Saturday, 13 November 2010

'Abstract Art' Considered

According to Wikipedia, "In 1913 the poet Guillaume Appollinaire named the work of Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Orphism. He defined it as, the art of painting new structures out of elements that have not been borrowed from the visual sphere, but had been created entirely by the is a pure art."

So the notion is of an art abstracted from the world of reality, and in the process becoming pure. To look at the logic of this: what are these art works composed of in the most existential form - ie what are the artistic materials themselves? On paper or canvas or wooden board, etc, which is to say elements of the world of reality, are pressed colours or charcoal or inks etc , again extracted from the world of external reality. So on this most existential and fundamental level 'abstract art' as a philosophical concept is nonsensical.
Beyond this, has the artist somehow conjured up of himself the world of colour? Obviously not.And how specifically are these the images of this 'abstract art' unrelated to sense perception? Does the artist enforce a kind of self-lobotomising where he forgets the existence of forms like circles in nature or all the rectangles and various lines and shapes he has witnessed in his life?

The use of the phrase "pure art" is interesting here, in that music is seen as this pure abstracted realm towards which the other arts enviously aspire. This all relates to this post where I write of Plato's basically gnostic attraction towards the notion of the void as reality in its purest form:

The Greek void by contrast (to the void of Eastern philosophy) is specifically a language form, an intellectual creation or form, and revels in the fact of its existence as such. Why are the likes of Plato drawn to this concept of the void as an absolute - the thought which sits atop all other thoughts, the ascendant within the mental hierarchy? It is because, as said, the world of the senses has been decided to be unreal - this in itself of course an idea - and so what is most real should partake least of all of the sensory world, and what partakes least of all being apparently an idea. Ideas are stated to be the purest of substances, and the most pure of these substances is an idea which is utterly self-referential and distinct from the debased world of external reality. And so the void: a pure self-contained idea without reference to the debased world of sense perception. Hence through the ages, and still, the exaltation of the imagined holy landscape of Pure Reason.

And so the exaltation and attraction of the senseless concept of Abstract Art as a pure art, having supposedly escaped the world of impure matter. This pessimistic gnosticism - in its damning sense of physical reality might be imagined, by those relative few who even know of it, as an ancient way of thinking, long irrelevant, an intellectual fossil, but it is the essence of modern material atheism, where reality is asserted to be meaningless, ie fallen, but now unlike the gnostics there is no escape route from its hostile clutches, though tellingly with the same emphasis on Reason as Plato in his 'intellectual' version of pessimistic gnosticism - not of course that emphasising reason is in any way a guarantee that one's own 'reasoning' is anything but facile.

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