Paul Cezanne Still Life with Apples and Biscuits oil on canvas 1877
"The work of the artist is to see into the life of things, I suppose what the scientist Rupert Sheldrake would call 'morphic resonance'---the inner life of the thing that cannot be explained away biologically, chemically, or physically. I'd call it 'imaginative reality.' The reality of the imagination leaves nothing out. It is the most complete reality we can know. The artist is physical; and it is in the work of true artists, in whatever medium, that we find the most moving and poignant studies of the world that we can touch and feel, whether human or natural. When Cezanne paints an apple or a tree, he doesn't paint a copy of an apple or a tree, he paints its reality,m the whole that it is, the whole that is lost to us as we walk past it, eat it, chop it down. It's through the artist, who lives more intensely than the rest of us, that we can rediscover the intensity of the physical world.
But not only the physical world. The earth is not flat, and neither is reality. Reality is continuous, multiple, simultaneous, complex, abundant, and partly invisible. The imagination alone can fathom this, because the imagination is not limited by the world of sense experience. It's not necessary to be shut up in oneself, to grind through life like an ox at a mill. Human beings are capable of powered flight. Our dreams of outer space are only a reflection of the inner space we could occupy if we knew how. Art knows how. At the same time as art is prizing away old, dead structures that have rusted, almost unnoticed, into our flesh, art is pushing at the boundaries we thought were fixed. The only boundaries are the boundaries of our imagination. We need art to remind us of that. . .
Time is not ended yet, and there will be no end to the question 'What is art for?' perhaps because we never stop asking the question, 'What are we for?'
We are restless, searching creatures---poignant in our smallness, triumphant in our determination not to be small. It is all these things---our determination, our aspiration, perhaps our inevitable failure---that art relays back to us. But art is more than a recording angel. It is the creative force that marks out our humanness, the creative force that seeks to bind together all the separations that we are."
--excerpted from the very interesting essay What is Art For? by Jeanette Winterson.