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Monday, July 26, 2010

At the feet of the Masters

At the end of September I will be back in London for a week or so. One of the first things I will do is head back to the National Gallery to stalk the halls and follow the footsteps of those who have been before. The opportunity to once again wonder in awe at the Dutch and Flemish masters is too much to pass up.

It hasn't been very fashionable in the art scene for a few generations now to admit to having admiration for the masters of old. For me it is something I cannot help. There is a level of skill, of mastery of a medium and understanding of light, of air, of nature that we have all but lost. I long to attain that art, that quality of work, that ability to capture the sentiment, that purity of form and tone. Fashionable or not, that's where my heart lies.
There does, more recently seem to be a shift in attitude toward the aritsts of old, I think largely due to artists such as Odd Nerdrum and the rebirth of 'Kitsch'. I, for one, am pleased to see it.

I think that what is special about the periods of classical fine art is principally about the values behind it; about what art meant at that time and what the artists of the times were made of. The traditional training methods alone meant that artists of high calibre could be produced, unlike today where anyone with a brush and a will with the correct marketing and attitude can call himself an artist (not that I can claim to be any different in that regard). Artists came out of that system of exhaustive apprenticeship with all the technical skills, the craft and the values required to produce great art. The 'moral code' of artists meant that their art had instrinsic meaning. It wasn't something that needed to be grasped for, as seems to be the case of later generations. We seem, with the advent of the 20th century to have turned anti-art into art. I can see the academic argument for it, understand the rationale behind it, and even admire the skill in it and it's cleverness; but there is a small voice, deep down inside me that whispers to me that this is not what art should be.
I am sure there would be a large proportion of the art world up in arms and ranting against my ignorant statements if my ramblings were to reach their ears, but I hazard a very opionated guess that their protestations are merely so loud in order to drown out their own small voice, admonishing them with the same words.
What the heck ... maybe I'll pop across to the Tate Modern too while I'm there, to make sure my education is at least balanced.

Recommended diversions:
"From Paris with Love"The latest Luc Besson project ... great action movie!

"I'm Your Fan". A tribute to Leonard Cohen. Loving this album at the moment it's old and dusty, but is really good.

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