NIALL BROWN ART­­­­­­

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Art in the 21st Century


The theory of a golden age of artistic civilisation always being associated with a desire for naturalism, holds true in the case of the British Empire, where Reynolds and Gainsborough thought that the most esteemed artists of their time during the height of the British Empire in the 1880s.Similarly I think the same theory largely holds true with the United States, as in the 1940s and 50s before the student protests, American film was at its most celebrated and naturalistic. E.g. citizen Kane, Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, Vertigo. While at the same time naturalistic artists like Edward Hopper of the social realist movement were widely celebrated. The same can even be said of Charlie Chaplin’s films of the 1910s. 
 ‘ the portraiture of living people—a power already so accomplished in both Reynolds and Gainsborough that nothing is left for future masters but to add the calm of perfect workmanship to their vigour and felicity of perception’ 
 The art of our time, is principally defined by a lack of common reference points or subject matter for artists to coalesce around. This has led to artists in many cases pursuing ever more trivial subject matter in the hope of becoming more individualistic. The atomisation of society into smaller and smaller parts has meant that it is much more difficult for people to communicate with one another, and subsequently for artists to deal with subjects that the public can understand. 
The desire for ever increasing individualism has only served to alienate the public, as work becomes increasingly esoteric. Globalisation and its components of mass migration have largely exacerbated this, along with the internet, smartphones and other technological appliances. This material wealth along with a lack of wider social goal, I believe has lead to a great anxiety among artists, who must make a living by using their own personal attributes to create meaningful objects, but increasingly feel that they can have no effect on the real world. 
 Technology means that we are constantly surrounded by the problems of the world. And we have become more and more aware of global issues. Yet this only serves to make people even more frustrated.In the past religion was deemed the only thing important enough for artists to represent. In some religions too important. While after the enlightenment, artists often depicted themes that were discussed in common literature, or tried to capture the essence of the religious spirit in nature or folklore. When nationalism was present, artists depicted themes that were essential to the national spirit, such as war heroes, common heritage and real world events. The sheer amount of information today means that increasingly, the public is hard pressed to recognise the images that an artist can represent. Furthermore technology has meant that the value of a still image has itself become so saturated with infinite variation and examples that it is very difficult to find true meaning or contemplation in them. 




People are so used to video, that photographs or paintings find it difficult to capture their attention. While the sheer accessibility of many artistic mediums has meant that culture has become ever more debased into a form of popular entertainment. Pop culture becomes so prevalent, and high culture so remiss, that many artists simply resort to trying to reflect pop culture back onto itself, as it is the only frame of reference that an audience can understand.The lack of clearly defined boundaries and categories of the art world, means that even an affluent and educated public find it impossible to engage with. The artistic institutions have lost all hierarchies of value and critical judgement, outside of solidarity with social movements and groups. Educational institutions no longer seek to train a young artist and improve their talents, instead, they simply oversee their attempts to create artwork while directing them towards a deconstructionist ideology.This deconstructionist ideology, is one that attempts to assert that their is no competition of values within art, only different aims and personalities, each with their own unique character. 
The result of this is that the actual material mediums of art become endlessly expanded to include everything, in order for each artist to seem more unique and original. As there is obviously only limited space in an art gallery, the artists that are selected, invariably engage in a form of social activism, or are thought to inhabit some niche that expresses an unexplored avenue of human thought. This is not to say that the introduction of new forms of art in the second half of the 20th century was a bad thing. On the contrary, the evolution of installation art, performance art, social art, conceptual art etc. have undoubtedly produced individuals of great artistic merit. But the point of an artistic institution is to allow artistic flourishing. In order for this to happen, it’s important to engage in a critical dialogue about the different forms of art. Such as what are the merits of an installation as opposed to a video? And what constitutes a high quality performance art work or a high quality social artwork? 
More importantly, what subject matter should the artist be engaging with and how can it be communicated in order to uplift the audience?These are all things that are discussed in an art academy but only on a very informal level. Students only acquire such feedback through singular talks with tutors, and are meanwhile encouraged to simply ‘form their own opinion’ in a seminar or group discussion. The result of such reluctance to assert any artistic preference has been that art academies and universities have become completely subservient to the academia that is present in the universities. 
Perhaps more disturbingly, this same academia have become totally aligned with many governments in developed countries and occupy high positions in all the extremely prestigious and well funded, state sponsored art galleries in the developed world. As this academia is strongly associated with government, politics is its main obsession, and this creates an obtuse cartel that I think strongly biases the art world in their favour and prevents smaller galleries and art dealers from offering an alternative ideology. If you think this is an exaggeration, I would direct you to examine in detail the biographies and aims of every artist represented in the ‘Big 5’ art galleries that operate in western Europe and the United States. You will find that if you look at artists who are engaged in more traditional and craft oriented mediums such as painting or sculpture, these artists are often more conservative in their political thinking. Yet this is tolerated as this thinking is not expressly presented in their artwork. Yet if you look at artists who are engaged in much more conceptual or newer mediums such as video, performance or activist art. These artists almost exclusively operate under a left wing ideology, that offers a false egalitarianism. 
This kind of soft-marxist, virtue signaling activism has been given immense amounts of government funding all across the western world. It has resulted in public sculptures being erected that the public are at best indifferent to. A few of many silly examples include things like giant stuffed toys, bare sheets of metal and giant sparkling stilettos in the versailles palace. Aside from this being a colossal waste of money, the public mostly all sense that this artwork is meaningless and worthless yet the academicians that commission such artwork, have the excuse that they are simply ahead of public opinion and that in time this art will be bestowed with the value it deserves much like the impressionists or Van Gogh. 
Aside from the fact that many contemporaries of Van Gogh and the impressionists actually admired their work, this public artwork is actively detrimental to the pursuit of high culture, as it ensures that the marxist academics have a monopoly or at the very least a majority claim on the art world. The answer to these issues is not to totally defund all artworks and shut down the art academies. It is instead to allow artistic institutions to operate much more independently and follow their own ambitions without the consent of the academic theoreticians.