“In Péguy’s time, the time of our grandfathers and great-grandfathers, the visual arts had a kind of social importance they can no longer claim today, and they seem to be in a state of utter convulsion. Did cultural turmoil predict social tumult? Many people thought so then; today we are not so sure, but that is because we live at the end of modernism, whereas they were alive at the beginning.” (p. 9)
The Shock of the New: Art and the century of change (Robert Hughes)
Space art (space environments, its ships and its people) is a form of projected realism that harks back to classicism – a time when form and the portrayal of classic themes (more often than not, representing reality) were paramount.
When art, or culture, is done and dusted with realism within the natural or man-made environment, it absolutely has to project forward and beyond in order to cover new ground of some sort, if only to avoid regurgitating the past. Abstract art and surrealism was the result of this need during the early 1900s, but now art is done and dusted with those forays as well and is asking itself “where do we go from here?”
What I see, especially on deviantART and the artwork of video games, is art projecting into the fantasy realms, not in the abstract, but through realism. Abstract art and surrealism were born from the known reality as a way of twisting it and trying to uncover the unknown; but there is little known in outerspace to begin with so most space art is a manifestation of the known – you could almost refer to it as practicalism, as many tried to understand space as environments that humans can fit themselves into and survive within, therefore realistic of our current environments. I see the work of Jim Burns as a great conveyor of this sense of realism in space, and much space art has followed on from his work. Ian Miller and John Harris are good examples of the abstract needing to express the unknown - Ian Miller’s work is where fantasy fornicates with reality; the work of John Harris is a dream state that provides little trinkets of knowledge about a far greater unknown.
What’s weird is that what I see is most space art moving away from any sense of surrealism like in the 1960s and 1970s (exaggerated spaceships of Chris Foss), beyond the abstract impressionism of Harris, and back to projected realistic environments in an attempt to grasp some kind of concrete acceptance of the unknown.
“Many people think the modernist laboratory is now vacant. It has become less an arena for significant experiment and more like a period room in a museum, a historical space that we can enter, look at, but no longer be a part of. In art, we are at the end of the modernist era…” (Hughes)
It’s actually funny that someone can (potentially, if they haven’t already) have an art exhibition called ‘the history of space’ because of their chronicled paintings of a projected space age.
The future is a museum.
- 26/06/13, Gisborne