Studying art (14) – Rhetoric of art

I’ve been doing some extensive research on the rhetoric recently. Inspired by some great orators of the ancient (Cicero), modern (M.L. King) and contemporary (B. Obama) times and their art of crafting messages that actually ‘talk’, ‘communicate’ I was eager to discover what are these powerful tools that help to make a real, lasting connection between people…

Art is one of the most universal, proficient codes of communication – does it speak rhetoric? If yes, to which extent is its language consciously, deliberately rhetorical? Were all great artists competent in applying visually this ancient art of a discourse? What makes that, sometimes very subtle difference between a piece which is powerful and the one which is grotesque/melodramatic? How about the audience – is it culturally prepared to read an artwork via this very code without any explanations?

Must say, it was all well-worth the time spent and trying, and I would recommend it to anyone (here, and here are two e-addresses to call upon)… Just for starters: the classic division of the rhetoric (Aristotle) from an artist (mine) point of view in terms of the contents:


Logic – talking to minds, “does it makes sense?” – aspect, conceptualization, defending claims and points, etc.

Pathos – touching emotional depths, using language to inspire, stimulate, move, captivate…

Ethos – a sensitive aspect to be judged by the audience only, how the integrity of an artist-artwork shows (if at all)? How about the ethics, goodwill, virtues, wisdom/intelligence of the propositions (and artist’s himself)? Does it deserve the credit of trust? Must say, this particular aspect is a bare and deserted ground in the art-world now… On this issue only one could spend days and months discussing, researching, making-up the mind…


Above that, for any successful orator there were practical (technical) issues to understand, respect and master:


kairos – the time and the space, the context and conditions of this particular speech (artwork) – they have to be addressed in an appropriate manner

audience – the ‘market’ and a stage of a reception

style/decorum – the vehicle for the idea/message (low/high key?, unconventional/classical?); as to this point – personally, I think that 80% of an average art is and always will be average only due its over-estimation of the style/decorum over the kairos and audience; I mean all these artists whose only serious aim is to hear “that’s beautiful/lovely/charming – how much?” But, does it address its time and space challenging to ask difficult questions, does it really care about its viewers taking responsibility for their grow, does it stimulate art as a whole to progress, to question itself?…


Generally, after some weeks of a limbo-state I’m slowly beginning to re-connect to the challenge of the further art-making, and – on a higher step of this ladder, as I hope… And  I think, that I’m at the beginning of my affair with this vision of art – as a never-ending glorious stream of oratory masterpieces, conveying the most important ideas, humanity has ever sparkled from the depths of its spirit, in the most convincing, imaginative ways.

Yes – communicating instead of hollowing inner realities for their own sake, yes – making visible for those who are less able to see themselves, yes – mastering and using all the visual/conceptual/aesthetic – rhetoric tools to create art that matters, that is being served and not serves merely…

Power of art, which is inherent to it and fully deserved can show itself only through its inner and out-reaching integrity and the profoundness/validity of the visions it seeks to portray in a matching fashion.



About kasia

Born in Poland. Lives in Ireland, Cork. Visual artist. View all posts by kasia

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