Pain And Joy In 21St Century Art
By Rob Moore
“… all is creation, all is change, all is flux, all is metamorphosis.” Henry Miller
21st Century art confirms Miller’s astute observation. Works by Elizabeth Skelsey, and Isidro Xilotl, (both Lakeside artists), along with those of Su Xinping (Inner Mongolia), and world acclaimed paintings by Rose Wylie (New York), were born in this transitional cauldron.
They exhibit inner sensitivity, the creative magic, and skill required to endow their works with life that awakens, and shapes emotions, dreams, and visions within receptive viewers. Important is their focus on a narrow well defined path, one where their creations reflect the essence of who they are (their souls) in ways that are subjectively felt and understood. Each of these artists creates emotionally charged works that spark a sensual exchange between themselves and their audience.
21st Century objectives that spring from the artists lives, thoughts, and feelings, coupled with their spiritual, emotional and intellectual capacity to create, differ significantly from artists in the proceeding century. Their paintings, as significant paintings do, defy imprisonment in the cultural period in which it was created, just as the spiritual impact of 200,000 year old cave paintings is undiminished today. Their works, are active at the furthest reaches of communication jarring human understanding in ways that hit the viewer with soul corrosive impact.
In contrast, when these essential elements are choked by material disbelief marked by an absence of meaning, the art becomes purposeless. Art that is decorative, that functions as entertainment, or adheres to popular forms of art that permeates our culture, is born dead, devoid of the essential spiritual or emotional connection between the artist and viewer. Such art quickly becomes invisible.
Elizabeth Skelsey’s painting, Death, (photo),and a similar emotionally charged work,Motorcycle Riders, (Photo) by Su Xinping, radiate the strength of emotion created byFrancis Bacon(1909–1992), Edvard Munch (1863– 1944), and Lucian Freud, (1922-2011). Like Bacon’s baroque darkness, lifted from Rembrandt, Munch’s raw emotional power, and Freud’s estranged, psychological view of humanity, Elizabeth’s painting hits the viewer with the absolute desolation felt at the death of a woman’s lover. Black, vaporous forms suggest the infinite ‘nowhereness’ of death, as the woman reaches across to cradle her dead lover’s breast in a vain attempt to restore life. Su’s,Motorcycle Riders, shouts with equal power against the cage of grinding poverty. Their works embody deeply psychological statements, that speak beyond the boundaries of comfortable culture.
Isdro Xilotl (el Chivo), another Lakeside artist, shows signs of this same energy and focus. His painting (Red Rage),portrays a procession of socially elite members of Lakeside society who party ignoring the poverty surrounding them. Isdro shouted,“ I wanted to strike out against them. I killed them on canvas. Their figures became the red of my rage.” His works reflect the social disdain expressed by James Ensor (1860-1949), and George Romney (1734-1802), both of whom conveyed a rare view of the dehumanization of humanity by the elite. Ensor’s painting,The Intrigue – a fatalistic and bizarre painting of an upper class group, all wearing masks to hide their identity as they ridiculed the poor. Romney inProcession of the Damnedexpanded this dehumanizing perspective in a visual vernacular rare in the history of art.
Rose Wylie (1934-) has taken a different path. She returns to childhood to create surprising fantasies as she plays with paint in ways that evoke a quality of life that makes us wonder about where we got off track. Her painting,Film Notes, with stark vocabulary, redefines what painting is about.
Our new century, even as it holds on to the coattails of the past, has new worlds and new surprises in store for all who love art. Enjoy this link to works by 21st Century Artists.