The Laws of Nature

Thursday, April 4, 2013

What's your emotional range?

Book Review

Kirschhoff's First Law
watercolor 26" x 20"
Katharine A. Cartwright, NWS

Art Theory: A Very Short Introduction by Cynthia Freeland
Chapter 1: Conclusion
After presenting the case of Serrano and his precursor Goya, Freeland moves us toward concluding statements by pointing out that a lot of recent art work incorporates horror. I would agree. My trips to the galleries and museums of New York City gave me insight into this. Quite frankly, sometimes I understood it but mostly I wondered about the motivations of the artists.  It’s kind of like viewing Hollywood’s high-body-count movies (HBC’s).  After awhile you wonder what is the point?
So, this chapter in Freeland’s book interests me. She begins by trying to help us understand horror in art through the lenses of two competing theories:  1) art as communal ritual, and 2) aesthetic theory a la Kant and Hume.  The first theory doesn’t explain this trend, and the second only marginally.
Freeland writes: By pointing back to works of an important artist from the past, Goya, I have argued that contemporary ugly or shocking art like Serrano’s has clear precedents in the Western European canon. Art includes not just works of formal beauty to be enjoyed by people with ‘taste’, or works with beauty and uplifting moral messages, but also works that are ugly and disturbing, with a shatteringly negative moral content.
This means that Freeland will next discuss content. My favorite subject!
The questions I have for those of you who wish to comment are: What is your reaction to horror in works of art and do you incorporate it in your own work? Do you concern yourself with conveying feelings other than pleasant ones in your art? What is the emotional range of your self expression?


Casey Klahn said...

Sorry to be absent. Busy month!

I think a masterwork with horror can be timeless and can illuminate dark corners and universal feelings. But, it they aren't truthful, than not so much.

I think of Peter Bruegel, Edvard Munch, Kathe Kollewitz, and before I read your post of course I thought of Goya. Maybe now we have Paula Rego.

Unknown said...

I agree, Casey. Thanks for your comment and for expanding the list of artists who deal with dark matters.

Ruth Armitage said...

Interesting question! I think that dark subjects attract me, but I'm usually uncomfortable with horror. The exception would probably be Francis Bacon, whose juicy paint is so seductive, I find myself strangely attracted.

In my own work, I explore darker emotions occasionally. They are not usually as well received as the more joyful subjects. I feel it is necessary for me to paint them, though, as they are honest portrayals of my feelings.