So, we currently have this thing called contemporary art, which is a label as strange and illogical as modern, and post-modern art. The good thing about art today is that artists can deal with all subjects and all techniques, and pretty much get away with it. Though there are certainly limitations in most cultures, artists world-wide have at their disposal more diverse tools, subjects, and arenas than ever before. What I find regrettable though, is that the label 'contemporary art' seems to impose a certain number of restrictions upon the art welcome in the contemporary arena.
One gets the feeling that (regardless of the very diverse materials and subjects) we have limited the contemporary epithet to a certain style or expression. I can't really put it in words, but it is evident to me, as I browse the contemporary scene (at least in northern Europe), that what I see looks a certain way. So called contemporary galleries show specific styles of art. They show painting, sculpture, video, installation, happenings, events, and all sorts of techniques for sure, but no matter what kind of art they exhibit, it is kept within a certain frame of expression, which seems to have remained the same for quite some years now.
If I take the beginning of this post into consideration, and include the natural tendency of human beings to find a sense of belonging, it seems we have ended up with a self-feeding, self-repeating kind of contemporary art culture, which is far from as inventive and “post-post-modern” as it would like to be.
I personally enjoy hoping, that by now, we have the ability to move beyond fashion and style in the world of art, to welcome all kinds of contemporary expression under the label of 'contemporary', or even better, no label at all. The strength of these times is a broadened acceptance and openness for the great variety and possibilities of human expression. We are moving beyond the tribal consciousness of the past, and into a new kind of freedom. Simultaneously some groups seem to have decided that “contemporary” looks and is a certain way... and unless you perform your song in this particular dialect, you are not really a contemporary artist (according to them), which is no less than saying; you do not fit in this moment or age.
My question is naturally, how can you not be a contemporary artist, living now? Surely, if you do not dwell in the blogs, magazines and exhibitions of late very often, your brain will not learn (ape) this language, and your artistic expression will look unfashionable or simply strange to the regulars, no matter how good an artist you are.
Art should be an expression from the impression of life, primarily, I believe. Much of the art I see, seem to be the result of other people's art (rather than life) and that makes it art-ificial in my opinion.
Looking at my own art, I wonder if people think of it as contemporary? Perhaps some do, but I suspect most do not. The question, I think, is a failure in itself. To understand and communicate with this contemporary time and culture, we must look at all the ideas, expressions, and styles of all kinds of artists alive today. All these are the contemporaries. The contemporary is not a wish to find something which hasn't been before, or to escape the past. Nor is it a certain style which appeared a decade or two ago. The contemporary is – or should be – all the voices rising naturally out of the current climate.
There, for example, I see a man painting icons exactly like they did centuries ago. He does it now, because now it is meaningful to him. He isn't imitating the past because he has failed to recognize the present. He does it as a direct result of his contemporary culture. The stress and consumerism of today brought him to it. It is not an escape but a work and a voice. That is as contemporary as it gets – a natural expression of current impressions. If he did the same motifs, for the same reason, but with the dyed seeds of genetically modified corn, or on the green surface of Las Vegas game tables, he might actually be welcome, but his deep, genuine commitment, devotion and skill is hardly taken into account. It simply isn't “contemporary” enough... by some people's ideas of what contemporary art is supposed to be, or look like. In that way they limit and choke our breathing. Thus they make sheep out of lions.
Please, Mr Artworld, whoever you are, remove these masks behind which you have been hiding for so long. If that means you can no longer reinvent yourself to a salable concept, then so be it. It is time you expose your simplicity, and lay bare your entire rainbow of wonder.