Where have all the cowboys gone?

You don’t have to understand or appreciate modern art to recognise the most shocking thing about it these days – there is no shock anymore.

What was once the bastion of originality and pretentiousness has become mainstream and conservative and, despite more and more media attention for the genre, these days the controversy surrounding artists has all but gone forever.

To me, the groundbreaking times we have enjoyed have gone. Not even the sight of Grayson Perry in a dress raises eyebrows anymore.

Grayson Perry

When rebels become mainstream

Recent times have seen the Banksy phenomenon – famed for his political satire and moral standpoint on our distopian world above his artistic license – and to a greater or lesser degree he has helped raise the profile of modern art, irrespective of how he categorizes his own work. Hirsts Shark

Yet his star, for now, shines on it’s own. We have the headline makers as always for sure but even artists with shock value and a rebellious streak have toned down their work recently to help connect them back with their public admirers and buyers alike – partly I suspect to play it safe during the economic downturn.

It does appear that people are cautious about lashing out on whacky or cutting edge pieces. Read between the lines of the auction reports and reviews and you find some interesting undercurrents about the direction modern art is going.

Everything looks the same

I many ways I sympathize – our financial and economic climates are not what they were a few years ago and we are all guilty of becoming a little more introspective in the way we conduct our lives and spending.

However, I am saddened to see that this has had an effect on the art that is generally available. You only have to look at the growing number of online galleries to find that most modern art (I make references to paintings here) looks pretty much the same.

Where has the originality gone? Who is the next bright star to shine? These are difficult questions to answer.

Despite the profile and value of modern art being raised to a level of public consciousness never seen before we are still lacking that definitive edge between acceptability and chaos – the kind of thing that happened when Pollock unveiled Mural, or the outcry when Hirst revealed the shark in 1991, any of Warhol’s revolutionary statements or Carl Andre’s ‘Pile of Bricks’ that was bought by the Tate.

I just don’t get that from anything I see at the moment. Like or loathe them they all made a statement, they all promoted reactions in us, good and bad. I rarely get that these days.

Have all the ideas gone?

I too have succumbed to the problems facing modern art today.

As an artist I am always torn between my own perception of what is good and bad. Of course this is always subjective as we all have our own tastes and opinions but my own output is rarely governed by what I want to paint.

Those momentary flashes of brilliance ebb and flow without control yet can be difficult to harness and turn into something credible. Could it be that we have exploited all the original ideas and there is nothing left to discover? Maybe the future of the genre will be shaped into a more expressive and personal experience rather resorting back to a medium to shock and outrage.

I suspect that those days may have eclipsed us forever.

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