Objective Art vs. Subjective Art

by admin Jan 11, 2006 16 Comments

Filed under: Creativity

Objective art is meditative art, subjective art is mind art.

When you look to the west, names of many famous artists pop up in your mind, look to the East, and works of art pop up. Even though Gurdjieff is the person responsible for formally dividing art into subjective art and objective art, I find Osho’s explanation of objective art the one that defines it the best. He uses the following Haiku of Basho to define objective art:

Furu ike ya
Kawazu tobikomu
Mizu no oto
An ancient pond
A frog jumps in
The sound of water

According to Osho

just reading few lines of a haiku, a Japanese form of a small poem – only three lines, perhaps three words – if you silently read it, you will be surprised. It is far more explosive than any dynamite. It simply opens up doors in your being.

To understand objective art, Osho suggests that we visualize the haiku.

You almost see the ancient pond! You almost hear the frog, the sound of its jump: Plop.

And then everything is silent. The ancient pond is there, the frog has jumped in, and the sound of his jumping in has created more silence than before. Just reading it is not like any other poetry that you go on reading – one poem, another poem… No, you just read it and sit silently. Visualize it. Close your eyes. See the ancient pond. See the frog. See it jumping in. See the ripples on the water. Hear the sound. And hear the silence that follows.

This is objective art.

Subjective art on the other hand, is an interpretation of the artist, his mood, his feeling, his dream, his passion, his vision; it is a state of his mind. Objective art, meanwhile, is beyond the creator; it can be seen, felt, heard, dreamt; by anyone who comes in contact with it. Gurdjieff said: “In objective art there is nothing indefinite“.

India is full of examples of objective art, from the Taj Mahal, to the hundreds of temples, the Ajanta and Ellora caves, the temples of Khajuraho; names of its creators are lost in time, but next time you visit these places, take a moment to stop and feel the art as a whole, and you might just be able to experience objective art at its best!


  • m c

    Jan 11, 2006 | 1:10 pm

    One may see the size of the temple in the “Objective” picture in a conventional perspective: as towering. One may also see the temple as a miniature being held in someones hand pointing towards the towering and expansive sky, and thus the sky may be the temple. Therefore, because of partial information conveyed by objective art, it contains an inherent subjectivity. You have already stated the objective component of subjective art: the artist. Perhaps there is not complete duality to these notions.

  • KarmaDude

    Jan 11, 2006 | 1:55 pm

    The picture of the temple is not the objective art here, rather the temple itself. To experience it you will, of course, have to visit the temple. My interpretation of it would make it subjective.

    As we are talking about art, the artist is not the component of the art, but rather the creator of it. An artist could be objective in his thoughts, but that does not, necessarily, translate to his art being objective.

    The example of the haiku is perfect objectiveness, a certain temple–as a whole–could be objective art, even though it might consist of building blocks of subjective art. Where one stops and the other starts, only the observer can feel and find out, I can only point towards it.

  • KarmaDude

    Jan 15, 2006 | 11:47 am

    This post featured in the blogmela at nilesh.org

  • sabah

    Mar 17, 2006 | 7:18 am

    hey me and my friend was just wondering what defines objective and subjective? we have been studying objectivity and looked at michael craig martin, julian opie and lichenstein are these objective artists???

    many thanks exteremly grateful for replies

  • KarmaDude

    Mar 17, 2006 | 11:52 am

    Sabah, here is a discussion that might help answer some of your questions, Art as Philosophic Expression

    Hope that helps.

  • Lu

    Mar 20, 2006 | 9:59 am

    Isn’t it impossible for art to be objective as the creation itself is subjective as the materials and layout are decided by the artist from his individual view? I don’t really understand objectivity? please someone explain further I’m studying it in art and need help!

  • KarmaDude

    Mar 20, 2006 | 10:41 am

    Lu, I am not sure how else to explain it, the Haiku example was the best I could think ok.

    Yes, there is a creation process in objective art, just like the Haiku, but when I read that Haiku, the images that form in my mind, is different from the ones that form in your mind, which is different from the images that the creator of the Haiku had, that’s what makes the Haiku objective.

    You can find similar examples in art, there might be parts of subjectivity in the art, but the whole will be objective in nature. The Khajuraho temple is a great example of this, the temple as a whole represents the layers of our mind, the outside depicts all our pleasures and desires, and as you go deep into the temple, it becomes bare and empty.

