de Sousa, Director, AbleStable
How important are the visual arts in
our society? I feel strongly that the
visual arts are of vast and incalculable
importance. Of course I could be prejudiced.
I am a visual art.'
Kermit the Frog
dance of defining what is new
In the 1980s I worked as a musician and composer
for London Contemporary Dance Theatre. At the time
they were one of the most respected and influential
dance companies in the world. Their demise in the
1990's arose because they could not persuade the
Arts Council of England they were delivering dance
works that reflected a contemporary expression of
dance, and so the company lost significant financial
support and as a result, perished.
Contemporary art is a movable art world category.
All contemporary art enters the domain of the historical
past at some point. The Museum of Modern Art in
New York initially regarded contemporary as referring
to works produced in the past 50 years. Art world
literature also defines contemporary art within
an historical framework, for example, the art produced
post 1945, after world war II. More recently the
boundary of what Contemporary refers to in arts
institutions has changed to the last 30 years, and
some scholars define contemporary art as the art
of our lifetime; for students this would mean the
art of the past 20 years. From this it is apparent
there is no clear consensus of what 'contemporary
phrase 'contemporary art' came about after 'modern
art' was formalised by educational and cultural
establishments (schools, universities, galleries
and museums etc). The term modern art was used to
describe a particular type of art and many scholars
now date its beginnings to the 1830s when Joseph
Mallord William Turner began painting his wonderfully
abstract, atmospheric seascapes.
'Contemporary art' might describe a category defined
by time (art which is experienced now), or as an
aesthetic category (a certain type of art). Viewing
'contemporary art' as an aesthetic category is problematical
as its definition constantly shifts.
I have come to view contemporary art as a political
phrase rather than an aesthetic one. The word contemporary
has a dictionary definition as 'belonging to the
same age; living or occurring in the same period
of time; current'. The phrase contemporary art however
is not simply used in this way as it is high-jacked
by businesses in the arts sector (creative agencies,
commercial galleries etc), educational, and cultural
institutions. The meaning of Contemporary Art alters
depending on the political standpoint of the individual
If you sell art, the word contemporary is used to
reassure the client they are buying something that
is 'in-touch', 'on the pulse', urbane - the word
contemporary is rarely used to describe works created
outside a metropolis. Educational and cultural institutions'
categorise art works to confirm their world picture,
to justify the institutions historical context,
and assert their authority.
Secret of Eternal Youth
is not what you see, but what you make
is among my favourite painters. For me his work
remains fresh, enriching, inspiring, and above all,
new. I never tire of his paintings, there is something
always to discover, and his work is as relevant
to my life as it was to those of his contemporaries.
That his paintings are now more than 150 years old
is of no importance...
Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 - 1851).
Hover your mouse over each painting for information.
Click each painting to enlarge.