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Wednesday, 2 January 2013

For Sarah, Two


I said, Ah! what shall I write?
I enquired up and down.
(He’s tricked me before
with his manifold lurking-places.)
I looked for His symbol at the door.
I have looked for a long while
at the textures and contours.
I have run a hand over the trivial intersections.
I have journeyed among the dead forms
causation projects from pillar to pylon.
I have tired the eyes of the mind
regarding the colours and lights.
I have felt for His wounds
in nozzles and containers.
I have wondered for the automatic devices.
I have tested the inane patterns
without prejudice.
I have been on my guard
not to condemn the unfamiliar.
For it is easy to miss Him
at the turn of a civilisation.
I have watched the wheels go round in case I might see the
living creatures like the appearance of lamps, in case I might see
the Living God projected from the Machine. I have said to the
perfected steel, be my sister and for the glassy towers I thought I
felt some beginnings of His creature, but A,a,a, Domine Deus,
my hands found the glazed work unrefined and the terrible
crystal a stage-paste . . . Eia, Domine Deus.
David Jones, in The Sleeping Lord and Other Fragments (1974)

The problem with artists since the Impressionists, is that artists have become increasingly separated from the classical training and from understanding the role of the intellect in art. Anti-intellectualism is the bane of Western Culture in 2013, bringing us to the gross relativistic attitude that art is merely the immediate expression of the particular artist, or, worse, propaganda.

The first was highlighted for me as long ago as 2002, when a radio interviewer sought out a young artist at the Toronto Art Expo (, who blatantly claimed that if she splashed or hit mud on a board one morning, as she felt like doing that, the piece was "art", as it was an emotional expression of who she was at that moment in time.

The radio interviewer was "gob-smacked" and I just laughed out loud, pointing out the relativistic  individualistic heresy to my son, who was standing in the kitchen waiting for pizza. The artist as prophet was dead in Toronto, and instead we heard the artist as arch-narcissist. Who cares who she felt one fine morning in Canada, if the result of her expression was not only ugly, but totally anti-intellectual?

OK, I shall get negative feedback on this one, as artists too often defend their private revelations as an expression of the zeitgeist.  I would hope that artists would lead us OUT of the zeitgeist into the world of transcendent Beauty and Truth, but I am an idealist.

So, the anti-intellectuals see art as almost the private interpretation of realities, when in reality, they may be only speaking to the few who are living only in their passions and on the emotional levels of existence, or worse, those who just do not give a d.... and want the latest painting of the most popular artist in their living rooms. "I have a ......." someone said to me recently. I was not impressed.

Anti-intellectualism kills real religion and real art, dead. Without engaging the brain, the rational, the logical and the analogical, one is doomed to boring repetitions of crayon drawings on the kindergarten walls of the world's schools.

You know this ALL STARTED with private interpretation of the Bible. Then, we had reader-response to great novels, and personal interpretations of poetry and essays, rather than studies of form and content.

Thank God for Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot and my favourite, David Jones, for spotting the problems early and attempting to stem the tide of macpoetry. That they did not succeed is merely a symptom of the age of advertising, commercialism and the death of the religious spirit in art.

If an artist separates the spiritual and the historical, the cultural and the contextual from his art, he will fall into
schizophrenia, the breakdown of the connection between the real and the emotions, and for the artist, this is death. We have enough of this type of art, from the early 20th century on...we do not need more. We know what the problem is....

To be continued....