VI. Requisites for Artistic Appreciation

The appreciation of a work of art is a form of give and receive action; accordingly, in appreciation, as well, there are certain requisites for the subject and for the object. Those requisites will be explained here.

Requisites for the Subject in Appreciation
First, as a Sungsang requisite, an appreciator must have a keen interest in the artwork. Based on that interest, the appreciator must assume the correct attitude with which to enjoy the beauty in the work, namely, the attitude of intuition and contemplation. In other words, the appreciator must view the artwork with a clear state of mind, freeing himself or herself from worldly, or impure thoughts. To do this, it is necessary to harmonize the spirit mind and the physical mind, such that the spirit mind and the physical mind are in the relationship of subject and object centering on Heart. This means that the appreciator should make the pursuit of the values of truth, goodness, and beauty primary, and the pursuit of the physical values secondary.

Next, the appreciator must have attained a certain level of culture, taste, philosophy, individuality, and so on. It is also necessary to understand as much as possible the Sungsang aspect of the artist who created the work, namely, the motif (purpose), theme, conception, philosophy, historical and social environment, and so on. Understanding a work of art is a process of bringing into correspondence the appreciator’s Sungsang and the Sung-sang of the artwork. Through this process of matching, the appreciator can enhance his or her resemblance to the artwork.

For example, in order to deeply appreciate the works by Millet, it helps for one to understand the social environment of those days. At the time of the February Revolution of 1847, a heavy atmosphere of socialist reform had descended over France. It is said that Millet disliked that atmosphere and was more attracted to the simple life of the countryside. While living among farmers, he was inspired to portray their lifestyle as it was.12 If one understands Millet’s frame of mind, one can more deeply feel the beauty in his paintings.

In order to feel greater resemblance to the artwork, the appreciator simultaneously engages in additional creative activity through “subjective action.” Subjective action means that the appreciator adds his or her own subjective elements to the object (artwork), thus adding new and additional value to the value already created by the artist. The appreciator then enjoys the enhanced value as the value of the object. Subjective action corresponds to the notion of “empathy” as defined by Theodore Lipps. For example, in a play or a movie, an actor may break down in tears, and the audience may then weep along with the actor, thinking that the actor is really feeling sad. They project their own feelings onto the actor, judging the object subjectively. This is an example of subjective action, or empathy. Through subjective action, the appreciator becomes more closely united with the artwork and obtains deeper joy.

Furthermore, the appreciator synthesizes the various physical elements discovered through contemplation and combines their overall unified harmony with the Sungsang (conception) of the artist, contained in the work. In other words, the appreciator finds the harmony of Sungsang and Hyungsang in the work.

Finally, the Hyungsang requisites for the appreciator refer to the appreciator’s own physical condition. The appreciator must have healthy sense organs fo rsight and hearing, and his or her brain and nervous system should be in good condition. Since a human being is a united being of Sungsang and Hyungsang, a healthy condition of one’s physical body is required for the appreciation of beauty, which is an activity of the Sungsang.

Requisites for the Object in Appreciation
With regard to the requisites for the object (artwork), first, the elements of beauty, namely, all the physical elements of the artwork must be well-harmonized, centering on the purpose of creation. Second, there should be harmony between the Sungsang (motif, purpose, theme, conception) and the Hyungsang (physical elements) of the artwork.

In appreciation, since a work of art is a completed piece appearing before the appreciator, those qualities which the artwork already has can not be changed at will by the appreciator. Yet, as was pointed out earlier, the appreciator’s resemblance to the artwork can be enhanced through the subjective action of the appreciator. When displaying works of art, it is also important to prepare the environment in terms of location, background and lighting, in order to create an appropriate atmosphere for appreciation.

Judgment of Beauty
Based on the principle that “value is determined through a correlative relationship (the relationship of give and receive) between subject and object,” beauty is judged or determined through the give and receive action between the appreciator (a subject with the above-mentioned requisites for the subject) and an artwork (an object with the above-mentioned requisites for the object). This means that beauty is judged when the appreciator’s desire to seek beauty is fulfilled by the emotional stimulation coming from the artwork. The emotional stimulation coming from the artwork refers to these elements of beauty within the work which stimulate the emotion of the subject. This means that beauty itself does not exist objectively. Only when the elements of beauty which exist in the artwork stimulate the emotional function of the appreciator, and the appreciator judges that they are beautiful, do they manifest as actual beauty.

Let us consider for a moment the difference between an aesthetic judgment and a cognitive judgment. A cognitive judgment is made through collation between the subject (internal elements―prototypes) and the object (external elements―sense content). An aesthetic judgment is also made through the collation between subject and object. What is the difference between the two?

If, during collation, the faculty of intellect is more active than the other faculties, then it becomes a cognitive judgment; but if the faculty of emotion is more active, then it becomes an aesthetic judgment. In other words, when the physical elements of an object are perceived intellectually, it is a cognitive judgment, but when they are perceived emotionally, it is an aesthetic judgment. However, since the intellectual and emotional faculties can not be totally separated from each other, an aesthetic judgment is always accompanied by cognition. For example, the aesthetic judgment that “this flower is beautiful” is accompanied by the cognition that “this is a rose.” The relationship between an aesthetic judgment and a cognitive judgment is illustrated in fig. 7.4.