Affirmative art in a disaffirmative climate

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The above was the catalogue essay written by Professor (Lancaster University) Nigel Whiteley Phd. F.R.S.A in 2002 Sadly, my very good friend and associate Nigel passed away in 2010. I worked on this exhibition with Nigel from 1998 and we had plans to work on several more international and national exhibition Fate deemed it otherwise and Nigel passed away in 2010 after a short illness. I am among the many hundreds of artists and art academics who will miss and admire his art critical reasoning and depth of understanding of contemporary art aesthetics and art history.

"In a global culture which is so self-absorbed as to show little interest in his- tory, it is probably not surprising that we have lost a historical perspective on art and humanistic affirmation. We need to remind ourselves that by far the majority of art in the twentieth century has been undeniably affirmative, and in a range of ways, some of which I am going to outline on the following pages.."

Clive Bell was closely associated with this Formalist point of view and wrote in Art in 1914: ‘Great art remains stable and non-obscure because the

feelings that it awakens are independent of time and place, because its kingdom is not of this world. The forms of art are inexhaustible; but all lead by the same road of aesthetic emotion to the same world of aesthetic ecstasy.’ Aesthetic ecstasy was, it goes without saying, life-enhancing and, therefore, affirmative.

An artist who exemplifies Bell’s Formalism is Henri Matisse whose decorative, colourful paintings capture what the art critic Robert Hughes once named the ‘landscape of pleasure.’ Matisse described what he was looking for as “ art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter, an art which could be for every mental worker, for the businessman as well as the man of letters, for example, a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.”

Clive Bell. 1881 to 1964. Art Critic Formed one of the Bloomsbury Group (London UK).

“There is the world of difference between Matisse’s armchair viewer and today’s couch potato...”

...the latter is passively overwhelmed by dumbed-down banality and left to be stifled mass media mediocrity, while the former is imaginatively stimulated by formally-inspired delights and transported to the realm of aesthetic exaltation.

Another major affirmative claim is that art i

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