What is Fine Art?

On Friday 19th October 2012 my course mates and I had a lecture discussing “What is Fine Art?“. Within this lecture, we discussed possible definitions, looked at ‘fine artists’, and created a self-portrait with our written view on fine art to create a small first year fine art exhibition. Below are my notes from this particular lecture, followed by the self-portrait.

What is fine art?

  • Fine art is:
    • A creative art form that allows artists to show their views and opinions in a creative way
    • Paintings and sculptures
    • Expensive art
    • Good
    • Beautiful
    • We can not determine exactly what fine art is
    • Starts as one thing then elicits responses from other artists
    • “The use of skill and imagination in the creation of aesthetic objects, environments, or experiences that can be shared with others”
  • Aboriginal
    • Art has changed through history
    • Cave paintings
    • Earliest traces
    • Is that ‘art’?
    • Narrative – nets, people – this is a community (we are a fishing community)
    • Symbols of power
    • Story hidden within that picture
    • We do not read its story in the normal way, we read it in a different order


Jimmy Pike

  • Most famous contemporary aboriginal artist
  • Crosses over different boundaries
  • Lived a traditional life
  • Got involved with a fight over a woman – to the death
  • Ended up in prison for murder
  • Prison psychologist – introduced him to our ways of art work
  • He put his own, contemporary style on his aboriginality
  • Used maps as an influence
  • Can symbolize community meetings
  • What was considered as art has been moved into sub-categories e.g. pots – arts and crafts


Chris Ofili

  • Traditional – uses paint and canvas
  • Mixes up his medium – adds elephant dung
  • The Virgin Mary’ – was banned because it was so controversial even though he was a faithful Christian; threatened to fine gallery unless it was moved
  • Photo shown all over America (newspapers) – he became a conversation starter
  • He didn’t create the controversy on purpose
  • Has it caused offence?


Yinka Shonibare

  • Political Influence
  • Suicide
  • Photograph based on a painting
  • Changed the colours – not British clothing/very traditional African clothing
  • Makes us question what is going on
  • What is the power relationship with the traditional paintings? – caused a lot of controversy


John Everett Millais

  • Influenced by Shakespeare’s play’s
  • Drawing influence from other aspects of their culture
  • Family member of pre-graptolites
    • There was a change in the way that art showed a narrative
    • Before this it was a commissioned portrait
    • Started to do things merely because they were interested
    • Wealthier – so could actually buy images
    • Music was a form of fine art
    • Paintings were shifting due to influence changes


Tom Hunter

  • First photographer that’s work got shown at the national portrait gallery
  • As he re-created fine art paintings through his photography
  • Had their own narrative around them – entitled them differently
  • Used local stories, linked them to previous paintings, photographed them
  • Royal Shakespearian society commissioned him to create contemporary links with Shakespearian plays
  • All the works are linked – always about environment and community
  • Looking at history, looking at narrative, contextualizing it
  • Ongoing story of his involvement with his neighbourhood


George Shaw

  • Does photography impact on painting or vice versa?
  • Nominated in 2011 for the Turner Prize
  • Original was a painting
  • Has an optimistic view on what Coventry looks like
  • Titles – e.g. SHUT UP! DOG SHIT! Etc.


Eadweard Muybridge

  • Proved how a horse galloped and that both feet come off the floor at the same time
  • Influenced paintings of horses


Alfred Stiegltz

  • Submitted work into exhibition
  • Pay money – can put anything into exhibition
  • Took a photo of a urinal – tried to push the boundaries
  • R.Mutt – American slang for idiot or fool, deliberately took the mick out of fine art


Tracey Emin

  • Submitted her bed
  • Taken from her house and put it into the gallery
  • Does this change anything, or is this just another object?
  • What changed about her bed just from the change of location? – it is changing the context
  • Provide rational for why you have put it into the gallery
  • Personal insight
  • Small polaroid photograph
  • Is it all about money?


Damien Hirst

  • Diamond encrusted skull
  • One of the most expensive pieces of art
  • Still not sold
  • Started and finished just at the point that the recession started
  • Had it made for £15million and trying to sell it for £50million
  • Beginning of the recession, it became dead and wanted, but unable to have
  • Got skull from ‘Get stuffed’ shop in Islington
  • Needs to be ultimate perfection
  • Teeth looked at by dentist
  • Surrounded in platinum
  • Transcendent feel, optimistic
  • Thought it would be dark but it isn’t at all


Gilbert and George – Bend it (YouTube)

  • Performance artists
  • Did they do anything or were they just larking around?
  • Put it this way, would you get up and dance?
  • Self-conscious moment – embarrassing
  • Make a piece of work about embarrassing aspects of day to day life


Gillian Wearing

  • Interesting British artist
  • Interested in back stage and front stage
  • Interested in public and private
  • Allow us to be more ourselves
  • ‘Signs’ – show public people holding signs with what they want to say, anything they want to say


  • 50% of the money is given to the artist
  • Then tax is taken off of it
  • Then realize how much the piece cost to create
  • Have to think of other things to do parallel to your art work


  • Your task
    • Using your laptop only (photobooth)
    • Take a self portrait
    • Add text in answer to the following
    • Fine art is…