For my field of study, English Literature won the battle over Art History, so I was never going to become the Art Historian I wanted to be for a handful of my prepubescent years. However the subject always remained close to my heart, indeed today my bookshelf is full of art books, artists biographies and so on, I am and will forever be a man who loves art, real art that is, art nurtured by the divine, inspired by the beautiful aesthetic, that which lifts the spirits and teaches man that there is a world beyond the material.
I have pondered over this question many times before, for two years in fact, why is modern art so bad? Well now I am about to answer the question once and for all. For there is only so much I can protest and ruminate over the decline of the beautiful aesthetic, hopefully someone reading this will take comfort that they are not alone in thinking how modern art has sunk so deeply into degradation. If I can reach just one person all the better for it.
I am sure, from time to time, you have all thought “God, isn’t modern art just awful!” Well, those of you who have not had your minds poisoned by nihilism, which infects contemporary culture like a cancer, eating away at the last vestiges of all that is pure and unsullied. I am here to tell you, yes it is awful, and it is the intelligentsia who are to blame, first and foremost.
Back in the summer, I visited an acquaintance, who was in his final year at the Winchester School of Art. It was during our walkabout of the school that I understood just how far Western art has gone down the wrong path. We entered an out building that featured all the creations of final year students, full from top to bottom with the most ugly and pointless pieces of “art” I had ever seen. This excrement was the result of three years of expensive courses designed to teach young men and women how to be artists. There was one particular piece that my friend pointed out, saying “isn’t that beautiful”. I kid you not, it was a piece of tissue paper, at about 20 cm long, nailed to the wall, that had been cut at the bottom to resemble tassels.
Puzzled by what on earth this was supposed to represent, if anything, I asked one of the heads of department, who had walked into the building just after my friend and I. A rather imperious looking Irishman, with a giant chip on his shoulder, who embodied all that I despise in the baby boomer generation, he clearly had no clue either, and just regurgitated a quote about how it is wrong to ask what meaning a piece of art has. Think about that for a moment, a teacher who believes asking questions is wrong.
So, I stand by my statement that it is the intelligentsia and their ilk who are to blame, the poor young man who produced this piece of rubbish is merely a victim of circumstance. The product of a civilization in decline.
Just recently I happened across a scathing, yet accurate article by Michael Sebastian in Return of Kings, titled ‘Contemporary Art Reflects Our Cultural Degeneracy’ he laid out his theory on where Western art went wrong – “It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when art started to decline. My own guess is that the decline had its roots in Romanticism, an artistic movement that originated in the late 18th century and ended around 1850. The Romantic period emphasized the originality, emotion, and individualism of the artist.
At first glance, these do not seem to be bad values, but they set the stage for future degeneration. With originality, artists begin to feel the need to be completely unique. Each artist must represent a complete break with everything that came before him as well as his contemporaries. Introducing the emotion of the artist will eventually become making the art all about the artist’s feelings.”
Now, I was determined to refute Michael, with my love for Turner and other artists, but I must admit defeat and agree that Romanticism, with its motto of ‘art for art’s sake’, acted as the starting block for Western art’s decline. Its philosophy stems from the Enlightenment, an intellectual movement which I am sure many of you reading this will agree, proved far more a detriment than it did a benefit.
Romanticism’s main problem was it championed itself as being morally neutral and doing away with divine allegory and any kind of moral enrichment. A leading arbiter of this new found politically correct artistic ideal was the poet Théophile Gautier, Professor Roger Scruton described Gautier’s thinking in his 2010 book ‘Beauty’ in which he said – “Gautier believed that if art is to be valued for its own sake then it must be detached from all purposes, including those of the moral life. A work of art that moralizes, that strives to improve the audience, that descends from the pinnacle of pure beauty to take up some social or didactic cause, offends against the autonomy of the aesthetic experiment, exchanging intrinsic for instrumental values and losing whatever claim it might have had to beauty.”
So, one can see that today’s motto of “everything is relative, nothing is absolute” had its gestation period during the years when Enlightenment principles began blossoming in Europe. What we have always been told was the greatest philosophical awakening in man’s history, is in fact, on the most part, a lie. What the enlightenment spawned was an infection, that today appears to have all but completely taken over Western culture.
In a world where art is defined by how personal and outrageous it is, where we have everyone churning out revolting aberrations and calling it art, I must implore all those of us who have the gift to create beauty, to infuse that primordial essence of mankind with the enriching powers of divinity and disseminate it out into the populous. I want to see all those of you who strongly believe in the beautiful aesthetic to band together an create a counter-revolution.
Images sourced from Google