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Non-criticism to art: What beauty really consists of

Since the dawn of Modernity, man, like teenagers with their parents, has sought to swim against the tide of subjects that immediately preceded them.


Macu Gavilán


Is Faith the most important thing for the medievals? The enlightened say no, it’s Reason. Reason is not the most important, retort the Romantics, it’s Instinct that is of the greatest importance. Everything has been said about Faith, Reason and Instinct? The Avant-Garde tell us that Nothing is important.

It doesn’t surprise us then, that after two centuries of putting up with the romantic idea that art, to be beautiful, must lack any trace of mundane functionality and remain in the realm of the sublime.

A group of hyper-post-mega Modernists say the opposite, as a further group of critics looks on and applauds them quietly with their elaborate lace cuffs.

The result of this is that today in museums alongside the real works of art, we can find all manner of things: toilet bowls, tin cans, homewards, dog food.

It would be prudent to ask here whether art collectors should really be buying the original museum pieces or if in fact the ‘originals’ from the supermarket would be equally as valid. We also must ask ourselves what role fakes play in this case, and if they can claim copyright infringement over the designers of the toilet bowl. But I think that belongs to another essay entirely.

It’s true that we can’t define objectively-supposing that we look for what really defines beauty in our time. However there’s something completely without doubt, and that is the fact that ‘utility’ is not the same as ‘beauty’.

For that to be true there would be one word instead of two. One and the other may exist side by side, together but separate, not joined nor opposing.

As such, we can’t accept that the useful, in itself and with no extra effort on the part of the ‘artist’, can be classified as beautiful for the simple fact of it being ‘ground-breaking’.

As a consequence, we don’t believe that the mere exhibition of a toilet as functional-in its gross naknedness-can be put alongside the ‘beautiful’ works of art and assume them to be of the same level.

And we don’t accept the argument that says the abyss that separates these ‘possessions’ of the works of art is a mere difference of ‘style’ or ‘trend’, in this way abusing relativism, that weakness so common nowadays.

You have to recognise the value of having been able to rebel against previous eras and having realised that a Certainty was imposed on us as a Truth.

It is hugely valuable having reclaimed the right of going on journeys not yet explored.

But the negation of what has been imposed on us, though necessary to achieve freedom-is not freedom itself. Although the rupture with the past is important in the history of art, manifestations of this have no reason to be, in themselves, works of art in the full meaning of the word.

Only after having beaten the negation, free of these topics etched into our DNAs and, above all, with our wounds licked clean, we can look to the heavens above, witness to all civilisation, and ask ourselves what beauty really consists of. When we try, then, to create something of beauty, we will realise that we have done nothing new and we will go back to ask ourselves the same things many men said years before us, which is in no way insignificant.

(Translated by Rachel Eadie – Email: – Photos: Pixabay

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