Albi Cathedral Square

Art is to Modern Art what a Cathedral is to mere bricks

ALONG WITH the long days of our Winter, the ugly reality that has become modern art continues unchecked here in Britain. For day by day, the elaborate celebration of modernism, and modern art, are still daily promoted. 

I have previously explained how there is art, and modern art, and how they are just not the same. And I still find it extraordinary they should still try to call this activity Art, when it is entirely artless. Yet I do believe we should still call Art by its name, and accept no excuses when ideas like ‘Installation’ neither sounds like nor look like Art. 

Yesterday, I enjoyed listening to a professional photographer describing his working practices   He was taking about needing bags of darkroom experience, with various skills and processes, in the making of good high-quality prints: how he teaches these skills; and how it is necessary these skills should still be taught today. And naturally I was thinking about a straight comparison with Art, and the letter I had received, which I had enclosed and discussed before in my previous article (Part One). 

Conceptual art is not about forms or materials but about ideas and meanings. It cannot be defined in terms of any medium or style but rather in the way it questions what Art is. In particular, conceptual art challenges the traditional status of Art itself.

So to further understand the meanings in this previous statement, which was sent to me from England’s Education Department in 2015, it is also necessary to consider the impact and restrictions this has meant for the practicing traditional conventional artists or students today, and to understand how those ideas have already affected their livelihoods in our present time, and the livelihoods for those traditionally inclined for the future.

Before I describe how this manifested itself, it is important to understand how the prospect for any more great Art has already had suffered because of those mistaken modern art ideas, and to also remember the wonderous affects great classical Art had in the proven development of mankind. For unlike today, Art had a leading role in the forefront of communication and addressed this task by visually and self-evidently showing our lives, representing our social and human values, whilst assisting in a multitude of important discoveries, or practical developments; as well as providing support for our religious ideas, faiths, and showing our human needs it is important to view how Art was respected and considered as important in human life. Thus, also, how it may have been professionally considered as an important career choice, and consequently, at the end of the 19th century, the credit rating for a professional trained artist was higher than a bank manager. 

Unfortunately, this all changed with the arrival of modern art in the beginning of the 20th century, and those sad fashions which followed. Accordingly, by the time of pop art in the nineteen sixties, a skilled artist was probably considered as the same in rating, or perhaps even less, than a talented commercially employed illustrator. Obviously this all had a huge impact upon the artist’s livelihood in trying to make Art, and many became part-time, or full-time teachers, or university tutors.


Brick Cathedral at Albi, France completed 1480           Bricks at the Tate Gallery, London 1976                        

Gradually, an obsession with modern art found crude absurdities such as piles of bricks, bags of soot, or other mundane objects accompanied by fairy stories being sold as conceptual art to museums. As this often occurred with public money, it also unfortunately led to a general poor view that artists were all more than likely to be confidence tricksters. It was a view that was never seriously presented in any light by the media, who apparently failed to understand the lost glory, which Art had formerly represented. The new art critics failed to appreciate how Art’s standards had become so demeaned by those antics of modern artists throughout the 20th century, that all artists could generally be viewed with the same miserable brush.

During my six years of study, for which I received no grant, I worked evenings and weekends, and throughout the summers for the first three consecutive years on a motorway. So, with good humour I often described myself then as a motorway worker, but always as a classical painter in any conversation, never an artist. I believe this common-sense view was widely shared and understood, for at a prestigious event in 2003, the wife of a leading VIP in Italy said to us, “Modern artists tell lies and sell lies.”

The year 2000 had brought further wholesale conceptual claims in its wake from the modern art movement, which I shall endeavour to describe accordingly. I will also address some of the unpleasant results of this “Anything is okay modernism,” upon our education and the general consequences for later university students wishing to pursue Art from my time to the present day. This is a huge subject, so I ask please bear with me, as it will take time.

So as I have said many times, the choice and presentation of art for the public has become a flawed and biased selection process for those favouring modern art ideas, without proper public consultation or alternative choices – for any choice is always between modern and more modern.

This is unhappily a cold subject, so to offer a little Winter cheer I have enclosed the following picture.                            


West Glen Almond in the Sma’ Glen. 

For the general public, however this is still a black picture, as in almost every case, the qualifications and professional expertise of all concerned always support the continuation of modernism, and any outsider called in to offer any professional art opinion for our entirely pro-modern art establishment, will certainly have been carefully screened to ensure a mandatory modern choice. If you doubt this fact look at every modern object described as art in our cities, in towns, villages, or rural places, that has been commissioned with public money. These objects rarely support the traditional conventional meaning of Art.

So, it is with deep sadness I still report, for both Scotland and Britain, how the real values of Great Art which reach and encourage the noble spirit, offering a love of humanity, especially in portraiture, and a love of the visual reality of our lives; or our landscape, with its daily beauty and truth, all lie neglected in favour of the notions of unchecked modernism; which is also steadily eroding our national culture too.

In considering this outcome throughout the 20th century to the present, I should mention unfortunately how many traditionally trained artists, holding traditional skills, did doff the cap, and change their work to modernism. I do know this happened in several cases, as an obvious need for people to secure income and a livelihood. Having made this commitment to modernism and lived through a change in practical working conditions and its results, they could not then easily return to past traditional ideas of Art again, from the fear of appearing craven.

I believe the media probably suffered from the same fears. For at one time, with leading newspapers, if they published an article, or a story of mine on a Monday, then for the next four days they would publish modern art stories saying exactly the opposite. So, the effect was to further reduce an effectiveness of seriously challenging the obsession with modern art, presented as the only Art, and seen from the perspective of a pro-modern, heavily entrenched, art establishment.

To offer a further example, I had sent letters to the editor of a regional newspaper for eight years who steadfastly refused to publish any. I did speak with him on the telephone, but it made no difference. While his newspaper was always one of the first to support any conceptual modern art objects that were commissioned, especially if they were then erected as public art. 

I found television and radio were also very good to start with, but in many ways eventually became as disappointing. I gave a series of interviews, and was forced to realise that fair and even handedness just did not exist in this subject of Art, or modern art. Indeed, one television channel with its claims to always being impartial, used to start its news programmes showing two stones with holes in them, which again like any pieces of wood with holes in them (below), are just not works of art. 

I was left thinking how such a narrow unchallenged reality could never be allowed to exist in Politics for example, then why should this be allowed exist in Art?

So, to summarise my view on these circumstance – during the past 100 years plus we have heard of The Art of This, or The Art of That, or The Art of the Other. The Art of whatever imagined nonsense constantly appearing from supposed modern artists, supported by pro-modern art historians, or art journalists. Yet Art was historically never like this. It was not false sensationalism, or fairy stories that can be just spoken and presented daily. For most of this is never art, but is modern art, an entirely different activity altogether.

To follow: Part Three – An artist’s journey and Part Four – Smart Cities speech in Barcelona

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Photo of Bricks courtesy of the Tate Gallery; photo of Albi Cathedral, the largest brick building in the world, via Adobe Stock


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