What does art represent, if it does represent?

If art does represent something, does art represent physical reality, or does art represent the mind’s eye, or some other thing?

Physical reality. It might be thought that art represents physical reality, since it is often depicting objects or scenes from the world. An artwork can depict a scene- a cafe or a restaurant, or a park or garden. An artwork can paint a picture of still life objects- a bowl of fruits or a vase of flowers.

Representation, however, is different from merely copying. Art does not copy reality in the same way that photography copies reality. The issue is not so much how realistic a painting or a drawing is, but whether or not the painting or the drawing relays either a message or else a vision of some kind.

Mind’s eye. There is surely some kind of interpretation that is attached to the depiction of physical reality. The painting or photograph of the restaurant conveys a certain mood, bustling and busy, perhaps. The vase of flowers is delicate and fragile. So, there is a sense in which art represents the mind’s eye or what the imagination perceives.

Does abstract art represent anything at all? It clearly does not represent physical reality. So, what does it represent? How about installation art?

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