Art is not art without emotion. It simply cannot exist without emotion. If a sculpture or painting fails to provoke an emotion inside the viewer, then it’s merely wall décor. It’s just something pretty on a wall. Art must grab us and make us feel something.
That emotion might be happiness, sadness, animosity, or perhaps a mixture of several. The emotion good art stirs is demanding and pressing. It’s an urgent cry that forces us to pay attention and contemplate the work.
Emotions aren’t static, fleeting experiences. They evolve and change. They travel with us as we traverse our lives and modern still life paintings need to capture the movement of the subject and the movement of the emotions. When we reflect on our lives, we don’t remember our emotions by the minute. We remember our emotions as they sojourned with us during a period in our lives.
We remember the grief of the loss of a loved one and remember how it peaked with sharp, cutting pain in the beginning and transformed into a dark reminder of absence as time passed. Happy moments in our lives come as fresh joy and transition into broad nostalgia later. Emotions move via time. When an artist captures emotion, they capture time.
Artists are tasked with providing a snapshot of the visual moment, as well as the emotional subtext surrounding the subject. As a rudimentary example, a modern still life painting may depict a table with a bowl of fruit on it. The emotion poured into the painting by the artist may convey a message about hunger or gluttony. A table that seems too large for the amount of fruit may indicate a family that has recently and sadly downsized.
Art speaks to what is present and what is pointedly missing. In another example, a portrait doesn’t just show the viewer what the person looked like, but where they are in their lives and how they feel about it. Is the subject happy or sad? Are they longing for something or someone? Have they resigned themselves to their lives or are they hopeful for what may come? The answers to these questions are only revealed in the silent dialog between the artist and the viewer.
An artist depicts more than what is seen. Art encapsulates the visual instance and the emotional weight of the moment. Capturing the emotions is tantamount to capturing time.