Sentimental. Adjective. “Having or arousing feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia, typically in an exaggerated and self-indulgent way.” We feel this way about art sometimes. But why? Maybe it’s time we reconsider the value of art, and stop clinging onto the past…
Words by Alexander Stubbs. First published 13th March, 2021, at The Mackayan.
Walk into any national gallery and you’re likely to find a collection of artworks that are considered to be of national – sometimes international – importance. As we marvel at the William Hogarth’s and Edgar Degas’ hanging on the walls of the Tate Britain, we’re transported to their worlds. John Constable’s landscapes and Peter de Wint’s pastoral reflections transport us to the fields of rural England; works by William Blake and John Martin paint a picture of fury, destruction, and the sublime – we are drawn to them because of their grandeur – their scale – but also because we have internalised their assumed superiority.
It is something more than just the paint on the canvas that we admire and lust after. The unquestioned greatness bestowed upon artists (some more than others) is central in how we protect the foundations upon which our culture is built. The paintings that hang in galleries and the artists we admire represent more than just art history; they are, ostensibly, symbols that represent our identities. They are the images that define who we think we are.
By placing such importance upon historical figures, we have allowed them to become untouchable. When an artist we love succumbs to their own fault past, we immediately fear that we are losing our culture – our identity. We’re under attack, we think when an artist is “cancelled,” unaware that we are just as guilty of allowing them to reign unopposed and unchallenged. So, when we are offered an exhibition that includes names we have been told to respect, we blindly follow along, forgetting to question why it is that particular artist deserves a place on the gallery wall.
Want to continue reading? Head over to The Mackayan to read the full article.