Friday 28 July 2017
When I was studying for my Dip of Fine Arts I often used to say when we were discussing its history that ”Art in all its forms is but a reflection of society”. A “class” fascination for me was trying to identify the political leanings of my fellow students. Invariably when they spoke about their work, it was apparent that those painting with a social objective, or commitment to social justice were always of the left.
As for me, I always confronted the class and told them that if art was not commenting on society then it was not contributing toward it.
Art over many centuries has reflected the society in which it found itself. From ancient aboriginal painting to Pablo Picasso’s depiction of war in his critical, work Guernica, which was a powerful political statement about the Spanish war. In addition, of course the Russians and Germans made art a general tool of propaganda. Then there was early Christian art that portrayed arguably the worlds first socialist as white and fragile when the reverse was probably the truth.
Throughout history art has been used in as a means of political persuasion. Art challenges many of society’s deepest assumptions. Look at the persuasive techniques of street art. Think about the protest songs of the 60s and the rap singers of today. Think about the environmental Lyrics of John Denver, and the working class words of Bruce Springsteen. The protest songs of Dylan and Joan Baez. The writing of John Steinbeck whose book “The Grapes of Wrath” changed my life and the leftish writing of Australian poet Henry Lawson. Civil rights had no greater champion than the black entertainer Harry Belafonte.
In my observation and experience artists be they writers, actors, painters, sculptors, poets, and musicians or from whatever genre predominately come from the left. They tend to be more sensitive to the marginalised and social issues like the environment, gay rights and are more open-minded about such issues. Their views are more humanitarian and empathetic. Artists are not afraid to speak through their work and readily accept the challenges of change and its consequences. Artists see possibilities and opportunities that others don’t. The left side of politics has always attracted those from the arts because there is a mutual philosophical co existence and understanding of what human nature is. There are wealthy artists however most love their art before wealth.I imagine there are also artists who would define themselves as conservative or “right-wing” but they are in the minority.
Artists and the left exist in a natural marriage of ideological compassion and understanding that speaks of protest of dissent of change of charity and challenge but most of all for the common good.
Art shares its values and social democracy exists for the same reason.
My thought for the day.
“We judge art not by how it arrived on the canvas but how it speaks once there.”