Art On Sunday
For the Herald
Art as an expressionist experience will never recover from the world post the blowing up of the twin towers and from the contemporary experience of the war in
lived through the media. Art as a strong expressionist catharsis is
over for the duration, as images that try to reproduce the violent conflicts we
have lived through, that we have seen on a screen, read about, or imagined,
will either fall short or be redundant. Iraq
Live drama and melodrama are provided daily by the ironic and sinister appearances and speeches of international and national politicians who preach peace as they wage an unnecessary war, who speak of evil as if they themselves were good, of safety as if they were careful, of economic stability as if they were concerned with the community well being rather than with their own economic profit.
What images could translate what happened in Irak and elsewhere without being redundant? Would we react to art visual statements that repeat what we have already seen in the newsreel? What does an artist do to create work that is acknowledged as art and not sociology, journalistic information or propaganda?
A good contemporary artist translates into lines and colour, into other media, into vaguely reminiscent iconic language to suggest and imply rather than to assess. In good contemporary art assessment is out, as too obviously political, too explicit, too coarsely invasive and not efficient.
As I write I think of works by Jorge Macchi and by Gabriel Valansi that refer to tragic situations in elegant undertones. Macchi’s threaded or woven newspaper cuttings of articles that reported tragic situations into elliptic minimal wall pieces. The writing is literally on the wall, but we have to look for it, the first impression is one of utter beauty, rather than of despair.
Valansi, a photographer, uses and intervenes the media he has chosen to work with to illustrate his concerns with war and violence. In Cosmos, 2000, on the blowing up of the Amia, “he developed his basic theme […] into an astrological metaphor. A myriad of planets break away from a point in space, generating disruptive energy. As we look at it, we cannot grasp the pain involved, only the beauty of the small round figures breaking away from the axis. Small planets that look at us from dark pupils, eyes that witness the danger and the damage, without luring us into obvious and active despair”.
And this is the key to tragedy, as in the plays by Sofocles and by Shakespeare, beauty interwoven with pain to the point in which they interrelate so closely that we cannot separate them.