MichaelCD - The Blog.

The thoughts of Michael Cadwallader. Coffee loving, history book reading, Cheshire man.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


I talked previously about my favourite books. Now, I wish to discuss paintings. Firstly I need a small disclaimer. I don't pretend to be an expert in art. My sister has just finished a degree in design, I last went to an art class in high school, its fairly obvious which one of us has received the artistic talent in my family. Nonetheless, I am in full agreement with Henry James, when he said:
It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance . . . and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process.
So, what do I value in art? Well, the point of art, and its advantage over life, is its power to fire the imagination. Consequently within the imagination, a picture is created, that is far more inspiring than real life. Also, its my belief that In order to be beautiful, it is not enough for a work of art to offer us delightful colours and lines; it must also have a meaning it must speak to us, tell us something. So although I have a fascination with technical skill and perspective. And I certainly believe that the technique of the vanishing point leads to incredibly multi-layered paintings, offering the viewer a different viewing experience everytime. However, I think that the over reliance on mathematics and perspective, misses the point of art.

I see western art's golden age as the 16th century - 19th century. This was the post renaissance era. During this era, the fusion was completed between medieval art
(which is criminally underrated), and classicism. The result, was a magical golden era. And, it's not surprising that all of my favourite paintings fall within this era.

This age sadly ended in the twentieth century. Especially post-WW1, modernism has polluted, denigrated and defiled hundreds of years of tradition. It's not that the fact
that modernism is, well, modern, that I hate. It's the fact that its vapid; It's the fact
that its intellectuallyy bankrupt; it's the fact that it constantly ask 'what is art, what is art, what is art', ad nauseum. It also attempts to shock. But, modernism doesn't shock me, I grew up with trash TV, and the internet came into fashion when I was in my teens. Things are broadcast on terrestrial TV now, that 50 years ago would have disgusted everyone. The fact is that the 'bourgeoisie' morals that Duchamp moaned about are gone. There is no-one left to shock anymore. That's why in modern Britain, art is so unimportant, modernism; Damien Hirst; The Turner Prize; Charles Saachi; have all combined to render art boring.

Of all genres of modernism, by far the worst is 'socially orientated art'. The art critic Donald Kuspit, rightly savages it:
(T)hey, (socially orientated artists) have replaced: high culture with mass appeal, autonomy with homogeneity, mystery with transparency, skill with chance creativity, dialectic with dialogue, and refinement of the unconscious” with spectacle.
One of the greatest critics of 20th century art is Fred Ross, chairman of the ARC. His speech is the best criticism of modernism that I have ever read:
Since World War I the contemporary visual arts as represented in Museum exhibitions, University Art Departments, and journalistic art criticism became little more than juvenile, repetitive exercises at proving to the former adult world that they could do whatever they damn well wanted ... sadly devolving ever downwards into a distorted, contrived and contorted notion of freedom of expression. Freedom of expression? Ironically, this so-called "freedom" as embodied in Modernism, rather than a form of "expression" in truth became a form of "suppression" and "oppression." Modernism as we know it, ultimately became the most oppressive and restrictive system of thought in all of art history.

Every reasonable shred of order and any standards with which it was possible to identify, understand and to create great paintings and sculpture, was degraded ... detested ... desecrated and eviscerated. The backbone of the painters' craft, namely drawing, was thrown into the trash along with modeling, perspective, illusion, recognizable objects or elements from the real world, and with it the ability to capture, exhibit, and poetically express subjects and themes about mankind and the human condition and about man's trials on this speck of stardust called Earth
Beautiful, poetic words there, from Fred Ross. But that's enough about modernism, now for my favourite paintings of all time......


Post a Comment

<< Home