Much of the British right occupies itself with complaining about the dismal state of things. This does not lack all merit, but everyone with a functioning mind should understand by now that highlighting the ‘hypocrisy’ of political opponents or bleating about the latest manifestations of madness will change nothing. Then there are those of a more enterprising sort, predominantly North Americans, who turn political frustrations into a business opportunity by selling products solely on the basis that they are not from whichever socially liberal company riled them up. This also achieves very little in the grand scheme of things and portrays a right that is incapable of articulating an independent vision of the world.
Now we have an alternative in The Exhibition, an opening salvo from a group of artists who desire a culture which energises and inspires once again. Here was no place for coordinated agitprop, self-loathing or any of the other trends which make contemporary art so entropic and tiresome. Instead, the walls and pedestals of the Fitzrovia Gallery were adorned with a tangible yet heretofore seemingly unobtainable motivation towards creation.
Am I overplaying its significance? That is partially a question for posterity, yet even for laymen the momentum and excitement these artists are generating is undeniable. The art on display was eclectic in styles, themes and mediums across several dozen pieces. More importantly, however, it was fundamentally good art made by individuals who clearly have a passion for their craft. The nature of this act is political in its affront to progressive sensibilities, but the artists’ avoidance of explicitly political works served their aim of aesthetic appeal. The Exhibition was not a petty episode of ‘culture warring’, but something beyond it with a burgeoning artistic language reemphasising power, virtue and beauty within the human condition. In this sense, modernist inspirations could cooperate with more traditional styles without too much friction, and perhaps the breadth of traditions available to artists in the present can allow synthesis without imitation. I know too little about art to determine the originality of what was on display compared to historical forms, but it was nonetheless impressive to see.
Beyond my emphatic recommendation, I shall mention a few features of The Exhibition which stood out during my visit for those unable to attend; accompanying images can be found fairly easily on the artists’ Twitter feeds. It would be amiss to not mention our very own Sam Wild’s contributions. Amongst his works were a couple of our magazine covers, which are vivid watercolours in actuality. Three textiles by Ferro were a surprising but worthwhile inclusion, according to the website in the Arts and Crafts tradition yet with uniquely mystical patterns. The larger paintings, belonging to Alexander Adams, Matthew Fall McKenzie and Harald Markram, provided yet another advantage to holding this exhibition in that viewing art online seldom gives a sense for each piece’s scale. The epic scenes depicted on several larger canvasses by McKenzie and Markram were simply fantastic. Indeed, all the art on show had more impact from being proudly arranged in a gallery than could be obtained in front of a screen.
I hope this will be the first act in a more active reaction from these artists against cultural stagnation and decline. From my conversations with the artists present during my visit, they are certainly willing to continue fighting for culture. It shall be up to readers and fellow writers to continue supporting this (and other worthy endeavours) in the absence of friendly institutions or the wealthy patrons of times past. At least it has now been proven that our aspirations for the future of culture have the ability to become reality.
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