There is no doubting the fact that Art History is a powerful tool. To paraphrase a posthumous and prodigious artistic genius: “there is nothing more dangerous than justice in the hands of judges, and a paint brush in the hands of a painter.” (Pablo Picasso).
The artist gives us knowledge of nature’s unrealised ends.Aristotle
Visual culture undoubtedly dominates today’s society, from the front page news to the latest social media app. I pose the simple question… How do we find ourselves now in relation to that assault on visual culture that dominated the 1960s – Pop Art?
Similarly, when reflecting on Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ of 1917, a ‘Ready-made’ of little mercantile value, yet hailed as a seminal moment in the birth of Modernism, I ask which side of Tracey Emin’s Bed might you fall on. We’ve done full circle, only Modern Art today tends to rot quicker. As the iPhone 5s becomes a clunky thing of latter-year, God help Damian Hirst’s tiger shark, which initially appeared to be the catch of the day, yet in our immediacy-fix climate of cultural plunder, it begins to smell of rotten fish. Longevity must determine History, and especially in the annals of learning. What then of Hirst’s legacy I ask? Flash-in-the-pan over night genius and stardom (yet cultural conundrum)? In a word, yes, yet ironically for me as a teacher, he attained an E Grade at A Level. Ah yes – the ideative, the conceptual and all that jazz. Quite right too, as, in the words of Jackson Pollock: “Each age finds its own technique.”
This is, to use a characteristically efficient and economical Germanic term, the ‘Zeitgeist’ or ‘Spirit of the Age’. So – how else does art complete life? In its myriad and constantly perplexing forms, every day. Without this, life would arguably be dull.
What would a visit to Barcelona mean without a posed photograph in front of la Sagrada Familia posted on Facebook? A trip to New York without that martian snail The Guggenheim which still looks as if it’s landed from outer space.
Daily we rate looks in accordance with some God-governed proportionality, which is often subliminally pre-determined via Phidian theorem on La Divina Proporcion. Most of all, Art History is an inter-disciplinary subject, which knows no bounds. The Renaissance ethos is founded upon Humanist discourse and semantics; itself a reappraisal of Ciceron instruction. The Polymath prevails, and enriches the soul. From the layman to the academic, Art History transcends the intellectual malaise, from connoisseur to specialist, and, in my own humble opinion, opens up a dialogue, richer than both of us know.
Please join Arcadia Education on an Art Historical journey into the aesthetic abyss. Much remains unexplored – both personally and artistically. So, what better way to delve the depths, than testing visual stimuli, in a test in which there genuinely is, no right or wrong.
Founder & Director of Arcadia Education for Art History.