Art Imitating Life Unconsciously
Savvy Sunday Salutations: Welcome to another week with guest blogger Patrick Tulley; we had great feedback last week (thank you for all your comments); this week Patrick talks about Art and how it intertwines into our lives and society. Enjoy!
Warning: This article contains some strong language and images.
(As always there is a pdf document at the bottom of the post for those who may find this a difficult read.)
ART IMITATING LIFE UNCONSCIOUSLY
As my introduction on this blog suggests (see introduction at the end of this post) I was once an artist some years ago, mainly as a painter, but dabbled with sculpture too. I had spent a considerable amount of time and energy whilst working full time, at developing the skills in my evenings and weekends. I then eventually decided to go to Art College and study Fine Art, wherein I majored in sculpture and where a part of my degree show was comprised of chocolate. It was much to my annoyance that these exquisitely handmade pieces were given a low pass grade of 44%. Whilst some fella who decided to stick some chairs he had bought from Woolworths, upside down on the ceiling of an old school classroom, got over 90%. If it wasn’t for my good writing skills my final degree grade was thankfully able to look respectable. It was the beginning of the end of my love affair with art. Don’t get me wrong, I still love ‘good’ art and it doesn’t always have to be made with great skill either. But frankly the dirge that has been spewing out of art schools and galleries for the past 30 or 40 years will I am quite sure be forgotten in the sands of time eventually, as a psychological aneurism in an age of unconsciousness. What good artists’ exist who are able to eke out a living, are often led by a free market, whereby they must seek out the like minded in order to sell their wares. Good for them I say, at least their customers actually like and enjoy the pieces they buy. Unlike the bankers that buy a spot painting by Damien Hirst for £30,000 or more, only to find that actually Damien doesn’t paint it himself. He sends round one of his decorators with cut out circle cards to paint the dots symmetrically onto the reception wall of some plush bankers’ office in the city. It would seem that the branding has more value than the actual art itself. Other than the one show Hirst created back in the 80’s after leaving Art College. One can’t help but think that Hirst’s rise to fame was much less about entrepreneurism, but more about opportunism. Charles Saatchi was his main and only backer at that time. Saatchi was rich enough to create his own gallery of contemporary art, which was later backed by the Arts Council awash with state subsidies to market its and his particular brand of artistic merit. It would be frankly unclear how popular Hirst’s work would have been without either of their help. Bankers buy his work because of this particular stamp of approval, not because they actually like the work itself. Regardless of popular artistic thought, I do think the artist should at least create their own work themselves.
I have since become very critical of the art of the recent past. Not much of a fan of Picasso or Munch either, I think they were both probably mentally ill to some degree or another, given the content and form of their pictures. They certainly displayed a trauma from their past they seemed happy to keep replicating without any end. Modernism however, on the whole was a great thing, so Mondrian would feature highly in any collection I was lucky enough to ever own.
The great works that came out of Modernism often came from a great well of optimism that came out of an industrial age which had brought about sweeping positive changes in technology, health, and people lifestyles. Much has been said about Mondrian’s work imitating the bebop music of his age and the neon lights of New York City that sprang up around that time also. It was very much an age of discovery, which everyone was experiencing at that time. Thus much of the art of that time reflected that optimism. Then came the First World War, Great Depression and then finally the Second World War. This not only managed to damage the infrastructure (in Europe) but also managed to spend all of its wealth too. Thus it destroyed much of the morale of many Europeans who had been ravaged by wars for so long. This was made worse as they returned to few jobs and often no housing either. The Welfare state was born as way to manage these, ‘thought to be’ temporary problems, but is still with us today of course. Although things did improve; the optimism at the turn of the century never seemed to return.
So in swept the post modern age, which basically is what you see now. I prefer to call it an anti modern age myself, as it systematically stripped all colour, form, beauty and then finally even meaning too. This was and is the age of the nihilist. Poverty and decay began to return by the late 60’s as unemployment grew and grew and people became dependent on a welfare cheque from the government. Interesting though, that what sprang up in the wake of all this urban decay was graffiti, a much maligned art form that appears on people’s streets and public property. Maligned because of its un-aesthetic appeal, its ugliness and supposed destroying of property. People often thought of it as crude and lurid as painted penises appeared on their library entrance walls. Well, if you were to only look at contemporary art you would see much of the same of course, except it would be hidden behind a wall of existential double think, so as to remove its own inert and base shallowness.
