Newmania and I have chewed over this one a few times, and reckon that there is plenty of it about, but we have been struggling with creating a grand theory – is conservative art conservative by nature of what it addresses, its form, or because it is created for profit?
I advanced the idea that art, of whatever form, that deals with the here and now or holds up a mirror to our own times rather than focusing on the utopian lends itself to being described as conservative, whereas that which deals more with change, or its desirability, might be better viewed as, in the broad sense, left. I feel that using that as a starting point one can claim Shakespeare as one of us, and having performed that particular land grab, naming and claiming other figures becomes almost a question of detail. Newmania claims Austen as one of ours on the basis of form and content, although as I have conceded previously, I am not au fait with Austen.
In terms of form, Aristotle’s poetics
is a helpful tool for examining drama – unity of time, space and plot in the context of drama. In terms of painting, I suppose one could focus on conventional figurative art rather than the conceptual and therefore claim most of western art prior to the impressionists. I recommend a small detour to read about The Stuckists in their own words
and over at Wikipedia
. For those pressed for time, here is a precis of their aims and methods: “The group are defined by their Stuckists manifesto, written by Childish and Thomson in 1999, that places great importance on the value of painting as a medium, as well as the use of it for communication and the expression of emotion and experience - as opposed to what they see as the superficial novelty, nihilism and irony of conceptual art and postmodernism. The most contentious statement in their manifesto is: "Artists who don't paint aren't artists". In a second manifesto, the Stuckists declared that they aimed to replace postmodernism with Remodernism, a period of renewed spiritual (as opposed to religious) values in art, culture and society
If art is conservative by nature of it being commercial, then it is game, set, match and championship to our lot.
I am hoping for substantial input from readers here, as this is very much the germ of an idea, and if I am hopelessly out of my depth, doubtless I will discover that all too soon.