Das Platforms / Contemporary Art

Painting for the man, L’taime, or just Lame?

by George Whelan

23 Mar 2011

While I’m probably overly sentimental, the art history I love the most has always been the parts that celebrate and romanticise movements and individuals not just for their artistic merit based on aesthetics or innovation, but also by the presence of heart felt emotion in their work.

As contemporary art with the rest of the world becomes more globalised, the hierarchy of museum-culture has spread it’s tenticled influence down the peripheries to even the most provincial of artists.

This expansion has had a homogenising effect on contemporary art in really diverse ways, but from my own old-world reminiscent perspective, I can’t help but see the cup of contemporary art as fairly empty.

While It’s nice to be able to aware of exciting things all over the world, this spread of a metropolitan based hierarchy has placed extra pressure on what artists are making and how art is consumed in order to comply with trends.

Even before the role of the internet was as significant as it is today, the hierarchy of contemporary art was criticised for it’s role in influencing “art making, art writing and the consumption of art in the metropolitan centres [which are] organised around market driven stereotypes” (Terry E. Smith, The Provincialist Problem,Artforum. 1974).

The fact that market driven stereotypes are now able to filter down from an International level through the peripheries means that even local artists are still working under the same hierarchy.

Local contemporary-art has been effected detrimentally in that human touch and originality of art is compromised by pressures to interact with global markets and trends. I think the process in which an artist develops a ‘visual language’ (by which I mean a signature aesthetic of the artist) will always contain ethnographic styles, however I can say that even in my own practice, international trends are definitely influential in my art making.

In one of Van Gogh’s letters to his brother he wrote about making the decision to stay out of art schools and remain self-taught because he was worried his paintings would become ‘L’taime’. I understood ‘L’taim’ to be the act of creating a visual language which is tainted by being too focused on conforming to a certain fashion or style. While an artist can be ‘L’taime’ and still create art that looks naturally beautiful, it will be insincere in that it isn’t actually drawn from nature.

Weather or not I’m holding onto redundant romantic ideas of artists reclused in vocation in order to gain those “difficult pleasures” (B. Whiteley, Difficult Pleasures. 1983) of true art, it is certain that the hierarchy that enforces trends of good and bad in contemporary art and it’s influence does now dictate what artists make and hold as cannon, and in the same way that an art institution can bring about ‘L’taime’, creating locally based on internationally implemented trends does inhibit the initial capacity to develop an original visual language.

I think the real bummer in this situation is that when pressure is put on art to comply to trends in order to be accepted, the creation of visual language is compromised with less importance on individualised human-touch, and further more, if art consumption is geared towards trend exclusivity, then is the contemporary artist, especially on a local level, still making art or just printing money?