I’m not an artist. I can draw, paint, take photos, hell, I took Art class during my high school years but I’ve never been excellent in any artistic discipline. However, I pride myself in saying I’ve got an eye for art. I’ve been passionate about art for so long, I don’t remember exactly what pushed me into it. I would put my money on that dysfunctional family of mine. It’s the use of different kind of techniques, this battle of colour, that intriguing game of shadows and lights.
While younger I was ecstatic with the classic era, and its religious and moral depiction of life, I grew up developing a special kind of appreciation for modern art. You know, modern art is like that new kid in school that is really quite different from what you’ve seen before, you’re intrigued and want to get to know them better. After that you realise they’re always changing, reinventing themselves, redefining what you thought you knew about them. And after everything, even if it unsettles you, it never misses its goal. Well modern art is exactly this, it seeks to redefine everything concepts we have, like a true revolutionary it shakes the grounds we based our knowledge on. That, or it’s just to mess with us for the sole purpose of entertainment. Either way, I don’t recommend going to some modern art exhibition if you can’t “get’cha head in the game. Yes, I consider High School Musical a masterpiece. Anyway, it is true that this style of new era artistic production requires you to make some effort and dive into the art as much in itself as in its context.
If you feel like this article is going nowhere then you’re experiencing modern art. It’s always like this at first, art being an unpredictable entity, multiple and unique at the same time, no wonder it got on so well with religion. Under the term “modern art” I’m regrouping all art movements that diverge from the classic era techniques. I hope, by telling you how I fell in love with it, to enlighten you but be reassured it ain’t no cheesy RomCom.
My divergence from classic started when I got introduced to Spanish artist, Pablo Picasso. I had seen some of his masterpieces already, I don’t live under a rock, but it was at an exhibition in honour of his death, that it clicked. His style was strikingly different, the energy from the colours, the way he represented the human body and his vision of beauty were making me look at my own body in disgust. In a word, it was physical. I thought for a moment that maybe I just like the movement, cubism was quite new to me and to be fair it was starting to grow on me. However, no other artist adept of this trend had had the same effect on me. Every work of art has a story associated with it to understand what’s underneath the surface. Still, with Picasso, it was different, I didn’t need context to understand and appreciate his work. Saying he was reinventing the canons of beauty was an understatement, he pulled a Miley Cyrus and went crashing them, swinging naked on a wrecking ball. You just had that image pop up in your head, didn’t you? You nasty. Nevertheless, thanks to him, I had the embodiment of modern era art figured out.
Next, was someone who impacted my life deeply, he affected my way of thinking, creating and perceiving all matters under a new perspective, it’s Salvador Dali. He’s got the imagination I can never dream of, the level of edgy I aspire to be. Great thinker, you’d recognise his face as much as one of his paintings, important figure of the surrealism. In a way, a wordless philosopher, capturing on canvas the conception of time flowing away, the hypnotic and carefree nature of feminine beauty, the contradiction between mind and body. If his paintings were affordable, the drug dealing empire would crash in a week. I spent countless hours staring at those masterpieces in museums. Call it a self-induced acid trip. He defies the law of sanity and the politically correct which in my eyes makes him #goals. Yep, I’m still basic AF. In my little trinity of modern art, he represents the psychological aspect, which leaves us with the last part, the contextual part. In art, classic or modern, whatever movements you’re into, the physical component may meet ends with the spiritual side solely thanks to one indispensable factor. This crucial element can be felt through the artwork however is rarely seen. I’ll stop talking like an Apple marketing director and get straight to the point: I’m talking about context. You might appreciate art not knowing the context, the work behind the canvas, after all, ignorance is bliss. However if you happen to do some research, strong from this new knowledge, you’ll realise that you’re seeing an entire new painting. You’ll start making the connections between all the smalls details painted and the final message given by the artist. It’s like the mind and the body being brought together by the soul. For the atheist amongst us, it’s the brain and the body parts of Frankenstein’s monster being brought to life by thunder.
I think, a first for me, that there’s no better artist in this world to work on the concept of contextual art than Jean-Michel Basquiat. The last artist in this pitiful essay of mine is a underestimated genius. His work, so simple yet so complicated, is one of the greatest gift mankind has ever received. At first glance, you may think that your little siblings can do better, just a few strokes of a brush on a white canvas. You might be right, who knows, your little brother or sister may become the next DaVinci. However you’d still be wrong because the beauty of Basquiat’s art doesn’t lie in what you see but in what you know. You feel that is tortured but content, has a vision of society trapped but hopeful. The best example would be one of his painting which depict a child-like drawn rabbit and some dash of red and black around it with the word “help”, “rabbit”, and others written all over. In an nutshell, this shows his fear of his own life, the problems with the police and with the spelling we find proof of his dyslexia.
He’ll be remembered as a major impact on depiction of the underlying life around us. It took me a couple of years to start appreciating modern art and as I’m writing it, I curse myself for not giving an interest earlier. Having found a new holy trinity, it’s too bad that I’m a whiny little bitch scared of the death, otherwise I wouldn’t stick with Catholicism. In the name of Father Picasso, Son Dali and Holy Spirit Basquiat, Amen.
Text by Stan Bertheol
Picture research by Donna Darafshian, featured image taken from Tumblr.