Approaching Conceptual Art | Glossary

Traditional Art

For our purposes we’ll define traditional art as that where the object is of primary importance. It is the object (the painting, sculpture, etc) that brings about the experience. The experience can be many things; from the evocation of emotion, to an aesthetic appreciation, to the contemplation of an idea. However, a principal importance is always placed upon the object.


Philosophy can be broadly defined as the study of existence. Its ideas cover a wide range of subjects, including knowledge, truth, beauty, justice, mind, and language. If it can be described as having an aim, then it would be to give us a greater knowledge of the world we live in, and the way that we, as humans, exist within and experience the world.

Philosophy is something that exists within each of us; every time we wonder about the world, or our existence, we are thinking philosophically. Philosophy is a reflection of our own experience of the world, and can serve to shed light on the way that we think about experience, and life in general.

The word philosophy has its origins in Ancient Greek language, and means “love of knowledge”.


Psychology is the scientific study of mental processes and behaviour. It seeks to gain an understanding of the mind, both for treatment of problems and abnormalities, and to increase our knowledge and understanding of the world and the way that we relate to it.

Psychology can help us to understand our various mental processes, and in doing so can shed light on why we do, or think, certain things (and equally, why others think and act the way they do).


Metaphysics originated as a branch of philosophy. Prior to the end of the Eighteenth Century philosophy used to encompass science, which at the time was known as ‘natural philosophy’, and was considered a part of metaphysics. Metaphysics investigated general principles of reality, those that transcended any particular science.

For our uses, the metaphysician is someone who aspired to possess a wide range of knowledge, from scientific through to philosophical.


At its simplest, a symbol is something that represents something else. They can often act as useful shorthand for more complex messages or ideas. For example, most of us recognize the Cross as a symbol that is used in Christianity. It refers specifically to the event of the cruxifiction, but to those with knowledge of the religion it can also represent an entire belief system – in seeing it, a number of associations and ideas may be triggered within our heads. The Cross has become associated with much more than what it directly refers to, and can act as a doorway through which many other ideas and images can be accessed.