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Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Not Shocking But Demeaning and Childish

For six weeks David Dimbleby's wonderful 'The Seven Ages of Britain' took viewers on an artistic journey through the history of the country from the earliest civilizations to the modern age. Without shying away from the harsher aspects of life and belief - the paintings of heaven and hell, used by religious authorities to frighten people into submission; the vivid depictions of the effects of decadence as shown in 'The Rake's Progress'; and the brutality of weaponry and war - the artists and craftsmen managed to reach to the finest aspects of humanity, taking pride in their work and leaving a legacy of beauty for future generations.

Then came the final episode - "The Age of Ambition". After each of the previous episodes, I felt uplifted and inspired. After this episode, I felt only disgust, depression and almost despair at the depths to which the art world (and the world of literature) has sunk. No painstaking works of art, seeking out the best in humanity, but feeble and shoddy attempts to degrade and demean. After seeing the splattering of red wax on a wall and the so-called artist's agreement that it resembled to blood and that it was good for us to consider such taboo subjects, came the bizarre ugliness of men who painted themselves defecating as though this had some meaning in portraying real life. We were then treated to Damian Hirst's collection of dead flies, and watching him squirt paint onto a turntable (which reminded me of five year olds discovering paint for the first time) followed by Tracey Emin's meaningless comparison between women artists and women's sexuality. Claiming that she was liberated by Feminism, she presented a series of scrappy drawings of naked women in various poses (again, I was reminded of sketches drawn by pubescent boys and passed around classrooms to provide titillation) before her latest work which is basically pornography - absolutely demeaning to women and evidently the product of a mind which seems to wallow in all that is base.

As with so much music and the accompanying videos, and with a great deal of literature, art has descended into the mire of the most sordid minds. As today we can still be uplifted by the works of the great artists from the past, what will be handed on from this age to the people of tomorrow? Is this our legacy to posterity? The aim, it appears, is to shock. It isn't shocking. In order to be shocking, something has to be outstanding and 'different'. This, on the contrary, is merely childish and appears to be the work of emotionally stunted people who choose to dwell upon the dark side. It is said that such dross is a reflection of the age. In fact, it is not. It is merely a reflection of those who have the power to decide what is classed as art and what is not. All over the country, there are craftsmen and artists who produce work of real merit. Their work is visible in local galleries and displays originality and great skill. Seeing such work is uplifting and inspiring. Unfortunately these works are nowadays dismissed by the critics who seem bent on observing and promoting only ugliness.

People complain of the effects of violent video games, the amount of available pornography and the impact of such things on young people. What a disservice to young people - as well as to posterity - the art world is doing, if such trash as was seen in Sunday's night's episode is presented as art. If we wish to improve the way we live, it begins in our own minds. Minds filled with darkness produce dark actions. Let us, for heaven's sake, have a return to beauty. Let's be unafraid to state 'the king is wearing no clothes' when we are presented with this ugliness. Let us state that it is not representative of the age, but only representative of the few warped minds who happen to control art and literature at the moment. If we wish to improve our lives, our sense of cohesion and integrity, the way we treat other people and our sense of our own value and dignity, first and foremost we need a return to skill, to devotion to a craft or art, and, above all, to beauty.

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