In the past week I have had the privilege to attend two exhibitions and see some amazing and varied works in many fields of Art. I encountered a huge mix of contemporary fine art, encompassing performance based improvised music, film, animation, installation, paintings, textiles, sculptures, books, graphics. I’ve seen photography, design, fashion and a mix of traditional media.
What struck me in this huge array of ideas, concepts, thoughts and creations was what darkness there is surrounding Art. I understand that Art should make you feel, and without feeling what is the point of it. But are these two exhibitions reflective of contemporary western Art as a whole? Is it always considered trite if it makes you feel anything other than sick, anxious, on edge or horrified? I am aware (and have been since being a fifteen year old and seeing images of Damien Hirsts Cow and Calf in 1995) that this idea of ‘horror’ and ‘grotesque’ and discomfort as ‘reality’ is what Artists have striven for during the whole modernist art era. The idea that they wanted to get back to ‘real’ emotion, not what was considered the ‘sentimental lies’ of older popular Art. Roger Scruten wrote a series of articles for the BBC in 2014 and included this very issue (see link below). He discusses how in trying to reach real emotion again, there became a huge sway towards essentially forcing the issue. Is forcing an emotion true Art? Perhaps it is. Perhaps the nausea I came across yesterday during the exhibition was true emotion of real life…..
But you know what? My life does not just encompass those feelings. Yes I have times of anxiety, fear and I understand horror. Sadness, grief and darkness are a part of life for many. However, there are also other elements to life. Love, joy, elation, sensuality, the power of oxytocin and connection.
When I asked a good friend and Artist about this, her opinion saddened me. That what I have mentioned about life above, the positive feelings and emotions are what is considered sentimental. Fluffy feelings that are not considered real and are most often associated with women.
From here she went on to talk about the huge lack of Art considered ‘feminine’ in the ‘Art’ world. That male artists make it in the profession far more than female Artists. That any art coming from a feminine or female perspective is often only taken seriously if it is viewed as sexual.
So, as a feminist and Artist, as an art lover and ever optimist, I challenge myself to continue in this world of dark art and awkwardness. Of modern art and concepts that overwhelm and confuse but also often create beauty in how they do this. I challenge myself to step further into this wonderland and find my own way. To listen to my own truth and create art and ideas that stem from this.
So I shall leave you today to embrace life in all its guises. And remember, your life is your life. You are the only one able to control your responses, thoughts, dreams and actions. Look for some light if you wish for light. It can always be found.
R. Scruten (2014)