What Makes Art Good or Bad?
Understanding the Subjectivity of Art
Greetings from Fort Kochi, India!
I've driven down to Kochi for a couple of days to attend the world-famous Biennale, an Art festival that happens here once every 2 years. Featuring artists from around the globe, this gallery attracts visitors far and wide.
I visited its sister exhibition, the Lokame Tharavadu, in November of 2021 and found that phenomenal. It was meant to be the Biennale on a smaller scale, featuring local artists from the state of Kerala in India. The pieces I saw there were astounding. They were moving, textured with paint and subtle meanings that enriched the viewer. (Read about it here)
After the Lokame Tharavadu, I expected the Biennale to be very impressive. But after touring the exhibition, I confess myself disappointed.
Now there is no point in comparing artworks from the two exhibits. But it made me return to a debate that has plagued me for a long time. What is art, and how does one understand its subjectivity? Is there such a thing as good art and bad art? How does one draw the line between the two? Does this line even exist in the first place?
I found that artist Scott Christian Sava puts it best in his video (watch it below). To sum up, something becomes art when the artist deems it so. It is entirely up to them to make the decision. As viewers, we can only say whether we like it or not. Very importantly, he says that we don't have to like all art. Something cannot be loved by all. Creating art in a certain style will invariably alienate a particular crowd. We must come to terms with this
As an artist myself, this is an important revelation. I must choose the art and artists from whom I derive inspiration and cut out those who don't fire me up. This act of curating my favourites in my artistic journey will serve me in good stead.
Watch how artist Scott Christian Sava (a big inspiration for me) defines art in the video below!
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This Week’s Links
My Experience at the Lokame Tharavdu: Here, I write about my time at the other art exhibition mentioned in this issue. Check it out!
Crab emerging from its shell: I was walking along the beaches of Kerala when I came across a crab scuttling away. What followed was one of the most moving experiences I’ve had with animal, leaving an indelible mark on my soul.
How to Steal Like an Artist: Want to get better at your art? Copy other artists using this method!
Keeping with the art theme, I thought I’d share some of my artwork. But later I got the idea of sharing a friend’s work instead.
Here is a piece by my friend and fellow writer. The expression of the orangutan moves me in ways I find hard to articulate. She has been able to capture the character of this enigmatic species in her painting, testament to her skill. I find her work very impressive :)
Check her newsletter out at. You can also visit her website at
“Have no fear of perfection - you’ll never reach it” - Salvador Dali
Have a creative, energetic and inspiring week!
If you’re new, welcome to The Owlet! My name is Ishan Shanavas, and here I talk about my work, along with curating the most interesting ideas on the internet. I confine them to topics like Nature, Culture, Photography, and Art but often fall prey to other genres.
I would greatly appreciate it if you shared my newsletter and work with your friends. It really helps me out :)