Contemporary Art – A Reason to Embrace 3

Where does our detest for contemporary artists and contemporary works sprout from? Are we jealous of their creativity? I study the past with great pleasure. I think about the genius of the true revolutionaries in art – Manet, Picasso and the such, and admire their determinism, their dissatisfaction for the present, and their undeniable ability to think outside of the box. This again I do 100 years later for our living artists. I feel unable to sustain myself as an artist because I crave the excitement of new adventures. I love doing ‘nice’, ‘good’, well-crafted art of a broadly traditional style; but on this I can always be beaten, there is always a master to whom my work can be referred and my confidence shattered. I secretly desire to be a seeker, a finder, and revolutionary discoverer of new things. There are artists now, whose work may appal the viewer, but they are different. There is something so praise-worthy in those who find confidence not in the crowd, but in their individualism.

Are we jealous of their boldness? An art commentator wrote that we are “in a time when shock in art is almost impossible.” This I do not think is necessarily true. A branch of surprise (which, I discussed in A Reason to Embrace 2) is shock – an unpleasant or uncomfortable surprise. I have blogged about the shock of Jake and Dinos Chapman’s work in Ambiguity…. I suppose though, that this statement is true when diluted, because if we compare now to times before: taste is no longer one of conservatism only. Contemporary artists do have free reins on the comments they make, and how they make them.

Another couple of examples where shock, or statement provide the ‘x-factor’ would be Dark Stuff, 2008 by Tim Noble and Sue Webster – a sculpture of various mummified animals pierced onto the end of a stick, that when shone upon create silhouettes of the artists’ heads decapitated. Or the frozen blood sculpture Self, 2001 by Marc Quinn – the artist’s own blood, which is set in the shape of his head. I don’t know that this blunt and crude work is ‘quiet’ (see Quiet) or nice enough for how I like art to be, but then that may only be because at deep roots, I would not dare. These artists are brave beyond me. I realise the reason that I often dislike contemporary art could be because I think it is so farfetched, so beyond my line of thought, that it isn’t just insight that is required to align the two, it is appreciation of their creativity. It is very easy to identify my dislike for Damien Hirst’s Blue Paintings (see No Love Lost…) as sheer standards or preference in taste – I will only like work that is ‘good.’ But we know humans are far more complex than that. And so is it really that jealously of his fame being enough to exhibit any kind of work instantly raises ‘that’s unfair’ alarm bells?

I think it is right for us to be jealous of contemporary artist’s work because it signs that we are acknowledging that their achievements are greater than ours, and deservingly or not, they have succeeded.

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