Plastic Arts

What are the Plastic Arts?

When we speak of plastic arts, we refer to the techniques of making works of art in which materials and elements are used that can be molded, modified or transformed by the artist. These elements are therefore considered plastic resources since they serve the raw material artist to express their perspective, imagination or specific vision of the real.

This term is used in Fine Arts to differentiate the visual arts, which must be perceived by the viewer’s view, of those that also involve the sense of hearing (music, recited text ), as the performing arts. Thus, plastic arts are considered to be painting, sculpture, drawing, architecture, engraving, ceramics, goldsmithing, crafts and mural painting.

It is very usual for plastic artists, especially in the early exploration of their talent, to go to different plastic disciplines at the same time, since the plastic arts start from common principles and aspects, such as the form, the texture, color or even movement.

The plastic arts currently occupy one of the main artistic areas of museums, and are, together with the performing arts, literature, film, music and photography, the highest contemporary expressions of art.

History of the plastic arts

The notion of plastic arts emerged during the nineteenth century, as has already been said, to distinguish them from the performing arts. However, during the twentieth century, the notion of art came into conflict and reformulation so many times that the visual arts incorporated expressive proposals such as graffiti and urban art ( street art ) or the ready-made inheritance of pop-art.

This last type of artistic objects, above all, that did not receive more intervention from the artist, but were transferred by him to the museum and extracted from its context, forced the use of the term “visual arts” instead of “plastic arts”, to give them a place in this category. Video, photography and digital art, in that way, also had a place in it.

Types of plastic arts

The plastic arts are ordinarily classified as:

Painting. The most classic of all, along with sculpture, this discipline uses chromatic substances obtained through various mechanisms to apply color on a smooth white surface, known as canvas, to create with these colors a realistic or abstract representation of reality.
Sculpture. This discipline uses the hands of the artist, as well as various tools, to mold, cut, polish and, finally, give a certain shape to durable elements, such as stones of different nature, or moldable materials that then harden, such as plaster.
Goldwork. It involves the production of art pieces by manipulating and melting metals, particularly precious metals such as gold or silver.
Drawing. The technique consists of representing the perspectives of what is visible to the naked eye or the imaginary by means of strokes on a paper that is made with pencil, charcoal, ink or some other material that leaves marks.
Recorded. In a similar way to the drawing, the engraving prints gestures, letters or other symbols on a surface, but in this case a hard and resistant like laminated metals.
Ceramics . Similar to sculpture, it prints form (and eventually color) to a mass of a malleable or malleable element, and then naturally extracts it or in a kiln from the water component and, on drying, hardens it and makes it rigid and shiny.
Crafts. This is the name given to the production technique of simple objects or containers, for everyday use, using flexible materials and simple tools, often the hand of the artist.

Characteristics of plastic arts

As it was said before, the plastic arts share certain basic concepts that determine their particular way of expressing their contents, and that is:

Color. Colors are given to works of art through pigments and materials that, when impacted by white light, absorb all the tones of the rainbow minus one. This reflected color is what our retinas perceive.
Form. The form has to do with the geometry of things, with their regularity or irregularity, with their limits perceptible to the naked eye.
Texture. The texture is appreciable by touch or also the view, and has to do with the surface of objects: its roughness or smoothness, its edge or the sensations transmitted by its outer layer.
Movement. In some cases, the plastic works can count on movement, as is the case of artists like the Argentine Julio LeParc, whose sculptures could be activated by electricity to transmit to the viewer hypnotic shapes and colors.

Examples of plastic arts

Below are examples of each of the plastic disciplines:

Painting: The Guernica of Pablo Picasso (twentieth century).
Sculpture: The thinker of Auguste Rodin (twentieth century).
Ceramics: The ceramic vases by Théodore Deck (19th century).
Goldwork: The altar of St. Ambrose of Milan, made by Vuolvinus (c. 850).
Drawing: The sketches of dancers by Edgar Degas (twentieth century).
Engraving: The series of engravings by Goya baptized “Loscaprichos” (twentieth century).