Art is constantly changing, according to many factors; and as perceptions of the Human Condition have changed over time, so has Art. The presentation of subjective/objective figurative art reflecting “inside looking outward vs. outside looking inward” has also changed over time in relation to the theme, style, and techniques used.
The attainment of more knowledge invariably opens for more understanding of the complexities of that which one has yet to comprehend: “the more I think I know, the more that I understand how little I actually know”. And that is certainly the case with me as I begin to wind down my #ArtSafari of Europe’s greatest painting and sculpture collections … in my attempt to understand the art historical influences behind my own art, and Western contemporary art in general. These influences are both obvious, and not-so-obvious, and they span many epochs of human individual and collective development.
Art is largely both a reflection of human consciousness of the period, as well as resistance to the known … and — perhaps at its very best — a push for changes in Human Consciousness. I am fascinated by the roles of economic theory, religion, politics, psychology, and Human vs. God Consciousness throughout art history. The classical, Baroque and Modern periods alone have heralded enormous art stylistic and technical movements (oftentimes back and forth) between levels of abstraction, subjectivity vs. objectivity, realistic vs. semi-realistic, degrees and expressions of the geometrical/technological, dependent upon these conditions and influences. The Church, political ideologies and artist/art benefactors have historically influenced who and what art succeeds in the various periods — be they Classical and Baroque, or Impressionism, or art inspired by the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions or political movements such as Socialism.
The dark paintings from earlier epochs were certainly influenced by the ravages of eg. The Plague and constant warfare, both of which have essentially since been eradicated and lessened by advancements in science and technology. With modernity, the ability of artists to travel in order to learn, borrow and steal techniques, themes and styles of artists in other countries has accordingly steadily increased to a larger degree, and faster — thus resulting in more universal imagery. Previously, religious Christian myths were largely spread through art commissioned by the Church, and later political ideologies have been spread universally through technological advances and politico-social movements such as Socialism and Liberalism.
Figurative paintings have likewise successively become realistic, abstract, and now semi-realistic … and back again … due to many developments eg. photography, Realism as a movement and ideology, and advancements in human psychology … as well as industrialization. All of these advancements have over time affected what artists paint and the styles and techniques employed, eg. Malevich-Impressionism-Cubism-Photorealistic paintings … and onwards to today’s figurative subjectivity, where the introspective Self has a greater role than in many Baroque religious works where subservience to God has greater significance than humans as complete entities unto themselves (today). For example, much of Caravaggio’s art was created for exhibition in churches rather than in other environments such as art museums, urban environments, on the Internet, etc. I believe that the effectiveness of his intimate dark backgrounds works quite well in the dark environment of churches where contemplation on the hopelessness of the Human Condition is solely eradicated and consoled by salvation and penitence (by way of allegiance to God/the Church); and that this was the intention of both the artist and those who commissioned these works. While I admire many of Caravaggio’s paintings that I have seen in art museums, those that I have seen in darkened churches carry a mystique that enhances his ingenious work with Light and Darkness.
Likewise, new technologies and digitalization have greatly influenced the current trends of mass-producing photographed copies of paintings influences both styles, techniques; and the art market — in ways that far exceed the reach of numbered etchings, printmaking, and photography of yesteryears.
As perceptions of the Human Condition have changed over time, so has Art. My #ArtSafari project — visiting Europe’s most notable art museums, churches with art masterpieces, art galleries, street art, and contemporary artists’ studios, has thus left me with many questions that influence my own understanding of my generation’s art. One example of questions might be the effects of Lutheranism upon religious painting. I have seen many religious paintings where known personalities of the day had been inserted into biblical/Christian mythological settings, thus elevating these persons’ status to a level closer to the Divine. This could perhaps be seen as a form of blasphemy by some non-Catholics. (Olivia Facini has published a very interesting article entitled “The Impact of the Protestant Reformation on Renaissance Art”, which I recommend.)
Other questions might include queries as to back and forth and inter-national approaches to the realistic vs. the less realistic in figurative art etc. And yet other questions are related to how art is developing as regards today’s challenges and understanding of Consciousness from subjective and scientific perspectives and understanding, eg. the perception of the world as being flat influenced art previously; but new scientific, economic, political and psychological understanding also influences art today. Since the Industrial Revolution, infotech, biotech, and technological advancements have also influenced perspectives on the Human Condition — and the way art is made and presented.
This journey has influenced my own art as regards experimentation with various styles, themes, and techniques. Here are just a few of my paintings that are influenced by science, infotech, biotech and the New Human Consciousness / New World Consciousness that I see unfolding at a galloping pace:
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