To all the kind people who have sent me books recently, I am deeply grateful. I've been reading Scruton's "On Beauty" on the train lately, and it is a difficult choice between reading his beautiful ideas and looking out the window at the gorgeous Italian countryside. (We are in hay-mowing season, and as I said yesterday in a text to a friend, the sight of a newly mown hay field fills me with a sense of rightness and mysterious joy that no amount of serotonin-imbalance can touch.)
This, via Cusack, comes from another adherent to The Real and the Good, Beautiful and True in Art, Alexander Stoddart, a Scot who has retained his national ability to tell it straight:
Modern art is “rubbish”, narcissistic, snobby, devoid of skill, ignorant of taste, gripped by “nostalgia for the future”. But it goes deeper than that. It’s a difference of opinion about what art should do. Art, he says, has always been about “trying to alleviate the pain of existence”. Modern art “collaborates with misery as opposed to trying to oppose it”.
“A painting by Titian is like a Leningrad, holding out against the forces of the world. Even if they’re having to eat rats in there, they still will never surrender to it. Whereas the art of Tracey Emin is a complete capitulation to the world. Cutting a shark in half and putting it in a tank of piss is just art giving up. I find it very odd when they describe art as challenging, because I always thought art was meant to calm you like a lullaby, not challenge you like some skinhead in an underpass.”