The artist then proceeds to express feelings and ideas in words or paint or stone or the like, clarifying them and achieving a release of tension.The point of this theory seems to be that artists, having been perturbed at the inarticulateness of their “ideas,” now feel relieved because they have “expressed what they wanted to express.” This phenomenon, indeed a familiar one (for everyone has felt relieved when a job is done), must still be examined for its relevance.
The elements existed beforehand but not in the same combination; creation is the re-formation of these pre-existing materials.
Pre-existence of materials holds true of creation quite apart from art: in the creation of a scientific theory or the creation of a disturbance.
It is, at any rate, the theory of art as the expression of feelings (which here shall be taken to include emotions and attitudes) that has been historically significant and developed: art as specially connected with the life of feeling.
When people are said to be expressing feelings, what specifically are they doing?
If artistic creation can plausibly be said to be a process of expression, something different from and more specific than natural release or discharge must be meant.
One view of emotional expression in art is that it is preceded by a perturbation or excitement from a vague cause about which the artist is uncertain and therefore anxious.
It is still necessary to distinguish a “natural release” from an expression.
If poetry were literally “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings,” as William Wordsworth (1770–1850) said, it would consist largely of things like tears and incoherent babblings.
In art at least, expression requires a medium, a medium that is recalcitrant and that artists must bend to their will.
In throwing things to express anger, there is no medium—or, if one’s body is called the medium, then it is something one does not have to study to use for that purpose.