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Reply to "The Spiritual Problem With Modernist Art"

Great that you posted these musings Melesi.
I don't have common reference points with you as far as a diet of Arthur Miller or Jose Ortega y Gassett, so my response is more intuitive, being someone who does draw and paint. And therefore subjective, which all discussion of art ultimately is. Wink

I'd like to know your own personal thoughts and interactions on/with modern art though, references aside.

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choose to see themselves as above the average and inaccessible to them because they are so good and high and intellectual no matter how bad their art may be--the point of Sedaris's essay and the blinding sin of pride--there are those who have deliberately chosen a philosophy of art that makes it inaccessible to most people. It is made to "shock" now, to "question" or to "demand," and thus, being art, it is "right" and therefore anyone who disagrees with it or dislikes it is "wrong," or "low" and to be disregarded. It is a philosophy that seems to embrace circular reasoning, but it does so because it justifies its a priori conclusion: we are art, so we are right. If you do not agree, then you are wrong.


First off, every artist is an individual. They may be popularist, obscure, political, commercial, sometimes by choice, sometime by circumstance.
I believe that no artist (in this case I'll limit the scope of discussion to just painting because each painting is a totally unique, individual expression, rather than an individual impression of ˜fact' or an external reality, eg. photography, not to denigrate photography in any way, shape or form).

It is the duty of a political artist to question society. Whether they question using shock tactics, symbolism or subtlety.

I don't think any artist has to ˜justify' their creative input to anyone else, merely explain their philosophy or message it if they wish to.

To disagree with a viewpoint is one thing, to disagree with someone's creative expression is a bit of an oxymoron.

I've never met an artist who considers someone who disagrees with their picture to be wrong. Maybe misinformed lol, but not wrong.

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As a result, many artists decided that they would deliberately make their art too "difficult," too strange, for the masses to understand. In a movement known as modernism, artists decided to exclude the masses from art.

Sorry but I consider this a ridiculous statement. All creative expression is in some way or another about communication. Whether it is a one-way or two-way message. Painters don't seek to be obscure, they seek to express themselves.

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But--and here I think is why many artists choose the inaccessible art they do--to deliberately make puzzling art is to be safe from criticism. Modernism and post-modernism hide behind a shield, safe from standards, and thus is a safe place for trash.

Criticism from who? Other artists? Critics? Society? You can't accuse art of being shocking and obscure AND safe at the same time (as per your first quote). Smile If it can do both then it is very, very clever art!

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Is that why the Harry Potter books--no great literature, but pretty good for Twinkies, I think--are so popular, because that sort of fiction comes along too seldom? Rowling at least is considerate enough to her readers to write for them. She writes more as a Christian than many others have done.

I think the Harry Potter stories are popular because they let children and adults ˜play' in a SAFE imaginary world of witches and spells, supernatural and other worlds, and you can't begin to know how happy I am that the christian right haven't banned her books because of that.

I didn't know Rowling was a publicly-declared christian. Have christians in fact embraced her ˜christianity' because she is so successful? Being one of the few people on the planet who haven't read any Harry Potter books (one day I will) can you tell me if there is a particularly christian theme/narrative in her stories?

It also sounds like you want writers and painters to make it easy for you to understand?
What makes them obliged to do that?

The whole point is an artist is expressing themselves not obliged to translate it into a version you might understand! Part of the communication process is your participation as the person viewing the image/written word - the thought process between the message and you. Your role is to think about, and at least attempt to digest/decode the the message. Maybe there is no message. Maybe that is the message!? The idea is to be involved with the art. Only 'interior-design' art is created just to be sold to be hung on walls - looked at, but never thought about. You want dumbed-down art?
Think Shakespeare. Rewrite all his works so that they are 'easier to understand' and so much richness, mystery and resonnance would be lost.

Does Rowling's writing appeal to you personally, Melesi? If so, why? Smile

I'm also wondering if you are having a problem with the 'spirituality' in modern art, or with modern art itself.

Art created as a celebration of religion is an expression of the divine spirit. However true creative expression is in itself born of the individual's spirit or essense, so it can be argued that all art is spiritual. Smile
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