Tuesday, 3 April 2012

renaissance man.

Damien Hirst is a renaissance artist. By which I mean he is part of a defunct tradition not that he is a polymath seeker outer of the green fuse of wonderment. Leonardo was the latter. It's a cliche but his work was driven by enquiry and a desire to explore the outer limits of materials and their ability to depict. The renaissance used the order and systematic application of classical antiquity as its framework. From a classical view point the underlying form then became more and more important. This broke with a byzantine idea that the picture surface was a conduit for something beyond the surface of life. The ego discarded the unconscious. The renaissance became all about the surface. With the sense of ineffable vaporised the only escape from the surface was to go below. Anatomy abounds. Depicting death becomes the best way of making things realistic. Mantegna's Dead Christ ought to have been the last word on this matter. Instead centuries later the ecorche (a cast of a flayed body) was the thing to draw if you wanted to learn to make realistic art. So art became a flayed skin and poetry was left on the mortuary floor.

This is why Hirst goes on about being unable to imagine death. Because in his particular art cage we are fixated with the immediate material world. Hirst's art is species specific just like that of Florentine renaissance. Contrast this with Hockney at the RA which picks up the byzantine thread of the perceptual world as manifestation of the ineffable beyond the picture plane.


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