[VIEWPOINT]Lessons in modern artPeople generally say that modern art is unfriendly. Art should tell people everything on the spot, but it isn’t easy to understand modern art at first sight. Modern art doesn’t fit to a fixed frame of understanding art works.
That is true. Modern art has been likened to a game for quite some time now. There are rules to games, but one cannot participate in a game or even watch it without knowing those rules. Just as we can enjoy any sport if we know the rules, modern art is a field where we can only appreciate as much as we understand. Whereas the rules of sports or games are quite simple, however, the rules of modern art are complex and multilateral. How much we see and understand can vary greatly depending on how much we understand the rules.
Works that do not appear beautiful at all from the fixed traditional view of art are called great works that represent the age in modern art, and worthless things that are all around us are often used as materials for modern artworks. This is an age that acclaims works that make people suspicious of whether they are actually art in an artistic context. In other words, subjects that seem to belong to a different field are acknowledged as art. This means that art awareness is changing from placing importance on how beautifully something has been expressed to placing more importance on expressing what is considered beautiful. Modern artists have also worked for the past half century declining to reproduce beautiful things familiar to our eyes, while trying to define a new idea of beauty that is found in new and dynamic values.
Artists are the people who represent the emotions of the age, society and culture that they are in. But the value of the age that an artist understands does not necessarily have to accompany a great theory. We are already in an age that does not need great theories, but respects individualism and pays attention to artists who concentrate on small things from their everyday lives. In other words, modern art nowadays does not follow one direction but goes down many roads simultaneously and in a complex way. It is ideological as well as personal and there are no barriers between the genres of painting, sculpture, installation art and video art. An open mind that is willing to accept anything is needed first to understand this multi-faceted range of modern art.
In an age that is not simple at all, it might be contradictory to wish art to be simple and easy, as art reflects the age. Therefore, it is necessary for the audience of modern art, first of all, to approach modern art with curiosity and generosity, even though it may look complex and unfriendly.
Just as we change television channels without a second’s thought if the TV screen does not catch our eyes and ears, shallowness rules our age. In such an age, modern art is perhaps a game that makes us understand the rules through the minimum of patience and study that is required. However, you get to see and enjoy as much as you attempt to in modern art. If you look from a distance, it will relay a certain message from that distance, but if you go closer, it will reveal details to you and radiate a different charm. Modern art is like scenery that looks different depending on how far you see it from.
One has to make an effort to know another person. By the same token, it is unfair to expect art to show itself, while you just stand there. Yet there is no need to understand all the rules of the game fully to enjoy modern art. Just as we can watch and enjoy a sports game, even if we do not know all the rules but know the general basics, the same might go for modern art.
* The writer is the president of PKM Gallery. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Park Kyung-mee