Photo credit: RTÉ

RTÉ’s strange representation of the Clifden Arts Festival in Conamara

Modern art fails to serve its core purpose - to inspire

I like art – it serves the function of expressing the connecting of man with God. In all of the vastness of creation it is understood that human beings are the only creatures that have the gift of imagination. 

This unique gift  – to have the ability to imagine something new, innovative, and beautiful and to be able to translate that wonderful thought through the medium of art be it painting, dance, song, or written word to name but the most obvious – sets us apart most.  

Other creatures, wonderful though they are in their own right, lack the ability to create things from imagination. Beavers and birds build dams and nests from instinctual necessity however animals, with the noteworthy exception of Suda the painting elephant, do not share our wonderful ability to create from the ‘God spark’ that is our imaginations. 

With that said, Conamara is hosting Ireland’s longest running arts’ festival this month and RTÉ as expected did a report on the event.  

However to my great surprise the artists our national broadcaster chose to focus on don’t seem to represent much about Conamara..or even Ireland. 

I haven’t looked at the whole program for the festival, but what I saw on RTÉ was an ‘artist’ whose installation was something about a half dead woman reaching out of a bog. The artist said her work is inspired by something like insisting that women have rights, because as any woman reading this will know, we do not yet have any. 

Another performance is by a trio of African American Gospel singers. Don’t get me wrong, I think Gospel music, especially that of black churches in the US is great but perhaps not very relevant to this event . One of the vocalists spoke of their total support for BLM, but what does any of that have to do with Ireland or Irish art? 

And then we come to the rope. A Dutch lady collects bits of old rope that washes up on the shores near her favourite holiday spot and that goes through some osmosis and is transformed by the power of modernism into art. 

At the beginning of this piece I said I like art, but what I do not like is so-called ‘modern art’. The kind of piles of random boxes, paint vomited on canvas, deranged looking people twisting themselves over backwards kind of thing. To me that is not art. I remember feeling empty and depressed during college lectures on modernism itself. 

Art is the Sistine Chapel, the display of the dizzying heights of human achievement, or the yearning in sean nós singing, an art form plentiful in Conamara, or Miserere Mei Deus – something so beautiful you question whether some touch of divinity was involved in its creation.

That’s it – art is the display of the touch of divinity in each of us, that unique imagination that only we humans possess. 

I know the works of Michelangelo are unlikely to be displayed at a folk art festival, but surely there are better examples of indigenous Irish artists that RTÉ could have used their platform to highlight .

 Art is the kind of thing that takes your breath away and makes you feel awestricken, humbled and yet inspired, and – without meaning to be unfair to the Clifton Arts Festival – it is the thing I feel is so sadly missing from much of what passes for ‘modern art’. 

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