  • Tiernon

    Apr 23, 2006 | 10:55 am

    hey there you have got some very interesting points and it has helped a lot but it is still hard to get a grasp on seems a bit contradictory a lot of the time not sure how to explain, just wondering if you could give advice/opinions,this is an idea i had for an art piece for my A level exam if i took my bike as something that means a lot to me and i view subjectively as part of me does it work that i can take it apart and photograph it complete in pieces showing just what it is as an object so then when it is together it is just a bike and so should be objective unless someone views it with the same passion as i do and connects it with the feelings you get when riding it……if you can understand my jabbering…i think what i am trying to say is if you view it without connecting it to feelings of others but see what you see is that objective?? haha im losing myself with this any thoughts would be gratefully recieved thanks. T

  • KarmaDude

    Apr 23, 2006 | 11:45 am

    Tiernon, I think you are on the right track, if looking at your photograph of the parts of a bike, invokes a feeling of maybe putting the bike together and taking it for a ride, then you have succeeded in creating an objective piece of art.

    Without knowing the artist, or his state of mind at the time of creating the art, if the work invokes feelings in me that are unique to me, yet similar to the feeling the artist had, then I would say it is objective art. I hope that makes sense, and helps.

    Good luck with your exam.

  • Sam G

    Aug 28, 2006 | 8:30 am

    Tiernon, I think, in his bike example, summed up pretty much the only ”objectivity” in art.
    Another example would be, say, a painting: It is ‘factually’ proveable that since the artist used (only) paint/painting materials etc. to create the image(s) you see on the canvas on which the paint lies, then, with ‘universal’, ‘objective’ human comprehension, it can be stated as being, ‘factually’, a ‘painting’.

    What isn’t ”objective” or scientifically/mathematically/technologically ”proveable” in any art-form is the artist ‘s intention(s)/state of mind while performing or making or creating the piece(s) or the recipient’s view(s), opinion(s) of that work or works.

    Even if the artist/artists actually told you what they THINK they were intending or thinking etc. at the time of or before the creation of the art work, that in itself is also not scientifically/technologically ”proveable” as any ”objective fact” because, often, the words that come out of their mouths MAY not be 100% exactly the same as what they thought in their minds while creating it; some things, especially thoughts/feelings/emotions (all things involved, to varying extents in the creation and reception of any piece of art) can’t always be easily ‘articulated’ through dialogue.

  • KarmaDude » Loveles&hellip

    Sep 20, 2006 | 10:47 am

    [...] I don’t think I have come across a better explanation of karma, than the objective loveless tale of karma, as found in The Legends of Khasak, a book by O.V. Vijayan. Read this little story on karma, and let your imagination show you both the simple nature of karma, and the complexity that lay in the network of actions of ones karma. [...]


    Oct 4, 2006 | 9:33 am

    can you say what were the objective’s of ajanta and ellora

  • KarmaDude

    Oct 4, 2006 | 11:54 am

    Akhil, the objectivity of Ajanta and Ellora, depends on how you feel when you experience the art there, either individually or as a whole. It could be a certain statue of Buddha, invoking something in you, touching your core, putting you at peace, making you want to sit still and take in the quietness and the calmness, maybe even putting you in a meditative state.

    It is quiet common for people to visit these wonders of objective art, take a few pictures, and come back without experience a thing. On the other hand, if you just stand still, and use your inner being, your mind’s eye to take in the art around you, you might have a different experience, and that would be the objective nature of the art.

    Have you been to these caves?

  • Mahesh Sharma

    Feb 7, 2008 | 12:31 am

    The concept of objective/subjective still remains incompletely understood in the subjective terms. At the moment what i understand about objective art is its capacity to generate emotion or feeling in a being. It may be a form or an abstraction or anything, that is irrelevant. All the five senses individually or together may or may not contribute to generate that feeling. It may only be the vibrations that are inexplainable in physical terms.

  • Mika

    Apr 27, 2008 | 12:42 am

    Good to see people are interesting in the subject of Objective art. A key is that it is consciously created and using specific proportions that have been tried and proved, that give the viewer of the art the same impression. In this case an aid to grasp higher forces/insight.

    Icons, Indian higher art, carpets, classical music of Asia have been created by these principals.

    See Buddhist thangkas or Indian Mandala art, the proportions create in you, providing you are sensitive enough a special sensation.

    I got interested about this subject before reading Gurdjieff, but Gurdjieff gives one tools to understand this better.

  • The First Day: Art Basel &hellip

    Dec 4, 2008 | 4:30 am

    [...] Art, so that I could view art from the objective standpoint, and last night I was reading about subjectivity in an introduction to the subject in this very respected book on Modern Art, which is followed by [...]

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