetic” and the relationship of artistic representations (). The word “aesthetic” was referred as rather a subjective sense, that reflects one’s emotions and thoughts. The German philosopher Alexander Baumgarten created the word ‘aesthetic” derived from the Greek word.
() It reflects how individuals respond to beauty or taste, and how objects are experienced with senses of pure feelings. ()The three important concepts of the second chapter “The Aesthetic” are realism, imagination, and modernism. This chapter highlights on the field of western philosophy, in particular, ‘aesthetic’, and this has been dominated by the two main concepts: expression and imitation. () The philosophy states that in the expression of an artwork, perceivers can feel the creators’ emotions if it is sincere. Imitation stated in philosophy is connected with the word “realism”. Plato, a classical Greece philosopher states that “imitations or mimesis as the measure of art’s baseness rather than its greatness”. () He also mentions that “art is said to imitate the form of nature and nature is already a second-rate copy of the pure forms or ideas”().
Realism is one of the main ideas of the chapter. It is a philosophical thought that senses give direct awareness of objects independent from one’s perception. It is important because it was the first concept representing the term “aesthetic”. This term was highly favoured in the upper class, symbolizing their wealth. It was supported by Aristotle who states that “art does not imitate the particulars of nature but actually represents general and universal characteristics”(). He argues realistic representation of objects create aesthetic pleasure and exposure to universal nature will make powerful emotions. () It shows that realistic representation plays a vital role in human to achieve better experience and understanding of the external world.
During the classical times, it affected high social classes to present their wealth in definite methods. Realistic copies of the Greek painting were found in the Roman villas and in gardens to show their economic wealth and cultural refinement. () In the Renaissance, realistic techniques relate to political climate and ideological priorities, and this was advertising their influence through desirable and remarkable presentations. Overall, the term realism is vital as it was the first expression to represent the term “aesthetic”.
Another important idea of this chapter is ‘imagination’. The imagination provides the initial images where further thoughts can progress. () It plays a vital role in the formation of knowledge providing initial pictures to develop from. The ancient Greek defined the word imagination ‘Phantasia’, to state that images are just not a vision but also illumination (). The perspective towards the idea of imagination changed over time. Initially, both Rationalism and Empiricism philosophers were in doubt with imaginative powers and had a concern that it might distort reality. However, it becomes positive quality from the Romantic period.
Imagination enabled reality to reshape in an idealized way, creating an alternative world. As a result, it allowed people to experience a broader spectrum of feelings and influence to the development of people’s views. The last important idea in this chapter is modernism which was sparked during the late nineteenth century. It is referred as a reform movement in art, music, literature, and the applied arts. (?????) This idea was critical since it affected people’s view towards art from other traditional movements and development of original negation.
During this period, other movements such as symbolism, impressionism, fauvism, cubism, futurism, constructivism also sparked but these movements had common factors that were conventions of realism. On the other hand, modernism is generally thought as anti-mimetic spirit. () The idea is based on an artistic representation of reality but with more factors involved. It dissociates art and aesthetics from the convention of realism with empirical observation. ( ) Modernism challenged the very reality of a static truth. Modernist artists highlight that there are other ways of being true to life than simply providing descriptive accounts of the world ().
Because of modernism, the movement postmodernism was born and post-modernism took the stage further of aesthetics.The two main ideas that are difficult to understand in the text are ‘postmodernism’ and ‘idealism’. Postmodernism is a movement that highly influenced the art world as it breaks from the traditional rules of art and visualization. Unlike modernism, postmodernism seeks to highlight the unpresentable itself and this is supported by Jean-Francois Lyotard who states that “the postmodernism could indeed be defined as that which in the modern puts forward the unpresentable in presentation itself and that which searches for new presentations in order to impart a strong sense of the unpresentable’. He defines the movement as a reject of the traditional rules, communicate with an open-mindedness that connects the classic realist view and a conception of history from past traditions to the contemporary world. I have difficulty understanding of the concept of postmodernism.
The concept is rather broad and complex. It argues that the movement has no photogenic techniques or abstract practices and does not rely on reality. Postmodernism departs from modernism but does express some contrasting aspects and at the same time similar ideas of modernism which makes it ambiguous in distinguishment. Furthermore, postmodernism took place after the world war one and it was the era style where technology and different media started to take place. Postmodernist artists based their works on the modernist artists’ where there is a huge difference in aesthetic. This affected my general understanding of this text as it was hard to fully understand the term “aesthetics of Postmodernism”. Another idea I have difficulty understanding the text is idealism. It is convinced to be an unrealistic principle and rejects the existence of things-in-themselves.
() It emphasises the idea dialectical which refers to movement takes place in a result of two conflicting ideas. () Hegel states that Classical art and ancient Symbolic art found a compromising point to resolve the conflict between these two styles in the context of art and aesthetics. () I understand this idea rejects the reality arguing it is only creative perception and supports that spiritual value but it is not clear for me to find a link between Spirit and its implication of aesthetic. Due to this lack of understanding of the idea, it affected my general understanding of the entire text which is incomplete understanding. Dani Cavallaro analyses the concept of aesthetic and various theories of art comprehensively throughout the book. The author conveys that artwork embodies creator’s emotions and experience and that is influenced by numerous theories like realism, imagination and modernism. While understanding towards this concept got clearer, one question arose in my mind. Like how we use aesthetic approach to the artwork? is it necessary to apply the aesthetic approach to our lives? appreciation of nature would make us better human beings? It was a good opportunity to think not to judge or evaluate objects or people by superficial properties but to have the insight to understand interior qualities.