I have been reading a book which has stimulated my thinking further about the fundamentals of why we make art. This blog will be the first of a few that tackle some of my ponderings on “Art for Whom and For What?” by Brian Keeble which, as the title suggests, tackles some large issues. Our omniscient friend Wikipedia tells us that “Art for Art’s Sake” “expresses a philosophy that the intrinsic value of art, and the only “true” art, is divorced from any didactic, moral or utilitarian function.” We see evidence of this throughout modern art and it’s quest for the uncluttered essence of art and continual reduction and elimination of visuality until all we have is pure concept and what some in the 80’s called “The End of Art”. This is widely accepted as the status quo in contemporary art and something about it sounds pure and noble; all the trappings of regulations and dogma are pushed aside and the individual can boldly go – wherever. This pluralistic liberty is understandable if you take the secular world-view that we are simply a complex animal with no ultimate accountability and are completely free to formulate our own standards. Brian Keeble believes art should be in the service of the sacred and that our endeavours should be directed towards a communion with Divine Reality. “Even when we recognise the extent to which art embodies values that are incommunicable by any other means, still it is never the cause of it’s own significance. Art has to be significant of something; it addresses itself to something other than itself.” I have heard echos of the same sentiment in other writers that are quickly labeled as ultra conservative, nostalgic, or just plain ignorant of the developments in contemporary philosophy. This is an exciting challenge for me. I find myself aligning with these conservatives in that I have no interest in deconstruction, I want to understand truth and wholeness, and make art that is in service of this, not some vain, clever re-arrangement of the wreckage that has significance to me alone.  

The image below is one of the greatest paintings I have made. I painted it at the start of 2004 and was interested in the simplicity and clarity of the image and the name of the flower amused me: “Royal Highness”. It played with the notion of beauty and its disenfranchisement, but also, and more honestly, it addressed my own enchantment with romance and the daring possibilities of humility in art.

Royal Highness______2004, oil and acrylic on canvas, 300mm diameter.

Royal Highness______2004, oil and acrylic on canvas, 300mm diameter.

Advertisements