The Purpose and Functions of Art throughout the Ages

Art is the expression of the imagination. Art, in its many forms, provides a means to express the things that cannot always be told in the normal conversational methods. Because it has to do with experiencing the mysterious, feeling of balance and rhythm, seeing harmony in things and using basic instincts it is not tied to formality.

Art has had a great number of different functions throughout history and many unique different reasons for the creation of each form.

Reasons for creating art and the different purposes it had to fulfill

1. Symbolic and Ritualistic functions: Many cultures use art in rituals in different forms, such as symbols, decorations and dances.

2. Keeping a record: For example, cave art was an attempt to keep a record of what species of animals have been seen and preserving this knowledge. It is also believed that in painting the animal or sometimes stranger phenomena, the animal will be appeased for being hunted and honoured for being a part of people’s survival, and the hunter will be blessed and safe while hunting.

3. Expressing feelings and fears: Art is a method of depicting innermost feelings and can help in portraying worst fear scenarios to the benefit of the artists and even to the observer of the art.

All the above is unmotivated art, purely for reasons of personal, cultural and maybe survival means. Motivated functions and purposes refer to art that is intentional. It is a conscious act on the part of the artist to communicate a specific intent or goal that said in words might not have the same effect.

Communication: Art is still the simplest form of communication. Regardless of language or culture, most people can understand basic symbols and pictures. Even young children can figure out a picture.

Entertainment: Art can bring about certain emotions and set the mood for purposes of relaxing and entertaining. Motion pictures are a good example of this.

Art for Change: Through art, political or human rights movements, uses visual images to bring about changes for the better.

Art for social questions: The function of this type of art may simply be to criticise some aspect of society. Spray paint graffiti and other street art are good examples.

Art for psychological and healing purposes: Art is used by therapists and psychologists as therapy. Through drawings, the personality and emotional functioning of a patient can be determined; while the drawing of the pictures are said to be therapeutic to the patient.

These are only a few of the many possible purposes that art has. From decades before, art was the earliest form of preserving knowledge, before the written word, and still communicate through just being art. It is said: “A picture is worth a thousand words”, and art do speak its own language.

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