Monday, 1 December 2014

Why Modern Art is So Great

by Sophie Locke-Cooper

Spatial Concept, Waiting
by Lucio Fontana, 1960
The reason modern art is so great to me is because of the way people don’t understand it and the disrespect they give it - the dismissal, the sneers they convey towards it and the comment “That’s not art!” The pure fact that it is art should come to contradict those people who dislike it: ‘How come it is art?’ they should be wondering. It is art and that's why. Behind every painting is an artist and that artist has a reason or a story behind the art; this should be the main reason of why it is art. Once the story comes to your knowledge you can relate it to the art; it makes sense, pieces fit together and your brain interprets the story into images and it becomes clear to you what the art is portraying, and you end up rather liking it.

The way it causes such controversial reactions and anger to people is what makes it outstanding. A reaction is what an artist wants: why would you look at art and have no emotion towards it? I recently went to the famous Tate Modern with my auntie and I saw her looking at this sculpture; she then said “That makes me sad” I was intrigued by her response, asking why. “Because this isn't good, a child could have done this.” Then I began to explain to her that because of its simplicity it engaged itself to you, it evoked a reaction out of you and so you would tell others about it and it would become a popular piece of art. Don't you find it ironic how the way you hate it makes it good? It's you the viewer who makes this sculpture stand here in this gallery.

But also it is not just the simplicity of the art which makes it good; it could, in fact, offer complicity; you can't say it's bad and walk away without knowing anything about the art, you can't pick up a book and look at it and say that book was awful without reading it in depth.

One painting that stood out to me was the ‘Spatial Concept, Waiting’ created by Lucio Fontana in 1960 (see above). It is a canvas with a slash in it. This was a painting my auntie looked at for one second then moved away, but she didn't know anything about the piece so how could she not like it? This is my favourite piece of art I've ever come across, simply because of the meaning and
practice behind it. Fontana has slashed a piece of paper and a canvas to show the distinction between 2D and 3D dimensionality. That is one reason that this piece is now so well known. It took Fontana twenty years (1940-1960) to figure out how to get the right slash, how to get it
to represent what he wanted to portray. 

He started off with multiple slashes in a canvas, then by 1959 decided to have one more decisive slash. Each cut was made with a single gesture using a sharp blade, and the canvases were then backed with strong black gauze giving the appearance of a void behind. The black behind the canvas added a temporal dimension to the generic title 'Spatial Concept'. How Fontana slashed an unpainted canvas shows affinity between the rawness of the surface and the existing character gestured itself. How the clashing of destruction and creation were both uplifted in Fontana’s work is what I find so amazing about his piece. Fontana wrote on one of his 1948 pieces: ‘Art dies but is saved by gesture', thus linking with his 1960 piece; the same gesture that negated the canvas as a purely pictorial vehicle also opened up its sculptural possibilities. Another depth into the slashes, gashes and cuts of Fontana’s work was inevitably to evoke pain as it particularly portrays wounds in skin. How it evokes pain means an emotion is formed in the spectator of the piece, so then this stays in the mind of the spectator, which is why it has stayed in my mind and became such a great piece of modern art. Now is it just a simple piece of art or is it a piece of art with dimensional meanings?  

1 comment:

  1. Why is modern art so great? I agree the beauty of modern art is the subtly and multiple meanings behind the work. However you say you appreciate the art more when you are aware of the message after elucidation but you have not provided this for Fontana. Yes, this is an incredibly complex piece but you have only stated it is complex and glossed over the meaning. What does this painting mean to you? You claim "This is my favourite piece of art I've ever come across, simply because of the meaning and practice behind it." But what is the meaning and background and complexity for you? For me, do you not agree, yes literally the slash "is to show the distinction between 2D and 3D dimensionality" like you write but it is much more, which has not been explained.
    This cut symbolises frustration, an annoyance perhaps within the circle of artists. The slash is an overcoming yes of the flat canvas but therefore a radical move to liberate himself from the more classical techniques previously used. It is an overcoming of the constrictions of the modern art; Fontana was one of the pioneers behind the 'spatialist' movement. You say it is a sculpture but it is, actually, famously neither painting nor sculpture- merely in limbo between the two, a hint at the changing times Fontana lived in. The slash creates a dark chasm to which the viewer is immediately drawn to, this alludes to infinity, this ulterior and limitless dimension created could be seen as pull humans have to their unconscious do you not agree? Or an exploration of what lies beyond the canvas, what lies beyond life? The black fissure demonstrates disillusion of the human ego, it is an empty construct. However the fissure within the canvas is neither constructive nor destructive. Fontana is seen to be showing us that the reduction of the human ego to negligibility it not a destruction of human kind but a reassurance that we are unique to the cosmos. This has stemmed most likely from other modernist art movements like Surrealism in which the cosmos and expression of liberal ideas are compared. There are existentialism undertones to the piece. The slash can also be interpreted (as you mentioned) as a cut, a wound within flesh, but considering when this piece was created it harks back to the fresh scars of World War two surely? Many post-war modernist pieces have an element of violence or scarring within them. You say “Don't you find it ironic how the way you hate it makes it good?” I do not agree. Fontana was not trying to create a piece of hated work but instead express his built up frustration. His abstract, spatialistic art is not to be hated but to explore the truth behind the relationship space, time and emotions. This is not like the contemporary work of Tracey Emin. Her “My Bed” was an installation which was designed to provoke a reaction of disgust and hatred in order to share her experience with suicidal depression. That is the brilliance of her work; she does create a new emotion for the viewer which relates to her own feelings. Fontana is not trying to explicitly create hatred and that is not why his piece is “good”, in my mind, with the explanation you have given. “Now is it just a simple piece of art or is it a piece of art with dimensional meanings?” No piece of art is “simple”. Even if art seems flat and literal like that of the Dutch Golden Age paintings there are still dimensions, it shouldn’t be dismissed as “just a simple piece of art”. All art has dimensional meanings do you not agree now?
    For me, I look at “Spatial Concept, Waiting” and I feel most drawn to the idea of limitless time and space, we, as humans, know of only a fraction of all knowledge, yet the slash just shows and hints that the life is truly boundless, we are but meagre stars within the cosmos. This really thought of being part of a greater force and organic to our universe is beautiful. Which interpretation of Fontana’s work are you most drawn to?


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