Help support essential change in art

Help support essential change in art

by Charles Harris
article from Thursday 9, February, 2017

I AM a classical painter. I was fortunate to train at the Royal Academy in London under the late Peter Greenham OBE, at a time when the art world was being swamped by an obsession with and unhealthy bias towards poor conceptual objects, suggesting these were art. Thus, following a promise to him and his colleague the late Prof. David Morris, R.A. Art Historian, I have tried to offer the complete picture and a proper practical academic alternative as well. 

This has involved the completion of suitable conventional artworks in keeping with the ideals of the Great Tradition, with World Tour Exhibitions and Master Classes across the globe. Offering unique practical content, the aim has been to present a high standard quality alternative to that one-sided, 'Anything is Okay' modernism, with its cheap, ugly, meaningless, throw away values. I have subsequently gone to considerable lengths to explain what great art meant and also published a book in support of those arguments. The recent articles in ThinkScotland have been a continuation of this purpose and accordingly my thanks go to the website.

I do hope I have been clear to explain what was expected for great art. How quality in art was always instantly recognisable as art, for all with sight. So now I should explain what should not be considered high art, and what should not be considered appropriate for public art, with an explanation of how this rotten mess came about. 

Firstly, deep philosophical questions about human experience are never answered by conceptual art objects. This is a lie, for they seldom ever possess those artistic skills or ability required to provide proper visual understanding in a convincing life-affirming manner, instead they usually attempt to present packages of modern jingo jargon language, claiming the works are profound because of those words, without visually providing any evidence for these false claims.

Artist Barry Scott recently said, “We understand the world through intense observation with the work of making a drawing, or a work of art.”

This follows the view of Leonardo, who said, ‘Draw from life every day.’

And without false modern interpretation, Leonardo obviously meant this convention quite literally, for he made hundreds of anatomic drawings in a mortuary at night, which are now on show, courtesy of Her Majesty the Queen, at Windsor Castle. So if the greatest ever painter provides this visual proof - why should anybody today think they know better? And as in Sport, if you intend to try to compete with the world’s greatest artist and intellect, then let us see some visual proof rather than just cheap words.

Unfortunately, however, justification for these false claims was accepted by early modern art historians, who unlike the critic Ruskin, were somewhat baffled by the affects of the industrial revolution; and were easily persuaded to believe a similar progress existed with modern art at the beginning of the 20th century. They were also disillusioned by an apparent loss of credibility with religion, and dismayed by the impact of two World Wars and the moral relativism of, ‘The end justifies the means,’ which unfortunately also continued unchallenged through the Cold War period.

This provided the excuse for more modern cynicism, disregard, and contempt for conventional thinking, and miserably supported the self-evident failure of modernist art. Yet the true reality for a constant continuation of these hopeless modernist ideas followed from the sharp practice in the business of selling art. 

Historically, today’s problems are so entrenched, simply because it all went on for too long unchallenged, or unchecked, and corruption inevitably supported these monopolies of modernism in art.

A whistle-blowing author wrote at the turn of the 70's about how International Galleries had colluded to bribe the media to say nice things and promote modernist art. Then in the early 80’s, the management of Tate One, teamed with certain marketing gurus, and keen to make money out of modern art, decided to make an art prize, apparently with public money, and call it of all things the Turner Prize.

This opened the door to more cynical early conceptual art becoming known as ‘Brit Art’. More of that failed idea, 'anything is okay,’ especially if we can be paid, and using as much propaganda trowelled on thickly for the media’s benefit, attempted to conceal all that falsehood and nonsense.

Unhappily, this had also begun to impact badly upon education too, where proper traditional art skills were being abandoned and despised. A reality which is quite appalling today, where proper conventional drawing classes have been abandoned in our universities and schools, in favour of just conceptualisation.

Practically, the difficulty was that by the beginnings of the 21st century, modern art had become a large single public monopoly. And by 2005, usually without skills, everybody knew an artist. Indeed for a time everybody's mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, cousin, cat, dog and budgie knew, or imagined they were a modern artist. Fortunately, the recession put paid to most of this nonsense, but regrettably it naturally strengthened the large monopolies, which had really become the single modernist art idea; and the media became their one large voice. 

Sadly the media also began employing these people to write about themselves and their chums, who were making this ugly conceptual rubbish; whilst it baffled and misled marketing people in business, local and regional politicians, and more sadly, educationalists.

It has been quite extraordinary, for monopolies are apparently despised and are illegal in some areas of life, especially in the USA. Yet this activity has transformed our world for the worst, frequently using public money to do it. While white collar crooks made millions selling us these false, failed, modernist ideas, without any visual virtues, or public good whatsoever, for all that money they received.

And completing the circle here over the past fifteen years, any voice of protest was ruthlessly marginalised by claiming 'sour grapes,' or was loudly ridiculed by any one of a range of dismissing claims, using anything or anyone that could be voiced to support this ongoing, anti-social, corrupt purpose. It has never been even-handed, and of course, those officials involved in making these decisions, especially about public art, will invariably have no proper art qualifications, little knowledge, no practical art skills, no professional working experience, and no idea what they are involved in. 

Naturally one always wants to work with the authorities, yet consecutive governments and councils have consistently failed to properly address, never mind change this continuous rotten obsession; which offers no public or educational benefits; and has no clear evidence of a new helpful reality, progress, beauty, human life, or inspiration. This is shocking - as this conceptual modernist art - as we have all quite literally seen, offers us no new hope in today’s world and instead it practically undermines our culture. For this is about self-serving committees, which have been in place for far too long. 

Whilst as I am still simply doing all I can, these articles are a welcome step, and very happily I can report that change across the globe is occurring at long last. So this ugliness can now be stopped. Please do send more of your ideas or suggestions accordingly. And help support this essential change for the benefit of everybody.

Photo: Charles painting outdoors, as is usual, this time in Italy.

 (Copyright. Charles Harris 2017. ‘ Trust Your Heart.’)

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