Evocation of Art

‘Anti-mimesis is a philosophical position that holds the direct opposite of mimesis. Its most notable proponent is Oscar Wilde, who opined in his 1889 essay The Decay of Lying that, “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life”. In the essay, written as a Platonic dialogue, Wilde holds that anti-mimesis “results not merely from Life’s imitative instinct, but from the fact that the self-conscious aim of Life is to find expression, and that Art offers it certain beautiful forms through which it may realise that energy.”.

What is found in life and nature is not what is really there, but is that which artists have taught people to find there, through art. As in an example posited by Wilde, although there has been fog in London for centuries, one notices the beauty and wonder of the fog because “poets and painters have taught the loveliness of such effects…They did not exist till Art had invented them.” ‘                                 Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_imitating_art


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Nature creates art in the Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, Vancouver

I don’t agree with Mr Wilde; surely the fact that artists painted the fog is because they saw its beauty in life, and thus art imitated life in this case (chicken vs egg). But I concede that art provides us ways of seeing and appreciating life from a number of different perspectives which we may not otherwise notice.

29 thoughts on “Evocation of Art

  1. Mimesis…anti-mimesis…I remember arguments about this in an Aesthetics course. I think art and life are a back and forth dynamic in this; the force goes both ways and is a dialogue rather than a mimicry. The controversy is similar to the whole conundrum about which comes first, the chicken or the egg. I once had a couple of pink roses from my garden in a vase on my coffee table, and a woman who was visiting exclaimed: “Wow! Those are so really beautiful they look artificial!”

    • Yes, how often do people look at a natural scene and say, “That looks just like a painting.”? As you say, Cynthia, it’s a dialogue.

      I did an Aesthetics course last semester (Philosophy of Art is what they call it at my university 😄) and what I found quite interesting was looking at artworks of painters who had never actually seen their subjects but had only been told about them from someone who had been lucky enough to travel to far flung places (some very strange animal renditions 😄).

      • I’ve been musing about this,on and off, since you posted it….and there’s something about the way people are photographing everything these days, especially with their phones, that makes me wonder just what they really see of nature or actuality, when they are so busy recording it as an artifact….can anyone just go for a walk and just LOOK anymore?

  2. “What is found in life and nature is not what is really there, but is that which artists have taught people to find there, through art.”

    Um, no. I can’t agree with Wilde’s philosophy. Children see things in life and nature long before an artist points them out.

  3. If you apply the Mass Media principles – Mass media constructs reality and Mass Media convey values, beliefs and Ideologies – you see the process of how art influences how the target audience interprets reality. What is mundane and ordinary becomes aesthetically pleasing/striking based on the codes and conventions of the applied medium. The artist’s choice of subject, medium, and technique reflects the artist’s set of values, beliefs and ideology.

    The negative aspect in terms of Mass Media is when this conveyed aesthetic is used to establish value judgments about gender, race, age, ethnicity or cultural norms. Beauty is in the belief system of the beholder. We educate the taste buds through habit and form.

    • Thanks for this erudite illumination, Joseph. Making the mundane and ordinary aesthetically pleasing, I think, is one of the great values of art. It’s a focusing of the audience’s attention. However, as you say, Mass Media has its downsides. When I look at Trump’s rise in America, I see how it insidiously constructs the terribly dangerous as banal.

  4. I’m not wild about Wilde’s idea at all. Pretentious poppycock. Also, I don’t have much time for those who find beauty in the ugly, or art in chaotic formlessness.

  5. I like this evocation/discussion very much. Wilde’s comment about life’s aim being to find expression rings true. We hate and despise having our voices squashed, in whatever form that voice manifests itself. Another reason to be grateful for WordPress.

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