Art movements throughout history, have been a marker of social change and development, instigated by political revolution and technological advances. Those artists from history that we deem successful today, as well as those who found fame during their lifetime, all managed to find a distinct way of presenting their work. Wether through their impressive execution and detail, or through their choice to abstract or reduce their artistic process; each artist formed their unique voice and identity.
Art style have seemingly come in waves, being made, rewritten, revived and then destroyed. For the Italian Renaissance, they rewrote classical ideals of perfectionism and symmetry; and then in contrast the German Expressionist’s utterly rejected the realism and rigidity of that same renaissance period. Throughout the last 100 years, we have seen modern art rapidly change as each artist battled for relevancy and tried to be heard. Each stylistic movement was trying to create a new avant guard, trying to reach a new echelon of artistic invention. But since crossing from the 20th to the 21st century, the boundaries of what makes art art, has drastically expanded. This can be exciting but also terrifying. There now seems to be no restrictions on what the scale, the medium, the technique or the style should be that an artist uses. The world is there oyster and anything goes.
So let’s take this new artistic freedom, and evaluate it within our society today; or more importantly, our visual society. When I tell you that we are living in a image saturated society; this is probably something you already know or have heard about. It’s not news to anyone that the invention of photography and the internet has granted people instant access to images through, most predominantly, social media. Yet for an artist in today’s world this can make the idea of creating something “new” or “unique” impossible. Unlike artists of the past, artists today aren’t competing within one single ‘style’ or ‘technique’, because with one click of a button we are able to engage not only with all of art history, but also art on a global scale- we are bombarded with images from every corner of the world, from every decade, from every style or movement that has ever been.
So perhaps it is no longer the artist’s role to simply react to the art around them, but to make something that still retains interest, emotion and thought; against the relentless tide of digital visual media. The debate on what makes art “art” is certainly more important than ever. What makes one photography art, and another not? What purpose does a found object, a video or an installation have in our galleries? Yet despite all the controversy that spans between contemporary art and visual culture, I think most artists can still be categorised into two ethos: The builders and the breakers. There will be the builders, who are inspired by art history and the artists’ of who came before them. They will build upon ancient methods and traditions, with the hope to bring the breathtaking magic of an artist’s craft into the 21st century. And there will the breakers will be those who reject the idea of working from the past, but rather look to the future: to advancing technology, to new philosophies; in the hopes of something better.
It will be the combination of these two opposing forces that is set to make this the most unpredictable, but maybe the most electrifying, art movements in the world’s history.