The Meeting

The Meeting

by Charles Harris
article from Wednesday 16, August, 2017

DEAR READER, during my absence this past month I have been asked several times why modernist art became so readily accepted, especially in view of the things I have explained. The short answer is – nobody alive today has not been subject to extensive brainwashing when it comes to the subject of modern art, along with the assumptions of its benefits, or credits. Whereas, fortunately, in language and literature, where a need for standards and a need for reality were supported and properly maintained, that dreadful loss of traditional work and its proven values did not occur, nor were they then completely abandoned, as happened for traditional classical art.

The failings of modern art and the impact of unchecked modernism, in general, has been among the subjects of my second book, as yet unfinished and unpublished. And as I believe I have demonstrated in these pages over the past ten months, these are very big subjects, and still unresolved. 

So with the current hot topic in the media of ‘Fake News’ I thought I would offer you several delightful short extracts of prose and essay writing, which I hope you will both enjoy will provide a suitable background and forewords to a little story entitled, 'The meeting.' These, I do trust, you will happily find helpful, for they are by nature the very opposite of modernism in art, for they endeavour instead, to present with words rather than paint, the great beauty and reality of life. In content, they are a small explanation in areas of practical writing skills; a power of truth in word; an observation on selfish attention seeking; modernisation without human consideration and the need for reality, as presented in a novel. Thus,

William Hazlitt – On The Ignorance Of The Learned

 It is not easy to write a familiar style. Many people mistake a familiar for a vulgar style, and suppose that to write without affectation is to write at random. On the contrary, there is nothing that requires more precision, and, if I may so, purity of expression than the style I am speaking of. It is not to take the first word that offers, but the best word in common use; it is not to throw words together in any combination we please, but to follow and avail ourselves of the true idiom of the language. To write in a genuine familiar or truly of the English language is to write as anyone would speak in common conversation.

Aldous Huxley – Tragedy And The Whole Truth

We are in a position to explain what we mean when we say that Homer is a writer that tells the Whole Truth. We mean that the experiences he records correspond fairly closely with our own actual or potential experiences and correspond with our experiences not on a single limited sector, but all along the line of our physical and spiritual being. And we also mean that Homer records these experiences with a penetrative artistic force that makes them seem peculiarly acceptable and convincing. So much, then for truth in literature, Homer’s, I repeat is the Whole Truth.

Richard Steel – Recollections Of Childhood

There are those among mankind, who can enjoy no relish of their being, except the world, is made acquainted with all that relates to them, and think everything lost that passes unobserved.

Hilaire Belloc – The Crooked Streets

Why do they pull down and do away with the Crooked Streets, I wonder, which are my delight, and hurt no man living? Every day the wealthier nations are pulling down one or another in their capitals and great towns: they do not know why they do it: neither do I. It ought to be enough, surely, to drive the great broad ways which commerce needs and which are the life-channels of a modern city, without destroying all the history and all the humanity in between: islands of the past. For note you, the Crooked Streets are packed with human experience and reflect in a lively manner all the chances and misfortunes and expectations and domesticity and wonderment of man.

Jane Austin  – Northanger Abbey

Oh! It is only a novel! Replies the young lady; while she lays down her book with affected indifference. In short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineations of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language.

The Meeting

COMING DOWN from the hills, the snow had been very pretty. And fashionably wearing a long retro coat and new trainer style boots, the boy promptly left the bus station and made his way through the housing towards the city centre. Walking in the city, the snow was only one inch, all the way to an icy bottom. Yet it was not slippery to the foot, and he made good his way to the building required without difficulty. Looking first to be warm and comfortable, the building was old and beautiful, as it came into view in that morning snow-light. Situated near a park, there was a picture of light white snow all about, plus snow on the roof and in a nearby tree. The lights were on throughout the building and the windows gave out a soft yellow illumination. He quickly made his way through the main door. 

Arriving early, at the reception he waited for his appointment with an art official, his coat still buttoned up despite the heat. Eventually, a woman arrived and led him down a corridor to that official's office. Inside, the large space was full of abstract paintings and conceptual objects, all borrowed from a collection that he had personally helped procure. The official, whose name and description, like the boy, I cannot give, was sitting in a swing chair behind a blue modern desk.

Looking at the boy he asked directly, "So I understand you want to be an artist?”

“Yes! My teacher sent me, as she thought you would be able to advise me on what to do. I want to do make art my career!”

The official replied, “Right, that’s easy,” and waited for the boy again.

The boy then said, “I am doing Life Drawing in evening class, it's really interesting,” hoping he sounded cool and not as nervous as he felt.

Sitting opposite and swishing slightly in his comfortable swing chair, the official smiled and said, “You don't have to worry about that today, it's a good story you need now. So before you bother to draw or make anything, you will need to think up a good story. Can you do that?”

“Yes,” the boy admitted, somewhat confused.

“So when you write it down, use words of more than two syllables. Got it!” the official continued nonchalantly.

“Er-yyes,” the boy replied slowly, anxiously.

