Sunday, November 13, 2011

Collings: You Wonder Where It Went


El Greco, Opening of the Fifth Seal (1614)


"When I was laughing at all this and enjoying the friendly bustle of the 176 crowd, so nice and glossy, I reflected that actually tourist interest in old art in churches is not arbitrary. Those live Duane Hansons with their guidebooks in Ravenna and Rome and Istanbul are getting something important from what they're seeing. They're not there only because their minds have been distorted by economic forces and by the society of the spectacle. They are actually taking pleasure in something that seems a bit reflective and at the same time marvelously crafted. Renaissance art and medieval art really are uplifting. Both were probably still being paid homage to in the art of the 1950s, but gradually since then the past has been dropped by art as anything to take seriously on its own terms; it is constantly "referenced" but only in a way that doesn't mean anything. There are one or two artworks of now where you do feel the presence of skill, but the accepted general level or mode is tolerance for a lack of artistry or of a sense of anything having been made, and the lack of making is depressing. It's strange to think of El Greco making a bit of purple fabric on a green table seem full of feeling. You wonder where it went–the interest in doing it and the hunger to see it done."

[Matthew Collings. Modern Painters. January 2008]
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