Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Contemporary Art – A Reason to Embrace

Dear Contemporary-Art-Phobe, this series is for you. As well as on a critical or cynical day in my life, it is a challenge unto myself…

I’ve made it my part-time pursuit in my solo year at art school, (where they birth and nurture contemporary fine artists and designers), to become accustomed, acquainted and maybe even aligned with contemporary art. With so much exposure to it, it’s been a welcomed task. I’ve allowed myself, in the past, to be angered by contemporary art, and then be washed away with the anti-tide, and the repetitive lapping waves of ‘but it’s not art is it,’ most often led by individuals who know little about art anyway. I think a name like Philippa would have suited me – Phil the Greek for lover – I genuinely don’t like disliking. And no that’s not a double negative for you there! So I’ve been gathering thought-provoking arguments from qualified individuals that justify that which I’ve previously thought was unjustifiable.

In terms of traditional measures of taste – of quality, craftsmanship and beauty, I think quite a collection of people see contemporary art as the fall of art. The fall – the point at which evil entered the world, and it could be reversed. A new and forceful genre of art has influenced (positively or negatively) so many, that the public, and aspiring artists cannot help but be changed by it. They see art differently.

Art Historian Johann Joachim Winkelmann (18th century) believed the pinnacle of artistic achievement was the antiquity (approx. 800 BC – 600 AD), and this has at moments been a comfortable line to follow. “[There] is but one way for the moderns to become great, and perhaps unequalled, by imitating the ancients…It is not only nature which the votaries of the Greeks find in their works, but still more, something superior to nature; ideal beauties, brain born images.” This is when I see an image of a graph of limiting factors – a dropping curve – with an example such as primitive art, of the modern variety, which is not dissimilar to primitive art of the pre-historic cave art variety. Has there really been a climax that was followed by a regression to pre-enlightenment days? Or because appearances-can-be-deceptive, the contemporary primitives in fact do have skills and knowledge and ability superior of that before, and so it is a question of utilising potential and to a decided intellectual affect.

For this collection of thoughts, I’m going to put aside capitalist ideas of better and worse, and see where believing in contemporary art takes me…

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