“The important thing is to make it a good story,” the official again smoothly continued.

Noticing that look of inexperience and worry about this youth in his office, with a skinny build and nervous manner, perhaps he saw something of himself in the boy? 

“So don't worry, you shouldn’t have much trouble, as most people understand about modern art. Although you have to be confident when you go to the newspapers and tell them about your wonderful new ideas for art. For example, how it will benefit society by confronting, shocking and enlightening them to think about something differently, that’s the key! Got it? And then say all you have written down and the media will believe you. They really have to, you see, because they won’t want to admit they don't understand. They must keep agreeing with everything you can tell them. And what you have written down should convince them! It's easy. Do you understand?”

“But what about the work itself,” the boy inquired dismayed. “Don't I have to achieve the necessary first?” He was not comfortable. He had won a national art prize for his work and was proud of his achievement.

Showing patience, the official said, “You have to understand, things have changed in Art. It's not just the realism of say, Leonardo, that people want anymore! You must have studied all this at school; it's all conceptual art today. This is the current history. You just have to be a part of the new wave.”

The boy looked confused and unconvinced.

“Everybody wanted simplicity, in architecture, in furniture, in surroundings, in life, and in art. Simple lines were the way, flat surfaces, clean raw colours, everybody agreed,” the official now droned slightly, repeating an old story. 

“But how did they do that,” the boy asked feeling a little desperate and looking further confused?

“They did it by simply changing something in the content of their work, by changing the subject matter and looking at it in a different way,” the official answered cheerfully.

The boy looked no less confused!

“So artist's went whole heartedly for new abstraction, as a reaction against tradition. They abandoned and dissolved those old ideas. They altered them, distorted them, changed them, so as to be a part of the new movement, you just needed to fly the flag! The more you could change the better. Make things soft, when they should be hard, or vice versa. Make things large, when they should be small, or small, ridiculous. Make and call ugly good, use strong colours right from the tube, even glue on the tube as well. Be trippy, unreal, you just did anything obvious to be a part of the modern club. The boy did begin to wonder what sort of person he was dealing with, but naturally he did not say. 

“You also had to be a good showman. Salvador Dali, for example, was a great showman. Of course, nobody understood what he did, it was too complicated. And because he used so much detail, everybody had to assume it was good. How could they not – who knew better?” The official said this with a tone of regret in his voice. Then he recovered smiling, and with a chuckle said, “Oh God, it was so difficult. Now it's easier! You don't have to make anything. Now you can pay some body else to do that. And then if it's poorly made it's not your fault. And no wet paint either. Now it's just the illusion, the idea, the word. See?”

Sighing the official opened his hands, “Anything different was the real key, the game, the line, the edge. The cutting edge, my friends and I used to call it,’ laughing! ‘Do you get it now?”

“Yeah,” the boy replied showing some understanding.

“So you should be able to secure some commissions, especially if you go to university first and the staff there will help you to express yourself better, to create more convincing stories, better stories with philosophy and psychology, and other aspects you will learn in the communication game. You do, or will have qualifications, to get into University I assume,” he asked?

The boy nodded. As a change, his gaze shifted from the man, away from the room full of exhibits, and out of the large office window to a view beyond. Right through the gates of the park, he saw a winter sun now glowing constantly on hard frost below and glimmering above in low mist that hovered around the day.

“So you should then be able to secure a public commission and that can lead to fifty more, the sky’s the limit, as I expect you will hear. And you can use the same material with just a few alterations each time,” the official voice continued. “And by then you should also be able to use the necessary modern art language. You cannot apply anywhere if you don’t use it. They won’t accept your applications, and the entry forms will be coached in questions that need our fashionable language to all complete properly.”

He then said quickly, “Okay,” and with a change of voice, the official indicated the meeting was over.

“Yes thank you very much,” the boy said standing, while a gust of cold wind sounded, whistling around the building outside.

“Say, Hello to Melissa for me when you get back,” the official said, crossing the room and shaking the boy's hand before he saw him through the door. "And come back and see me when you’ve finished,” were his last words as he retreated back into his office.

Yes I will, the boy thought inevitably, as he stepped through the outer door into falling snow. Yes, I will, he thought with greater enthusiasm, as he made his way back to the bus station, whilst a dark pink snow shower draped the pavement, the road, the side of shops, the roofs and all about in new white snow and beauty.

............................

So if you are satisfied with this little story, do you wonder what future modern art disasters will our young character make? 

Perhaps he may claim he is just copying the Egyptians, or was inspired by cave paintings in France; or charmed by pretty colours; and as likely he will not have gone on a Grand Tour; so he will not have any real experience of genuine classical standards in Art, except of course in two dimensional photographs or an odd visit to a museum? 

Perhaps he may still wonder, caught in thinking how, or why, this could really have happened in art in his lifetime. He may even wonder who in this Country still promotes classical standards in fine art. The rest is just another story, very like that 'Fake News' in the media I referred to earlier. And for me, yes, I do hope this little episode might answer some of the questions you may have had – well just for now at least.

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