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Archive for April, 2013

Art and Politics

Art is not some free floating agent miraculously cut loose from the common life of social and historical realities.

Art is political in that it addresses the broader issues of workable concepts – the foundations upon which politicians build their careers and evolve their rhetoric if not necessarily their policies.

When art is joined to politics of the moment it becomes a fade away affair notable only for its connection to the historical incident that necessitated it.

Li Huayi is a fantastic Chinese painter whose earlier artistic career illustrates something of what I mean by the above statement.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHizMRo_T_M

In counterpoint, here is a brilliant painter who worked happily enough in collusion with any regime that happened to be in power…Jacques-Louis David.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJVCtPrJ7NQ

A minor though more pernicious variant of this abuse is evident when a dominant contemporary preoccupation – that is to say, any more or less transient issue with which we distract ourselves, including all preoccupation with celebrity and entertainment – is transformed into a visual conceit; a kind of meager intellectual affectation with a shelf life comparable to the brevity and relevance of the very thing that caused it to come about.

Whereas the former may be categorized as work done under the gun (I’m not talking about speed of production here ladies and gentlemen) the latter is plainly novelty capriciously exploited in the hopes of getting ones hook into the public imagination.

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Artists need solitude.  Too much time is wasted on the pose, playing the part, attempting to seduce the world at large with a glittering surface.
Solitude is necessary if you wish to cut through the noise of expectation, self image and desire.

An effort must also be made to avoid the false echo of private romance. It may charm but its preoccupation prevents any genuine contact with reality.  It is little more than a conceptual shackle foisted upon a world that would otherwise freely yield, without coercion, a host of conceptions and ideas, harmonizing the many facets of its own nature to our own level of understanding and ability as painters.  The glittering surface has no claim to permanence if depth is neglected.

Artists also need one another.  They need friendship.  They need criticism that can be learned from and admiration that strengthens rather than corrupts.  This becomes especially important when your work happens to be reviewed as there is no guarantee that it will be assessed by highly competent and constructive critics.  It is more likely that you will be either pointlessly trashed or stupidly celebrated.  Examples abound I’m afraid.

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