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Truth is an interesting concept. On a very basic, primordial level, it describes simply a conference or a correct assertion. For example, it is true that The Tate Modern is an art gallery in London, UK. In a reverse fashion, one can simply describe it as the opposite of falsehood. It is not false, equally, that ‘The Starry Night’ is a painting by Vincent Van Gogh. But truths in the plural can be more complex than that. They can denote both truths about the nature of the world; facts, figures and empirical information, and truths about ourselves - who we are, what we like, and why we exist. The sciences observe empirical phenomena and hypothesize about the reasons why they may have occurred. History tries to corral the objective truths of the past, as well as mount evidence for why certain events happened. The list of subjects and the way they point to truth is endless. The truths of art, however, are very unique in and of itself. How, therefore, can it be a vehicle for truths?
Truth in art can come from facts. We can read about events, political movements or ideologies, but seeing them expressed in art form sheds a whole new, visceral light upon them. You do not need to be an avid art lover or enthusiast to appreciate how putting an idea or truth in art form makes it far more real and impactful. Being told that power can corrupt, is far more obscure than seeing a painting of Donald Trump doing underhand deals with various senate cronies. For modern-day readers - think of memes: If you said the content of a meme in read form, it would simply be a moderately relatable (for some) sentence. Putting it in video or cartoon form with a visual aid adds layers to it that make it far more bright and clear in the mind of the perceiver.
More demonstrably, art delivers experiential and emotional truths. Although art can teach people about the world in terms of historical and social updates on news and factoids, albeit often in a more engaging format, there are history books that provide the exact same information, usually in greater detail. Art shows us what it is like to experience something we have never felt before. Watching ‘Boyhood’ for the first time made me think about what it would be like to go out into the world after finishing secondary school, despite still being in high school at the time. Looking at a painting in a famous art gallery can further our understanding of ultimate beauty. Poignant books often reduce readers to tears through vivid descriptions of love, despair and hope.
These works, which teach art lovers and enthusiasts all over the world about what it is like to feel and understand the world empirically, provide tremendous value in the mission to understand Truth. While we can read in a textbook, or are told as children that love is a reaction in your brain that releases serotonin, or that sadness comes when something bad happens, truths like these mean next to nothing until seen, heard or experienced. For young people especially, who may not have had the full breadth of life experience compared to those much older, art can perform a vital educational function.
And thus, in the scheme of things, while you most likely won’t find the answer to pi in the halls of an art gallery or museum, art displays many emotional, mental and humanistic truths, giving us a crucial insight into the human living experience.