Do we need to know the context in which an artwork was produced in order to claim that we have knowledge of the artwork?
Every art is created with a purpose and is affected by historical and cultural context, so if you understand an artwork’s background it will of course give us a better insight and understanding with in the artwork, because artworks are base on the artist’s cultural context. But on the other hand, they are also base on the audiences’ cultural context, different audiences can gain different knowledge of the artwork. So I think without knowing the context of the artwork, we can also gain knowledge from the artwork.
Firstly, we can gain knowledge from the elements in art, for example like the colors, lines, style, and form. By looking at its color we can know the emotion that the artist is trying to deliver, like cool colors usually give us a sad feeling and warm colors usually give us a cheerful feeling. Other examples like black usually give a depressing feeling and red usually symbolize love. By looking at its use of line and pattern we can gain knowledge about the artwork too. For example some aboriginal culture have their unique style of patter, so just by looking at the pattern of the artwork we can know where the artwork come from. There are many forms of art, such as 2-D forms and 3-D forms, and form can give you the knowledge about the time period. Because some form of art only exist in a certain time period and some forms only come out in the 20th century. By recognizing the artwork’s art style, we can know which movement it belongs to.
Secondly, we can gain knowledge through the imagination and creativity of the artworks. There are many possibility in art because it doesn’t have to make sense or to be real. So artist can just use their imagination and creativity to create any art they want, because anything can be art. As an audience, we also need to use imagination to truly appreciate the art sometimes. In this case, we can just use our imagination to interpret the art. Because honestly for some artwork, no one except the artist can truly understand it, especially some of the contemporary and abstract modern arts.
Lastly, we can gain personal knowledge. I think the point of artist presenting their artworks is to let the audience think about their meanings and what the artist is trying to deliver and come out with their own way of interpreting them and that will become your personal knowledge. Some people even use intuition to gain knowledge in art, sometimes when you look at an art you just immediately get the meaning.
Therefore I think even without knowing the content of the artwork, we can still gain knowledge about its context through the elements the artist used in their artworks. Although we might not fully understand the artwork, I think we can still claim that we have knowledge of the artwork.