Avant-garde, when translated means an advanced guard or a vanguard; this is used to describe a style of artwork, an artist or a technique that is significantly ahead of others. When an artist produces a better work of art, or he paints in a more expressive, inventive and neat style that is much different from those of his peers, then his artworks could be said to be avant-garde or ahead the artworks of others. Avant-garde doesn’t just mean that an artist is simply ahead of others, it is used to denote a person who is far ahead of his peers, giving them a considerable gap in terms of grade, he is just different to them in terms of style and he strives to produce something that is new and something that solves a problem using a unique approach. So, any artwork that is better than that of others, an artwork that is unique, that isn’t copied can be said to be an avant-garde artwork.
But who is in the best position to determine if a work is avant-garde, or how can we determine if a specific piece of artwork is avant-garde? Well, art pieces that are avant-garde are in no way prejudged by anybody, but for a painting to be avant-garde, it has to portray a unique design, a new style, and unseen technique when compared to regular paintings. So a young boy of 8 years old who has a painting that boasts of some unique techniques, or who produces a piece of artwork with a new artistic method and technique can be said to have produced an avant-garde art piece. The emphasis here is placed, not on the artist or producer but on the technique, style and artistic design of the artwork.
Is it only pieces of arts that are called avant-garde? The answer is no; in our daily engagements, employments, and learning, there are sets of ways or directions that things are known to have been done, in fact, some things have a set process for being done and at the end of these processes, the same results are achieved. For a person to decide to use another process when doing a task and still end up achieving the same results and sometimes better results, that process is said to be avant-garde. We have now seen that this word is used to address not only artworks but also some other day-to-day tasks. But when in effect did people start using the word in arts.
The first time this word was used to describe a painting, was between 1905 and 1908 by a group named Fauvism, this was an era when people would make paintings using same methods and even almost the same designs, and this group used and produced some color schemes that were very dramatic and anti-nature. Their paintings was opposite to those of the artists of their days and that made people dub them “wild beasts”, their paintings were some of the first to be described or seen as avant-garde. Immediately after the Fauvism came a group called the Analytical Cubism (1908-1912), these group placed lots of emphasis on a two dimensional picture plane, their artworks were really scandalous and in a sense, they were unique and different to the generally known paintings of that time. From the year 1913, a man called Die Burke also had some unique pieces of paintings produced and still, due to the unnatural and entirely different nature of these paintings, people could call them avant-garde, that is, ahead of all others. Of all groups that must have painted unique artworks, of all the people that must have done something great with their art skills, a group that is respected to this day is the group name “DADA”, this group was founded by Tristian Tzara (1896-1963), they started their works in Zurich, then they spread to Berlin and then to new York, the Dada included a number of subversive ideas which are seen today as being relatively mainstream. They started the creation of junk arts and the introduction of 3D-collage.
These are just some of the many artists who have produce avant-garde art pieces; today, we have many art pieces that are avant-garde and many that can be; all that is needed is for an art work to have a unique style, technique and design that has not been tapped.