Rembrandt’s Drawings Life at Verrocchio
Dec 082009

The aim of this blog is to create a forum of discussion on the present state of art in Britain. Britain seems to be leading the world in the charge of the Gaderine swine.

I am aware of two forums where resistance to “State Art” is strong: the Stuckists and The Jackdaw. But while I salute the splendid spade and foot work both have done in drawing public attention to the gross dishonesty and self-interest of the present regime at the Tate, I feel there is a great need of a third forum where an alternative evolution can be discussed and eventually put in place.

As a former student at Camberwell (1955-7) I look back on that training as a golden age compared to what is available to art students today. I have been revisiting Roger Fry, his Last Lectures, as I regard him as the grandfather of the particular philosophical ambience that distinguished the Camberwell tradition  in my time. His influence on Coldstream (head of Camberwell before he went on to the Slade) was crucial to that ambience.

Fry’s insistance on the importance of the abstract or architectonic aspect of a work of art was most apposite to the art of 1900 but I feel that the pendullum of fashion has swung so far in that direction that it is high time to give it a good push towards Humanism. Fry could not have foreseen the depths to which this aspect of his doctrine has sunk: I see the present state of art in Britain as a colossal insult to the intelligence of the majority of  us who work or suffer in the dark shadow of the State Art’s massive publicity, so rightly dubbed “Art Bollocks” by The Jackdaw.

Old “Humanism” was the driving force of the Italian Renaissance. It was based on a recognition that Greek art and philosophy had much to teach them about the human condition. I have chosen “New Humanism” as a name in the hope it will bring about a similar renaissance. I mean it to include any art based on observation. The survival of the species depends to a large extent on our ability to see and understand what is going on out there.

Artists tend to be politically naïve or lazy. We have allowed art historians to step in and direct the public face of art, with the result that The Turner Prize, for instance, is only of interest to a favoured few who dominate the public face of art in Britain thereby. I hope this blog will become a forum where alternatives can be intelligently discussed and eventually replace the present horrors. Any ideas?
Please participate and inform your friends.
Yours truly, Nigel Konstam

Mirrors used by
Rembrandt for his two paintings of
The Adoration of the Shepherds

ALSO available is Nigel’s 5 minute film on The School of Adrea Verrocchio – Renaissance Sculptor who “restored worth and value to Florentine art at a time when those qualities were on the point of extinction”.

One Response to “The Birth of New Humanism II”

  1. Hello – I read your letter in Jackdaw and was curious. I hope you are successful in creating a forum for intelligent debate. I am just reading Paranoid Modernism by David Trotter which I am finding fascinating and very illuminating. I am only half way through and too excited to express any ideas coherently, but was very amused to read Charles Thompson’s report, in the same issue of Jackdaw, on the debate held at the Oxford Union where the motion was “This House believes that conceptual art just isn’t art”. The response from the defenders of conceptual art that anybody who is skeptical about its significance is right wing and therefore, presumably, automatically ethically defunct (sometimes more vehemently expressed, from my experience, as being fascist) now seems so incredibly infantile, but historically, it accords well with the proposition put forward in Paranoid Modernism, that the avant-garde required a scenario of persecution in order to fuel the degree of disgust and arrogance required to reconstruct themselves as charismatic cultural leaders – the underlying drive being ambition for recognition and personal status. Of course, Hitler’s denunciation of “Degenerate Art” was an absolute gift in terms of propaganda for the virtue of a persecuted avant-garde (though Hitler himself could be considered from this new point of view more of a modernist than most) and more than half a century on, it still functions as ground for responding to any challenge with strengthened self-regard.

    If this is true, it explains why it is useless to try and engage on the basis of rational argument because the position of the avant-garde is actually one of emotional or psychic identification more like religious belief (and consequently religious intolerance). I have got nothing against religion, but the problem is that the avant-garde claims at the same time the high-ground of intellectual expertise. Although this ‘intellectual expertise’ is so suspect in reality, nevertheless it is very hard to successfully argue the case for genuinely visual art on purely intellectual terms. If you try to open up a discussion about the rewards of contemplation, this is dismissed as elitist in terms of the politics of art or, in terms of value, just a matter of taste. And so there seems, from my experience at any rate, no adequate meeting ground for sensible debate.

    The dogma of the New is so entrenched in terms of State patronage and capital investment, I am not sure how it can be challenged – certainly not on its own terms, if the theory of paranoia is valid. However, even though Trotter observes that what the paranoid symmetry achieves is a remarkably stable delusional state, yet it remains delusional and therefore surely not invincible?

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