Fine Art needs to go back to its Roots
It is time to reconsider what art means in view of the impact of social media and digital technology. In the 80’s and 90’s people were searching for meaning at the end of the cold war, but we really have moved on. This is the Digital Age. We are faced with too much meaning. We are bombarded with information.
The role of the artist has changed. The search for meaning involves decoding masses of virtual information. In order to deal with this change, fine art needs to go back to its roots.
At the moment art is stuck in the past There is an idea that the work can be of any quality and consist of anything – all that matters is the suffering of the artist in producing it! But suffering does not replace content.
Suffering is not a bad thing if the resulting work is of value, such as Beethoven’s deafness or the loss of Van Gogh’s ear.
Unfortunately, nowadays artists with little ability are marketing unprocessed pieces of industrial flotsam, or photocopies of paintings covered in scribbles as “fine art”. The artist claims to be selling something of themselves, a piece of them which makes this thoroughly ordinary piece of work instantly valuable. It can then be traded as a piece of notional value, rather like a bitcoin. This is not in itself a bad thing, but it is not art, just a means for wealthy people to pass vast sums across tax boundaries in the name of art dealing.
This doesn’t forward the development of art. Instead it reeks of entitlement, which is the bane of our era.
For example, consider a notional piece of such art which would typically be exhibited in a major private gallery recently and sold for an undisclosed sum. This one is rendered image of a piece of metal created by a metal worker.
An artist may buy the original piece of metal, then cut it into tiny pieces and sell it as art.
Why is this art? Because the artist has a story and is selling that story along with the piece of metal. A likely story might be that “I am a recovering drug addict with a short life span so my work has more value than that of the owner metal. It was not art until I found it.”
Now metal workers might love what they do. Their work is beautiful to them and they are careful to produce the best finish on each piece possible. So why is what they do not art? All those tiny pieces of polished metal lying on oily rags in the garage or living room are art to them.
Why is it only art if the artist sells the pieces framed and has suffered? If we are to say that a piece of industrial flotsam is art, why aren’t the beloved pieces of crashed second world war planes not art? The really beautiful rocket engines in the science museum?
It is true that industrial process can be considered as art and displayed as such, but must it be created by an artist? Artists of the 1920’s have already established the link between art and industrial process. It’s been done, and it is no longer particularly relevant unless we have something new to say. We have established that industrial process can be considered as art. For example the Lovell Radio Telescope is lit up every year as an art installation. By getting stuck in the past when the link between art and industrial process was new, we are undermining our own discipline. We should instead be considering how we are affected by digital technology.
The artist now has a wide range of images to choose from. For example, if we are framing artefacts why are we not including the really beautiful found objects which litter our universe?
Such as magnificent fossils?
Or the images from an electron microscope such as these ice crystals
The artist response is that this cannot be art.
I am an artist because I call myself one!
It seems to me once we see the power of the images available on the internet the old notions of abstract and modern art become irrelevant. Art has been taken over by those who see their lack of skills as a massive “f*** you” to society.
But this doesn’t work anymore. Abstraction of any style is just an edit on a smartphone. All that remains of the art world is just a horrible sense of entitlement something I will discuss in a later blog.
Art and the internet
Anyone can create an art work on the social media available. Look at Reddit. Any redditor can develop a whole persona and gain “Up Points” from their virtual audience obtaining instant karma of the kind most struggling artist can only dream of.
What about the madly popular YouTubers? Instagrammers? There are internet stars for most subjects including pictures of the buildings (Reddit thread Architecture Porn), or landscapes (Reddit thread Nature is f—ing lit). Our bodies can be art. There is the suffering artist, who produces shows which are attended by hundreds and lovingly discussed in art colleges everywhere. There are also tattooed bodies with millions of followers, tattooists who are like film stars, soft porn star with millions of followers, and cosplayers,
All of these, including cosplayers, perceive themselves as an art form any ways. They are respected artists. They make money from their images.
How do they differ from what we call fine art?
What do I mean by art needs to go back to its roots?
The fine artist needs to be a skilled manipulator of images. This involves training in all of the fine art skills as well as in digital media.
The fine artist needs to have an understanding of the history of art and how it relates to culture and society.
The fine artist needs to be versed in the painting and drawing skills of more than one cultural styles and to be strongly aware of the main issues facing their society. It’s not longer sufficient to look within.
Noe of these element need to be evident in the final piece of work but they do need to be considered as part of the artistic process.