How do the formal qualities of a work of art support its conceptual qualities?

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The formal qualities of a work of art help to make its concepts concrete. They are an expression of both the artist's technique and the artist's worldview. For example, Michelangelo's classical paintings express the artist's Christian faith, while Georges Seurat's Pointillist paintings express the artist's faith in science.

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The creative process of the artist is closely linked to the artist’s worldview. At the same time, the manifestation of the process—the work of art—is an expression of technique at least as much as it is anything else. The way in which the process is expressed is the form it takes, otherwise known as the formal qualities. The conceptual qualities could be described as a combination of how the artist perceives the world, an imagined expression of that perception, and the technique required to make that imagined expression real. This, in abstract terms, is how these two elements relate to each other. The imagined expression is conceived within the context of the artist’s worldview and is made real to the extent of the capacity of the artist.

Practical illustrations may help express these relationships. The carefully composed, classically beautiful world of Michelangelo is an attempt to bring God and the principles of Christianity into the world as he saw it. Centuries later, Georges Seurat, inspired by the radical departure from the formal constraints of the classical which he saw in Impressionism’s spontaneous, luxurious use of paint and emphasis on the moment, invented the technique now known as Pointillism, in which tiny dots of color are aggregated to create paintings. It was his passion for science and his faith in its place in the world, very much like Michelangelo’s own faith, which he felt must find expression in his work.

In both of these cases, there were specific techniques used, certain styles of painting, certain priorities in terms of composition, but the intended—and achieved—result relied as much on the way in which the artist saw the world as any specific method of applying paint or composing a scene.

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