illusionary world of Artistic Freedom.

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The penance of St. Jerome 1529, 105×80 cm • Oil, Wood

A while ago I strayed across an interesting old video on You Tube that got me thinking about the relationship between Artistic freedom and Modern Religious Art. This particular discussion, come lecture, was presented by a line up of tenured academics and young post graduate teachers. The panel argued how Contemporary Art institutions reacted negatively to work that was based in some sort of religious subject.The discussion started after an initial lecture by one of the Academics, David Thyrell. So began two hours of surprising statements, amusing quotes, some fairly logical reasoning, heart felt speeches and many contradictions from an art academic viewpoint.

Thyrell reckoned that… “Only Art that is critical of (western) religion of faith is acceptable as Contemporary Art. And all other art that could be read as religious, is translated to one of a post minimalistic view.” (And he went on to say)…”that all references to faith and religion is edited out at source”. (And also that…)…”the contemporary Art world does not seek any debate on this form of art because they see it as non-progressive, as propagandistic and not supportive of an advancing culture or indeed, enlightening mankind for the new centuries ahead of us.”

Thyrell spoke with passion and summed up his lecture by stating:-

”it seems, that religious work that is non-specific, for example, non-stated religious, ambiguous or totally abstracted with very loose associations, are acceptable as Contemporary Art. Providing the images are not from a Judeo Christian slant. However, the tribal, the Asiatic or the cultism subjects are OK.“

Judaeo-Christian made up the bulk of the audience (note: it was held at a Roman Catholic University) I guessed they must have been appalled by the status-quo of the implied bigotry against religious art levelled against the ‘Artists of Faith’ as they call themselves. For me personally, there is no need to be religious specific to appreciate (or create) Art that is good, even if that Art owns its very existence to institutions of any religion persuasion who sponsored it, or indeed created by an artist that holds a particular belief system or faith.

Good Art is what floats my boat, I don’t care who or why or for whom it was created for. As for the rest of the Art that floods the web and the mass media art reviews, much of that, I find sort of shallow, or egoistically based, or trendy or with sought after intellectual inveigle high street gallery intention. I simply pass quickly by, metaphorically speaking, without so much as a cursory thought. So for me to be anguished by an Art as the above, would only go to validate it as important to a sort of global cultural or spiritual advancement, which I personally, believe it is not, perhaps it’s has the absolutely reverse effect.

Most artists, (those I know personally), when looking at a work of art and those that could be deemed as ‘Religious’ minded, tend to ignore the intended propaganda or dogma that is implied in the painting, but rather they are far more concerned about the pure magic of the work in front of them.

For example some the work of Pontormo or El Greco, to mention only two (religious sponsored) painters of the distant past, whose work I personally very much admire and gain a feeling of wonder and inspiration from.

After a while I began to feel that the lecture, come debate, was slightly myopic….

The full article will be published in issue #11 of painters Tubes magazine, December  2018 

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