Saved from Drowning in the Sea of Postmodernism; in an Age When Anything Can Be Called Art, It Is Refreshing to Find Three Artists Revelling in Traditional Values of Landscape, Portrait and Still Life, of Drawing, Painting and Observation

The Evening Standard (London, England), February 3, 2006 | Go to article overview

Saved from Drowning in the Sea of Postmodernism; in an Age When Anything Can Be Called Art, It Is Refreshing to Find Three Artists Revelling in Traditional Values of Landscape, Portrait and Still Life, of Drawing, Painting and Observation


Byline: BRIAN SEWELL

I AM occasionally tempted to adopt the Victorian writer's direct form of address, "Dear Reader", used when he wished to make a particular point or steer the bewildered through a paradox, and today I shall succumb.

Dear Reader, do not, I beg you, turn to another page because I employ the term Post-Modern. You have, no doubt, closed your minds to Post-Modernism and all its tiresome conflicts and confusions, and I, long since utterly perplexed, have damned it as a slippery pinhead on which foolish angels dance. I write of it now only because, in responding to a letter from a student bitterly complaining that his teachers have failed to recognise "the absurdity of Post-Modernism and the ludicrous position in which it puts them as supposed academics", I have begun to wonder when Post-Modernism began and whether it is possible to reach a simple definition that you and I might understand.

First let us dispense with capital letters and the hyphen, for in recent years a democratic change that suits the movement's Leftwing politics has reduced it to postmodernism. But is it even a movement? It is certainly not solely an art movement, for it embraces music, literature and philosophy, and in all these fields seems to have two unifying purposes; the first of these is the damnation of elitism as it might be expressed in technical skill or an ancestral aesthetic tradition; the second, entirely political, is the damnation and destruction of the very capitalism that, in the case of all the visual arts, has invested the wealth of Croesus in them and made the artists millionaires.

Ever since Duchamp, with his urinal-cum-fountain of 1917, challenged the common sense and tolerance of a public still uncertain of its aesthetic response to Post-Impressionism, artists have provoked us with affronts and we are now long accustomed to finding in art galleries material that on the street would be removed as rubbish, the spurious aggrandisement of much that is, like the human waste, obscenity and pornography it often is, repellent.

As Warhol put it, art has become whatever an artist "can get away with".

Was Warhol a postmodernist? For an answer you must turn to the acolytes of such postmodern philosophers as Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard, Barthes and Adorno (how my brain shuts down at the recital of their names), for it is they who hold the whip hand here. None is an artist, a critic in any informed sense, or a historian, yet anyone who reads the current turbid jabberwocky of art recognises that its writers constantly invoke these authorities, weaving an inter-textual tapestry of quotations that to the sceptic are the fraudulent and often contradictory witterings of pseudoacademics who construct with language an exclusive elitism of their own. We, the outsiders, are not meant to understand, but merely to stand in uncomprehending awe of such intelligences.

Was Joseph Beuys postmodern?

Was Duchamp modern, pre-postmodern, proto-postmodern, or just post-modern before his time? The more enquiring one is with the visual art of the later 20th century, the more indeterminable the terms modern and postmodern become; we easily limit, define and comprehend Cubism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism and a dozen other movements, but once the distinctions between art and other forms of intellectual sustenance are blurred in the pan-cultural soup of postmodernism, nothing means anything precise, everything is individually interpretable by anybody, and the language of this anybody or group of anybodies becomes an art form in itself. Under postmodernism the rise of theory has been triumphant, and theory has been accorded such privilege that interpretation by non-artists now has absolute supremacy over the physical and occasionally aesthetic business of creating works of art. Some years ago, to keep us all in line, Nicholas Serota created a new post at the Tate - a Curator of Interpretation. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Saved from Drowning in the Sea of Postmodernism; in an Age When Anything Can Be Called Art, It Is Refreshing to Find Three Artists Revelling in Traditional Values of Landscape, Portrait and Still Life, of Drawing, Painting and Observation
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.