Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Defining Purpose - Rebecca Lee

 “Contemporary Art.” What does that entail?

According to Wikipedia, contemporary art is defined as:
“the art of today, produced in the second half of the 20th century or in the 21st century.”[1]

Still, that doesn’t best exemplify what contemporary art is. If I decide to draw an apple, is that considered as contemporary art? Defining contemporary art is, in my opinion, an important topic, which Kelly Richman-Abdou touches upon in her article. She brings awareness to the seemingly ironically (and relatively) long history of contemporary art [2]. Her article opens one’s mind to the prospect of what contemporary art really is. There are so many different movements, consisting of various different mediums. There really are no rules when it comes to art and that’s especially clear in contemporary art. These artists are able to freely express themselves. Because of this, I wanted to learn more about how these artists think. How did they know what they wanted to show to the world? Why did they want to show the world?

“Drawing is more than simply a skill, like playing football or the saxophone, or sewing or mathematics. It is a path to self-discovery, revealing a cast of mind, an imaginative capacity and a mode of perception. Drawings give access to the obsessions, sense of humour, emotions and fantasies of their creator.” – Robert Malbert [3]

Sometimes, this can be overlooked. I’ve found myself guilty of this as well. At times, I’ll find myself more drawn to the beautiful artwork rather than to the message. But thinking about it, artists add in certain details for a reason; otherwise why put in the extra work?

보는 것 To Be Visible - Jinju Lee
However, maybe I shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that art has no rules. In the words of Berger, “there are three distinct ways in which drawings can function: to question and study the visible, to lay down and communicate ideas, and to draw from memory” [3]. Tan Boon Hui also proposes that contemporary art must have a purpose for society and consist of a narrative [4].

Conversation of all those whose lips are sealed -
Jinju Lee
“One of art’s functions is to defamiliarize everyday reality rendered dull by habit, and to reawaken the mind to the strangeness, as well as the beauty and ugliness, of the visible world.” - Robert Malbert [3]

Jinju Lee’s artwork is a great example of this. Her work gives a sense of ugliness and chaos, which is what she aims for. She focuses on “unwanted recurrence of dark memories of early childhood,” and utilizes everyday objects to aid in her chaotic visuals [3]. She even goes to the extent of removing the hair to anonymize the women, possibly making the image even more disconcerting to look at [3]. Showing the ugly in the beautiful. Interestingly, instead of backing away from her traumatic memories, she uses them to illustrate what reality really is to her. She believes that, “art helps us to discover about our lives...We’re already experiencing life- art makes you realise what the experience really was” [5]. 
Artwork by Ian Hodgson
Artwork by Ian Hodgson

Ian Hodgson is stylistically very different from Lee. His thoughts seem almost as if not completely concrete and more mysterious. However, he too, draws the human figure, often the face. Something that piqued my interest was his use of sketchy lines, incorporation of fingerprints, and the occasional splash of color. He said, “In my figurative work, I’m usually trying to communicate a thought or an emotion, a psychological state whereas in my abstract/landscape works I am often attempting to find some light in the dark, a contemplative place” [6].              
Uneven Path - Ian Hodgson

Both of these artists are trying to get across their views or their emotions to their viewers through their choice of medium. Everyone has a different view on the world with their own opinions, and so no one person would be able to create the same drawings as another. That’s what I admire most in all of this. We’re all fundamentally different from each other and have something to offer to the world.

“Can a drawing shock? There is no drawing that can compete for transgression with the most banal pornographic image. Yet there are things that a drawing can convey that are beyond the reach of photography and digital media – just as there is no substitute for a handshake or a kiss.” – Robert Malbert [3]

Through my research, I’ve realized how little thought I’ve put into my previous art works. One great thing about contemporary art is how unafraid people are to be vulnerable.

In the end, this essay became more of a reflective piece, but I feel like it was necessary to get my thoughts down in words. Sometimes, I find myself aimlessly doing art just because. I never viewed this as a bad thing and I still don’t, but knowing that honing one’s drawing skill isn’t the main point, and that the message behind what you’re doing is what really matters is a completely new perspective I look forward to exploring.

So, I guess in the end, art is really what you make of it.


Works Cited
[3] Malbert, Roger. Drawing People: the Human Figure in Contemporary Art. Thames & Hudson, 2015.
[4] Open Sea. Silvana, 2015.

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