Is art Conceptual by nature?

I just wonder if it is truly possible to create non conceptual art, as wouldn’t the making of such art itself involve the very concept of what is “art”? Furthermore wouldn’t non conceptual itself be a concept since it is in opposition to something else?

It just came across my mind in a Buddhist magazine about an exercise in taking photos without conceptualizing things, yet I can’t help but wonder if it is possible. I mean what moves you to take such a photo is likely some idea right? Would that make inspiration conceptual then?

Well everything exists in a context. But I suppose some art could be less conceptual than others.

I’ve had to many bratwursts and too much egg salad to answer this “isn’t everything a thing that could be a thing that is only a thing” question

That does seem to be a more wine and crepes question.

“That does seem to be a more wine and crepes question.”

With a lot more wine than crepes.----When one is at that point where one feels sophisticated but can’t pronounce it.

I’ve also learned that people under the influence of some drugs often feel they are being profound, and understand the universe. Recordings of the events tend not to support that opinion.

I gave up Zen as a path suitable for me over 40 years ago. Tend to spend very little time contemplating my navel these days. Far too busy living each day ,and savouring the experience. Probably the most Zen thing I’ve ever done.


PD: “I’ve also learned that people under the influence of some drugs often feel they are being profound, and understand the universe. Recordings of the events tend not to support that opinion.”

TimB: True dat. One caveat, I would say tho, is that forms of altering one’s state of consciousness, whether by chemicals or by ritual type methods, could result in one coming up with a novel (for them) perspective.

Yes, novel and absolutely useless.

Seeing things from a different perspective than one usually does, is not necessarily “useless”. Claiming that it is “absolutely useless” is erroneous, I think. One may access different info and/or access info differently in different states of consciousness. This could sometimes lead to a solution or a creative idea that would not typically have been accessed in the routine state of consciousness.

I’m not sure I understand the question.

After a year of art classes, I’ve been churning out art works as a hobby for several years now. Did a lot of tutorials I found on Youtube. That often meant a fifth rate copy of a Monet, or a really rotten original of some local trees or some flowers…

I’ve moved on, into cubism. Usually have a clear idea of what I want to do, although I often change it spontaneously.

By non conceptual, are you speaking of spontaneity? Of an artist simply beginning and seeing what happens?

I once read of a Zen method for painting bamboos. First find a teacher. Watch him for few years, absorb everything he knows… Then paint bamboos for a couple of years. THEN forget everything you have have learned about painting bamboos. At that stage you will paint bamboos well.

Or is it like say writing with a pen? We don’t tend to think of how we are writing, we just do it. Same with driving a car.

As I said, not sure I understand the question



To be honest I didn’t really get the original article that said it. It was about photography and the exercise said not to conceptualize or try not to when taking the photo. It was one of many bits in a theme of mindfulness.

In all likelihood I probably have done such a thing before and didn’t know it.


Does that mean I was right? Or have I misunderstood again?


I don’t know. I barely remember much about the article, but I somehow got it into my head that conceptualizing art or the photo is bad and therefor don’t do it, but the article didn’t really say that.

A little humility. That will serve you.

Just wish I knew how to knock it off

Just wish I knew how to knock it off
What does that even mean?

My husband, who is the book publisher for the Museum of Modern Art, and knows a lot about art and art criticism, said this about conceptual art.

“I think this is just a bit of a straw man discussion in which the writer is, perhaps understandably, electing to question people’s word usage rather than the ideas meant by first, those who conceived the terms conceptual art and non-conceptual art, and secondly, the magazine author.

“Conceptual art is a term coined in the sixties with the specific intent of describing art in which the idea being presented is more important than the artifact. And non conceptual art is a rarely used and not widely accepted term designed to counter the first term. To construe either of them as having a broader meaning is entirely possible from a linguistic point of view, but is a bit like deciding to talk about folk music as if it were music made by any folk rather than a specific musical genre that most people understand in a more specific way.

“I suppose you could argue that the act of pressing a camera button requires you to have had a concept of what you are doing, but think the magazine author’s meaning is that there is a difference between envisaging, arranging, and creating a composition designed to make a point and then photographing it and taking a snapshot.”




Great post Lois, thanks; I learned.

Glad it was helpful, Patrick.


Interesting way to put it.

conceptual art vs. derivative art ?