Did we lose something when we got electricity?

How come the paintings of the 18th and 19th centuries always seem to be more sophisticated and complex than the works of more contemporary artists (with one or two notable exceptions – although even these artists went a little doolally towards the end of their careers)?

I have just spent a pleasant hour visiting Torino’s Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea. Here is a photo of just one of the sculptures, from the 19th century, that they have on the second floor:


Then, when I wondered downstairs, this was the first picture I snapped (please ignore the irritating reflection – not part of the artwork, just that the picture was behind glass and I couldn’t get a decent angle):


This is a serious challenge to any serious art lovers out there (and I’m afraid I don’t count myself among them – I like certain things, dislike others, but know very little about them). Can anyone tell me the point of this picture? It just seems to me a haphazard grid of uneven lines with one much smaller line to the left, as though it is lost? Is that what we are supposed to deduce from the artist’s scrambled mind). That the world is full of big clumsy lines, with some smaller inconspicuous lines trying to find their way. Why can’t the artist just clearly say what he means, without us (the viewing public) having to guess.

Half way through the art collection, I realised that probably the title is an important part of guessing what was in the artist’s mind and perhaps understanding the painting (a little). I excitedly rushed back to find out the name of this particular painting: Compasizione 5. The name just seems to add to the confusion. And how long did the artist take to rustle this particular composition up? 30 minutes?

I would dearly love to try and understand this painting, so an appeal to anyone who can interpret it for me.

I wondered on. Things in the collection just kept getting better. This was the next one I decided to snap (named Z-3; again the title just confuses me):


The artist didn’t even seem to manage to paint the Z without going over the edges.

Then the next picture was a killer:


A board simply painted yellow. Work for a five-year old child, no? In fact, so yellow was this particular piece of artwork that it was almost impossible for the camera to focus on it (the art gallery did not allow photos to be taken with a flash, and I was too lazy to use a manual focus – hence the slightly distorted angle, which I’m sure adds a considerable amount to the artist’s original work). The name of this work was Vero Amore; I have no idea why we should assume that love is the colour of yellow – perhaps art lovers would care to enlighten me?

There was one contemporary piece of art that the historian in me did appreciate:


This painting was entitled simply Napoleon. It may not be so clear to see in the image above, but the left side of the French flag is patterned with the swatstika symbol (used by the Nazis in Germany and in the Hindo culture of India). The Nazis drew the symbol in a slightly different way to the Hindus, with the symbol slightly twisted. Interestingly, the way in which the Nazis used the symbol is only depicted once (quite large and at the centre), whilst all around the edges is the Hindu representation of the symbol. In the centre of the flag are a series of Christian crosses. And on the right-hand side, we see a five-pointed star (the symbol of communism, much used in Russia).

All in all, quite a clever little number. But, once again, how long did it really take the artist to complete the piece? Anyone can have clever ideas. I have them all the time. But if I am unable to write them in some logical way, and communicate them to a wider audience, what good do they do. You shouldn’t have to work when you read something. Surely the same goes for works of art.

And finally, we have a little bit of titilation. Take a good, long look at the thing protruding from his waste. It’s actually a carrot.



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One Response to “Did we lose something when we got electricity?”

  1. Col Says:

    I’m not sure if its the production of the art or the value attached to the art that’s change. There are still many artists producing ‘traditional’ art- but that’s not the stuff that gets put in the galleries.

    I remember going to the Tate Modern in Liverpool and spent ages looking at an exhibition of random grey squares. After 5 mins looking at one particular square we realised it was the air vent (corny but true!)

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