MATHEW BRITTAN

ON ART AND FREEDOM AND ON REINSTATING BEAUTY AS THE PRIMARY FOCUS OF THE ARTS

Given what has come to be the state of affairs in the arts in the passing decades, is it not perhaps incumbent upon us to try and gain some clarity in all this obfuscation? Perhaps we can do this by remembering what Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) the initiator of Anthroposophy (who influenced artists as diverse as Kandinsky and Beuys) pointed out in his lectures “Truth, Beauty and Goodness " and "The Aesthetics of Goethe's Worldview ". What does the aforementioned obfuscation in fact entail?

Firstly , the confusion of originality with novelty where anything goes ( here too, there being a confusion of the outer freedom to do whatever one wants , with the much more critical inner freedom of knowing why one is doing it , this being born of that human ideal of self - knowledge ) . Secondly, the aggressive inroads of intellectuality into all sorts of domains of human endeavour, and which is often part of the aforementioned novelty in the arts.

In these lectures , the issue is raised as to where art belongs in those enduring , sublime extra- human realms of truth , beauty , and goodness , realms which in fact , respectively give rise and meaning to those three great human ideals of science , art , and , religion ( i.e. for example , if there were no such thing as truth , there would be no point in pursuing knowledge ) ? And further we may ask, which aspect of our humanness, we are after all also threefold, that is we think, we feel and we act, should art essentially engage?

Well , we legitimately locate scientific endeavour which essentially involves our human capacity to think , in the realm of truth ( - science is meant here in the broad sense , from the word scire , to know , thus including philosophy , dealing as it does with concepts , with ideas ) . And, we associate religion (that is in the original true sense of the word) which ultimately focuses on human conduct, with the realm of goodness.

Should not artistic pursuit then primarily engage the third aspect of our being , that is our feeling capacity , and thence bears us up to the realm of the beautiful - a beauty which in terms of painting, one tries essentially to express through colour , colour being the true medium of the painter ( as form is that of the sculptor etc. ) ? But what is beauty one may ask? Perhaps, we can remind ourselves of Goethe's characterization of beauty as being that quality which arises when we transfuse the perishable, the ephemeral with the light of the eternal, and the imperishable.

 

Nebuchadnezzar climbing the wall
Nebuchadnezzar climbing the wall
Nebuchadnezzar climbing the wa...
Nebuchadnezzar climbing the wall Nebuchadnezzar climbing the wall
Nebuchadnezzar in front of the hanging garden of Babylon
Nebuchadnezzar in front of the hanging garden of Babylon
Nebuchadnezzar in front of the...
Nebuchadnezzar in front of the hanging garden of Babylon Nebuchadnezzar in front of the hanging garden of Babylon