Visual Arts: Concept, Characteristics and Classification

We explain what Visual Art is, its history and what this artistic discipline is for. Also, how it is classified and its characteristics.

Visual art
The visual arts encompasses both traditional and newer plastic arts techniques.

What are the visual arts?

The visual arts refer to a set of artistic techniques and disciplines that range from traditional plastic arts, to the newest and unconventional trends that take advantage of new available technologies, such as digital art, urban art and others that emerged during the twentieth century and what goes on XXI.

These terms are used to insist on the common dimension that encompasses so many different techniques and resources, and what is visual, understood as that which requires the attention of the viewer to perceive through the gaze the details that make up the work.

However, this term can become a bit arbitrary, if we consider that in cases like video art, other senses are also involved.

The list of visual arts is large, and includes traditional and other new techniques, even incorporating certain performing arts such as performance, in which the visual perception of artistic events deprives.

In this sense, it has served as an object of study for interpreting disciplines such as psychology (Gestalt), interested in the way we perceive reality and organize it mentally.

In that sense, visual art pays close attention to the dynamics in his works between the background and the represented figure, between the contour, the tendencies towards the grouping of the elements and the way in which emotional, aesthetic and even ethical effects are generated around what is perceived.

History of the visual arts

The traditional plastic arts have their own history, since they come from the oldest times of humanity, especially painting and sculpture. However, after the technological paradigm shift that the Industrial Revolution meant and the subsequent technological revolutions of the 20th century, today there are modern aspects such as photography or cinema, and others even more recent such as video art, (art on the Internet), Land Art or happening or performance. The history of visual art is one of ever more daring innovation.

What are the visual arts for?

Visual art
Visual Art can open your eyes to certain meanings that are not considered.

Let us agree that art, as Oscar Wilde said, is useless. That is to say, it has no practical utilityIt is not economically interchangeable nor does it serve to repair the stove when it is damaged in winter.

However, visual art often has decorative applications in homes, buildings or simply in the city, like urban artstreet art) that can provide the viewer with a certain sense of harmony or, on the contrary, open their eyes to certain meanings that, normally, they do not even consider.

Visual arts classification

The visual arts are numerous and that includes at least the following categories:

  • Traditional plastic arts: painting, sculpture, architecture, drawing, engraving.
  • Visual arts of the twentieth century: photography, cinema, kinetic art, abstract art, Land art (art with the earth or the ground itself), urban art, graffiti, performance.
  • Digital or New Age Arts: video art (multimedia art),, digital art, fanart and installations (conjunction of sculpture, painting and various plastic elements around a given space).

Characteristics of visual art

Visual art, understood as a global category, has the following characteristics:

  • Transdisciplinarity. This term means that the visual arts move between different disciplines, instead of staying stuck in just one or respecting the “borders” between them. In principle, you can use any technique, form or tradition and combine it with any other that is convenient.
  • Tends to appropriation. The visual arts tend to recycle previous or traditional trends and explorations, and to redefine them with new layers of meaning through ironic interventions and twists.
  • It is a global art. It handles very well in the heterogeneous and contaminated imaginary of globalization, where few things are considered “pure” or “immovable” and mixing and daring are valued.
  • Manage exposure strategies. He is not content with museums and controlled spaces, but invades the urban, goes in search of the viewer and often demands a certain collaboration or complicity from him to form the work.