Despite what some fans of abstract, experimental, or surrealistic art will try to argue, all art is about storytelling. That doesn’t mean that all art is only about its story, just that no matter what the piece of art is, it’s trying to tell you a story. The story may only exist to evoke a single emotion, or may not exist in a standard issue plotted out sort of way, but things remain the same. I came to this realization only recently. I heard someone try to argue that art was not about storytelling. Although they were incoherent in their argument, it made me think about what a successful argument for that viewpoint might be, and I came to believe that one didn’t exist. Even Jackson Pollock’s splatter art is meant to convey things to us through a story of shapes and seemingly chaotic images.
Another reason I started thinking about this is because I started asking myself what an artist was trying to “say” with a particular piece of art I was observing (it was the work of Andres Serrano, such as the Metallica album cover he designed below, if you were wondering). I came to believe that any artist who is showing an audience something is trying to tell them a story in order to evoke whatever it is in that the audience that it evokes, and the method is through a story. Some types of art ask the audience, either consciously or unconsciously, to bring their own interpretation to the work, which is basically the audience filling in the blanks in the story on their own (which can sometimes make the piece more personal, if it’s done right). Landscape painters are telling us the story of the landscape. Monet was telling us stories of the water lilies. Picasso was telling us stories, not always ones I “get”, but they’re there somewhere. Stravinsky was telling us the story of the Rite of Spring. And so on and so forth.
Now, I suppose an artist could not be telling a story if they put out a piece (and when I say “piece”, it could be a painting or a movie or a bit of music or whatever) that was intentionally designed to not mean anything. But I think even in that instance, that’s a story. It would be the story that the audience was telling back to the artist with whatever their response to the piece was. The aspect of storytelling would still be there, just not necessarily put forth by the artist.
Anyway, this is just something I’ve been thinking about lately and thought I would share.