What I particularly like about graffiti is its honesty. I think the expression is: ‘calling a spade a spade’. Often kids or young adults are flung out of a crappy school system to no work and a life on the dole. Undereducated by a state system that then blames them for what they had become. They saw it on themselves to tell the world, ‘fuck you and all you stand for’. It very often showed up the inequalities and hypocrisies that abound in a world that would prefer to ignore them. Graffiti developed over the years from the crude anarchic symbols and genitalia to that of urban life itself. Depictions of friends and foes; police, teachers, celebrities, music, dance even. Religious and political statements abound and eventually colour remerges to brighten up the otherwise grey drab existence that surrounds much of these inner city rat holes. Of course it was all still decried as vandalism by a youth that was out of control. This still; regardless of the fact there were no jobs or future for many of these young people.
One of my favourite contemporary artists; that in many ways actually is what was supposedly depicted of Hirst; is Banksy. He took graffiti to a whole new level. His canvas is very often public property, whereby he paints very much about real life and what it means to the average person. He has managed to cross over from unknown to the mainstream in a way like no other had before. The establishment was in many ways forced to acknowledge him, begrudgingly at first. Because of his graffiti style, the mainstream still didn’t want to acknowledge something that was considered as vandalism as Art. But he, single handedly, popularised his work from the ground up, until eventually the establishment had no choice but to accept him. He still keeps his distance from the mainstream, preferring instead the anonymity most graffiti artists enjoy.
Anyway, whilst I think there is much joy in graffiti, there is also despair too. All too reflective of many young people forgotten generation after generation, left to eke out a meagre existence on subsidies and handouts, whilst being told how worthless they have become because of it.
Whilst that cosy little club called the Arts Council awash with state funding, so as to promote their particular jaundice view of art, are seen as the ground breakers and the pioneers within their own ranks. Whilst the rest of the world looks at it with an astonished grin. Some are perplexed, many irritated and a majority that mostly ignores it. Both established art and graffiti are clearly screaming to the world what the problems are, but one is unconscious and the other conscious, but both are ignored. Art imitating life indeed -but an unconscious one at that.
I leave with you with two videos; one of Banksy’ work and the second is of some interesting graffiti in Napoli Italy.
Link to Video: Napoli Graffiti 2007
Copyright © Patrick Tulley 2011 – All Rights Reserved.
Thoughts and comments are encouraged as always.
Pdf document: Art Imitating Life Unconsciously
PATRICK TULLEY: PHILOSOPHER, AMATEUR WRITER
My name is Patrick Tulley. I am primarily a philosopher and an amateur writer but also have been a painter and sculptor in the past. My background has been quite varied, as I have lived abroad on and off during my 20’s, been in a number of different professions (mainly managerial) and owned and ran two businesses. More recently, I have been working as a private consultant within the public sector.
Since philosophy is my preferred interest; it is always something I rigorously apply to all my thinking and writing. Whilst I am knowledgeable about abstract philosophy, I am not particularly interested in taking that route. Philosophy is about the search for truth, it was always meant to be understandable by everyday people -this does not mean dumbing down the ideas of course. It just means I do not allow myself to get sidetracked by too many inconsequential arguments, often referred to as lifeboat scenarios. I tend towards the more Aristotelian and Socratic methods of philosophy, but I also have interests in Hume, Nietzsche and Rand. Philosophy has been a wonderful and fulfilling part of my life; it’s often been a very misunderstood subject -which I hope to discuss in future posts. I also enjoy reviewing art, literature, music and passing comments on culture, news and personal experiences that I have found both interesting and enlightening. I do not have a particular interest in politics –however; I may discuss my reasons with you sporadically throughout this blog. Overall, this is hoped to be a journal about a philosophical life. I hope you will enjoy my outlook on things and look forward to hearing your comments and thoughts along the way. I would also like to thank Ozlem for giving me this opportunity to have a voice on her blog.
Disclaimer; whilst we (guest bloggers and I) do not set about to intentionally upset visitors to the site; I understand some of the topics discussed/raised may touch nerves. Please note I will do my utmost to screen these posts before I post them however; I do believe in freedom of speech and I would hate to limit someone because they think differently to me or have different values from mine. Therefore, I urge you to have some understanding and an open mind before jumping in and causing a scene without it being constructive. Like I said, Patrick and I do have difference of opinions and on most cases we agree to disagree but at the same time we also respect the others’ thoughts and views -after all we do live in a civilized world; with this in mind I hope we will have more cultivated and engaging discussions. One last note to all: Here on yikici I have aimed to keep posts and discussions clean; I am not a fan of words that are disrespectful and disparaging therefore, I will not condone its’ use here on yikici; I do hope you share my views on this –if not, at least can respect them.
Thoughts and comments are encouraged as always.
Pdf document: Art Imitating Life Unconsciously