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Modern Art Critique Commentary

The main shortcoming of the bulk of modern art is that it is the product of self indulgence, pretentiousness or a combination of both. Unlike practically all other art forms, the requirement for any rigorous grounding, indeed any grounding at all, in the basic craft of making art is a minor consideration. Not for the visual artist, the long hours of practice associated with music, dance, singing or writing. In fact, a too obvious display of technical ability in the various media of modern art is a positive disadvantage. What does appear to be a requisite is the facility to write the most execrable, turgid and meaningless jargon to baffle the poor public or bludgeon them into the belief that the work is too profound and deep for the ordinary Joe Soap.

Modern art tends to be non-representational and has more to do with form than content. There is nothing wrong with this and some modern art does resonate deep in the human psyche. Unfortunately, because of its total freedom of expression, it is the perfect cover for mediocrity and sham. At the very least, the constraints of the more representational and classical art required some basic skills that could not be faked.

Two main perspectives on a work of art are that of the artist and that of the viewer or public. The artist in the making of art may experience a spiritual uplifting or epiphany, but because of the highly personal and self absorbed nature of most modern art, it has no meaning or makes no impact on the public. The public or the common herd is treated with a kind of disdain by the modern art establishment. A small coterie of the cognoscenti and art establishment figures have taken on the role of high priests in interpreting and decreeing what is worthy and unworthy. In no other art form is the public treated with such contempt.

Truly great art has within it the key to universal appeal. This does not mean instant appeal, but it has a quality that touches something fundamental to the human experience. One might say, it touches the soul. Classical art tapped into that universal appeal by combining the archetypal images of myth and history with the power of expression through shape, colour and composition. Some modern art attempts to invoke the same response, eschewing the use of any representational images and relying totally on the power of form. This is a worthy pursuit and many artists succeed, to different degrees, in this hugely challenging endeavour.

The real problem with modern art is that most people think it is easy. It looks easy. There’s no one to say it’s right or wrong. It is not like poetry, writing, music and most other art forms where it’s not difficult to recognise the amateurish, misguided or simply inept work. In modern art, there is no obvious criteria or yardstick to assess it. This is not what the experts would say but, as mentioned above, most of the commentaries on modern art are laced with such jargon and turgid English that they are more inaccessible than the art itself.

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