The question of what art is has troubled academics, philosophers and artists themselves for millennia. By definition, art is considered to be the ‘the expression or application of human creative skill.’ However, the parameters of what is thought of as a skill and therefore can be considered art are not clear-cut and are still a contentious subject today. When many people think of art, they instantly think of a classic painting by one of the greats such as Rembrandt or Monet, and while this is art, the concept actually ranges much wider than this and takes into account a wide range of works.

Painting would fall into the category of visual arts, which is arguably the most easily definable of the different spheres of the artistic world. Other visual arts include photography and sculpture and have been practiced for many centuries. We have many fine examples of this form of art from history.

The performing arts are another example of the artist’s work. As the name suggests, these are not artworks created in private and later displayed for public consumption, but rather performed in front of an audience or, at least in modernity, through the medium of television or radio. The performing arts can encapsulate a broad range of practices. While historically this was theatre and classical music, today it covers everything from movies, dance, pop music and even standup comedy. Modern art, while displayed in a museum, has begun to use elements of performance art, and today the lines between the different sections of art are less defined than they once were.

The common attribute that all forms of art have is that they are created by a person using some form or artistic skill but also that they are trying to say something. The purpose of the artist creating the work, be that a sculpture or a piece of expressive dance, is they are trying to take the audience on a journey and to teach them something about somebody else, themselves, the society in which they live or often all three of these things. How the artists choose to communicate to an audience or viewer can be varied.

Much art attempts to reflect the reality of its subject matter; this practice is known as mimesis. This is common in a portrait painting or in most Hollywood films which aim to be as real as possible. Other methods of communication include expressionism or satire. Expressionism will aim to reflect a sentiment, if not talking about the issues directly. Sci-fi is a classic example of this, where the setting of space is used to depict a situation that is directly related to problems on earth. Satire is used when the artist parodies the issue in question.