Does something completely hopeless still have the potential to be beautiful? And, if not, how much hope does a work of art need in order for it to have some sort of appeal? This is something that I’ve been wondering about for quite a while. After all, surely there’s some cut-off point, some line that, if crossed, makes something self-indulgent more than anything else. At the same time, though, I feel that a good artist has the potential to make almost anything beautiful. There are limits, but life unfortunately does contain many bleak moments that do need to be represented in art.
One thing that should be remembered is that there’s a huge difference between sad art and bleak art. The former takes negative emotions and creates something positive out of them, while the latter takes negative emotions and creates something equally negative out of them. I feel that this is a hugely important distinction to make, as the two get confused far too easily. One of the things I hated most about school (and I hated everything about it) was how the complete morons in my class instantly dismissed any poem that was even slightly sad as “depressing”. Then again, you can’t expect idiots to grasp abstract thinking when they’re still struggling with the concept of capital letters.
So, is bleak art less important than sad art because of this? That is debatable. I don’t think so, as long as the bleakness and negativity are handled in a mature and adult way. This is a pretty difficult thing to do, and if not done right, then the work of art can fail miserably because of it. However, if done correctly, then the artist has managed to create something that is worthy of being called beautiful. Perhaps it is not beautiful in any positive way, but still beautiful by its own standards.
It seems, though, at least when it comes to fiction, that no work of art should be totally, 100% bleak, because that only results in what TV Tropes calls Darkness Induced Audience Apathy. There needs to be some sort of hope present, even if it is infinitesimally tiny. Otherwise, the story would just get unrealistic and the audience, would lose interest. If there is nothing likable or pleasant about the story, then it ends up becoming, well, unlikable and unpleasant. As well as this, if there is no light, then what does the audience have to measure the darkness against? Adding some light can actually intensify the darkness. It isn’t necessary to shove in a happy ending or anything, but at least the promise, memory, or dream of something better should be there. This way, the darkness is kept pitch black and the small pin-pricks of hope gain a sort of poignancy, too.Basically, a sense of balance and self-awareness is needed to stop everything from drowning in total, unrelenting angst.