Art for Art’s Sake or Art for Christ’s Sake?

by Sean Boru

Some art you look at and see nothing inspiring, thought provoking or any point to it. Most art will have at least one of these qualities to it, even if you’re not a fan of the style or the artist. Recently we saw in the news that none other than `Rocky Balboa` star Sylvester Stallone, has added himself to the list of celebrities turned artist. That in itself is a thought provoking…well…thought I suppose. However, I make jest of the subject when what I’m really trying to convey to you is this. The fact that Mr. Stallone comes across as a mentally deficient thug in most of his movies; shouldn’t lead us to think that he hasn’t a contribution to make to the world of art. Quite the contrary really, for wasn’t Vincent Van Gogh himself riddled with a schizophrenic brain due to his addiction to Absinthe. Sylvester is actually quite an astute man and meeting him in the flesh, so to speak, is quite an experience when all you know about him is that he works out a lot. He is like most historic artists, small in stature compared to his reputation and public persona, but don’t be fooled by this image as he has an awesome personality. The problem we have in terms of some artists is that they tend to portray their subjects in a cartoon style manner, almost as if the subject doesn’t actually exist in real form. Take a look at contemporary art from the 1600s to the 1800s, the subject matter is an actual replication of them or the matter, and doesn’t leave much to the imagination. Hans Holbein was an artist to King Henry VIII of England (1509-47), his job was to go to Europe and paint prospective wives for Henry. In the absence of the later invention of photography, this is the only way a prospective husband could preview the goods, so to speak. Holbein wasn’t the only artist doing this lucrative work, and I often wonder just how much of an influence this kind of art had on the general painter. Michelangelo and Da Vinci to mention two artists would be now classed as being old school, and although their work is very specific and scaled, it is still about imaginary figures. The Birth of Venus for instance is hardly something that Botticelli could have had Venus pose for, yet the detail in the skin tones and infringements are remarkable. Tamarind Schulze has a fabulous line in character paintings, I love the way she seems to capture the `look` of her subjects thoughts, yet they don`t seem real to the subconscious mind. Maybe I’m being a bit too pedantic here, I really like her work and it is up there with the best that South Africa has to offer the world. Getting back to Rocky though, he seems to be of the belief that his destiny in the art world, or should that be his contribution, seems to lie in the abstract rather than the conventional. I admire any way an artist thinks their work should go, for after all said and done, it is the artist as much as the work that we are interested in. I suppose that we should be grateful that Sylvester has chosen to go the route of Jackson Pollack, and not that of Da Vinci, Botticelli or Michelangelo and produce paintings of Christ, for that would certainly be Art for Christ’s sake, rather than Art for Art’s sake.