Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Artistic freedom and mockery

An interesting article about artistic freedom on the website of Literary Hub caught my eye, and the clever nonsense as exposed therein, inspired me to add a comment about what the real restraints of the artists are, or are supposed to be.

Magritte painted a number of nonsense paintings in 1947 for a Paris exhibitions to demonstrate absolute freedom, including the freedom of mockery, as a criticism of the art world and its critics. The article claims that Magritte in doing so, was an admirable precursor of later developments in the art world. So, art about art and the art world and about rebellion against restraints, including artistic restraints and the requirements of quality of craft.

I wrote the following comment:

The misunderstandings in this article are many and embarrassing.... To begin with, art is not 'about' total freedom, or 'liberation', as the crude works of concept art amply demonstrate: in total freedom, 'artists' are merely copying the exhausted gestures of juvenile rebellion against an 'enemy' which is no longer there. Then, Magritte is a nice, but mediocre artist, who could only flourish in the context of the absurdities of surrealism, which were also a mere rebellion against imagined restraints. The only surrealists who could paint well, i.e. who had a real aesthetic, artistic talent, were Max Ernst and Salvador Dali, and it is the painterly qualities of some of their works which give them a timeless quality - i.e. lift them beyond the limitations of time and place. And these limitations of time and place are the only limitations from which an artist would long to escape, and he does this through transcending them, bringing them onto a higher aesthetic plane. Pickled sharks or boxes with hospital waste or imitation brillo boxes cannot do that, as mediocre paintings of random, funny imaginary cannot do that (Magritte).

The rebellion of modern art since the 2nd half of the 19th century was a rebellion against an academic art, an establishment art, which was superficial, technically brilliant, but empty, bourgeois in the worst sense, and hypocritically commercial - because presented as High Art but in reality expensive commodities for the well-to-do. But that establishment has since entirely disappeared and now the stupid, the childish, the juvenile and the imitation mockery has created an establishment which is more bourgeois than can be imagined, because of being completely void of any artistic or cultural awareness, and the worst kind of commercialism.

Serious art - i.e. art with an artistic quality and with a cultural meaning - is born from serious life experience, transfigured through the imagination of the artist and realised with the best possible craft. The masterworks from the past which can be found in the great museum collections, are indeed defined by time and place, social circumstances, inherent power structure, the taste of elites, etc. etc. but the best works transcend these circumstances and make them timeless so that people in other times and places, living in totally different contexts, can understand and enjoy them. That is what artistic mastery means, and what meaning means.

The freedom of the artist does not lie in doing whatever he wants, but in his capacity to transcend any physical or psychological or historic limitations into another inner space, where such limitations no longer count. That is true artistic freedom. The deplorable level of our established modern art world amply demonstrates that freedom to indulge in meaningless juvenile nonsense does not produce art.

So, the article is a very conventional reflection of a completely moribund art establishment, repeating the slogans of a century ago.
 




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