This page helps artists use the materials at their disposal through morally-explicit art to emphasise and deepen the meaning and purpose of their art. It describes how artists and their audiences can become more aware of the values and morals that feature in or flow through their work.
Morality is the authentic application of our inherent human values in any given situation.
Artists can encourage their audiences to reflect on their own values by highlighting the values in their work. As artists become more conscious of those values, the values are more likely to become a feature of the work.
Artists become more conscious of the values in their work as they reflect on those values. This can be achieved through some of the practices set out below.
What is a value
Values are the principles that we believe in that drive our thinking and behaviour. They include principles such as trust, respect, integrity, peace and joy.
Values offer us a language with which to consider and reflect on our experiences in a way that resonates with our inner selves. They provide the opportunity to communicate and clarify meaning within art.
What is the value of values?
Morally-explicit art works with values to help us to understand our authentic selves. It helps us to understand better what motivates others. It helps us to understand how society works. And it helps us to evolve a way of living that respects ourselves, each other and the nature that sustains all life.
As an aspect of art, it is a form of self-expression. It is an expression of our deepest humanity, of our essence as social beings who need to form bonds of connection with others and with nature.
We flourish when we live our lives driven by the values we believe in. Our lives degrade when we compromise our values, where we choose or feel compelled to follow the lead of people whose values do not respect ours.
What is morality?
Morality is an adaptation to circumstance. Our morals are defined by how we tailor our personal values so that our thinking or behaviour adapts appropriately to any given circumstance or context.
Great art is filled with human responses to events or situations that have drawn the artist’s attention for their significance. Artists who choose to be explicit about the values within their work consciously acknowledge those values that drive the significant event or the response/reaction to it.
Art frequently draws attention to aspects of morality in our lives, experiences or in the wider society. These aspects may be portrayed either in the work itself or through the audience’s reaction. Morally-explicit art seeks to highlight the work’s moral dimension either in the work itself or explicit in any description or discussion about the work.
Expressing the Message
The message of morally-explicit art needs to be expressed explicitly in terms of positive universal values. Artists can use their work to explore values, or they use values to explore their work. Artists who make explicit their messages of moral concern thread their message together with similar messages from other artists, from all forms and styles of art forms.
The Values Library in our Exploring Your Values section offers the opportunity for artists to reflect on values, either to evaluate the depth or authenticity of their work or to influence the nature of the work itself. Morality is contextual – much of art is devoted to the tension between values that compete with each other in a given situation.
The Impact of Expression
The values language is described as an ethical vocabulary by Neil Hawkes in his studies on the impact of Values-based Education. When artists throughout the art world regularly use the language of morality, they raise awareness of the issues of morality in the minds of their audience. Since human values are an inherent part of our psychology, this raised awareness has been shown to be the major contributing factor to people adopting more compassionate attitudes towards themselves and to others, and to leading a more moral life.