The New Public Art


Stephen Hornsby-Smith
Stephen Hornsby-Smith

The “Public Art” of the 21st. century isn't a location or destination but a totally unique reformation of what is public art by rebirth. Any competitive 21st century cultural, mutually sustainable and healthy art climate abandons 20th century art by firstly, (sp)art(an) lines of formal concrete “art fiddle taboo”, and secondly, its post-modern successor, in order to embrace growth and supersede and stimulate organic art by reversion and revision. Both firstly, linear and secondly, its opposite (the diffuse endless layers of relativism) do retain some relevance by reconciling some of what it has inherited and disinherited by its mass British painter practitioner participation. It has emerged as an exploration beyond our polluted or stigmatised past and the showcasing of the future of universal individualism that literally and symbolically transcends. This is a nation of painters rebuilt by self-build. This is Britain's zeitgeist of a society of paint open to original demography and practising their vision of a British new classless community without tawdry ideology but demanding a fierce work ethic with the ethos of an increasingly self-aware, self-sufficient, open “pealing back layer by layer” community. This is a unique expressive and imaginative upgrade for public art on canvas. This is a phenomenon that has not been forced, it is a spontaneous upsurge sourced without top-down imposition. Why is this significant? It is because this finally symbolises the collapse of “our Berlin Wall” that has fallen to trigger the full exposure of the Cold War detritus and its subsequent fall-out. This is both art-convalescence and non-authoritarianism. This is unconventional as social production of self-art where self-dialogue initiates public access to public art.


There is no doubt that we are witnesses to a chain reaction to the failure of public art and access to art to involve all communities let alone community-led art! Our micro-British climate demands an acknowledgement by the “art churl” and a total social and cultural reset. Let me be blunt, if the art world can't fix the formal, log-jam problem let the public do it themselves – to me this is the better part of valour! There are no cultural monopolies where there could be coexistence and symbiotic cultural relationships where a positivistic immersion into “our local British cottage industry” would drain the toxic stigma away from formal over and under spin where cultural monopolies have been replaced by open forums and organic method. Today the brush stroke displaces the limited egalitarian sm(art) phone of conceptual art by image dialogue that is non-analogue.


It is with great irony that like in the detection of criminality the metaphorical fingerprint of today is the D.N.A. evidence and similarly the D.N.A. of art (paint) has always been ahead not behind its time. Moreover what do lab forensics use to find evidence but powder and a brush? And what would we find 70,000 years ago in South Africa but powder blown to reveal a human hand!? When I say to you about the connection of humanity and paint should I say “do the math” or should I say “do the forensics and follow the paint”?


Paint is as successful by eschewing the artless artifice, that fetishist doctrinal hierarchy concreted over by reverse elitism mired in manufacturing of the short-selling “idea art economy” as it is as free at the point of delivery. We the art community have been wearing masks of myopia and blinkers of an anti-social binge status in our social media of “dependency democracy". What can not be undone? Well let painting originality “deep clean” our art health and unmask the range and expanse of art paint without recoil or blowback. Let's not self-serve, let's abandon our own self-consumption. Materialism comes and goes with or without us, so why chase and pretend to be art chaste? Even when paint dries change occurs unlike face paint to show our sporting allegiances, our allegiance to paint can be said to “never dry”! But can the same be said of 'idea art'?


But this does beg the question: what drove painting to be so conspired against? What was the 'paint'? Why drop a virus (paint) into one's own art economy? Why self punish? Here's some background: the collective isolation of the Warsaw Pact countries were largely rigid in their Communist centrist loyalty to the state industry of socialist realism that was deemed self-modernized by 'soviet' modernist version of the art transformations of the 1920s. But the Soviets had become dependent and ossified in their obsolete apparatus and lack of peripheral vision despite their sense of soviet painting superiority; anything that would upset the soviet cultural 'holding policy' since the 1920s could undermine all of the soviet programme and destabilize Warsaw Pact homogeneity. This would've been gold dust to the west and a tempting precedent of 'infecting' an adversary by breaking the raison d'etre of “soviet Marxist science” by a contemporary cultural trojan horse. It would be like putting it in mock cold war stocks whilst drunk in a cultural circus by art dementia, ending with a show trial of ridicule where soviet painting would be exposed as antediluvian by the triumphalist western standards of anti-painting 'post structuralism'. The west couldn't be accused of subversion or cynicism because the west had a cultural alibi of having the same self-inflicted vulnerability processed by deconstruction. But for the west such an adroit sacrifice was survivable whereas for the east it was art Chernobyl.


So this is a reward for the singular and most important formal art confrontational subversion of the last 40 years by any art medium. Paint was selected to metaphorically “exhibit” the soviet cultural collapse by a pro-western double agent (paint), ostensibly to enforce a new perspective on modernism whilst launching withering venom from a western 'idea (conceptual) art' right in their faces! Today paint enjoys the unspoken accolade of setting a trap to infect a determined adversary without self-incrimination. Today paint enjoys setting in motion the throttling of paint Soviet style from the beginning of constructivism to the terminal end of socialist realist Marxist death rattle of Soviet modernism turned by Western art subversion! The great western democratic art hoax of its day also killed off the relativism of post-modern formal chairs and firewalls and the faux recoding and decorative 'hyperbole'. Paint today is utilitarian, cracking codes in aesthetic persuasion not by conquest and deference or condescending indulgence. It has been a weapon and an art solution! Delimiting space to work the image 'fatigue' became 'our' greatest art trojan horse of our era! Paint was not just our art strength rather than our art weakness, but it secreted its western value for us to explore today! Paint deceived the deceiver!


But it also paved the way for an alarming flip-side of subversion, namely the wholesale Soviet Maoist re-working of socialist realist art in China! China has adopted conceptual art and swamped the western art world with it! Soviet China gleaned how successful western relativism was in shaking down the USSR, and it decided to undercut its capitalist rivals by beating western conceptual art at its own game in their own 'back-yard'. Human rights violations in two system communist China proved its profitable art export, where China unofficially licensed Chinese conceptual artists to 'rebel' against official Chinese soviet doctrine. It spun and authenticated it by selling metaphorical T-shirts and flags and DVDs to lure-in foreign currency to subsidise its programme. Basically the Chinese Politburo drowned and flooded the Chinese socialist realist painting to build an art hydro-electric dam to make 'conceptual art energy' regardless of the implications for 'villagers' beneath! So will China revert or continue to swamp the art market? Or can it afford to hide millions of art painters beneath the conceptual art party-line subterfuge by back channelling ancient pre-communist Chinese art instead? It's Achilles heal might involve the very absence of centralized control by its opening Pandora's box. This is where the British lead! The apex of our British mass paint enterprise will decentralize the shit out of art by its parlays with free paint. But the conceptual art global brand may be dependent on when, if and what the Chinese communist party decide? The Western reputation of 'absence of the derivative' idea art might actually be controlled by Chinese 'speculators' (political spin doctors) or 'idea art' becoming extraneous to western priorities? So when will art archaeological art digs dig-up conceptual art by Duschamps back in the 1920s to reject conceptual idea art as derivative and 'yesterday's news'? Art 'noblesse' will become recessive, derivative and digressive.


We are, on the other hand, opening our account in our 21st. Century modernism's non-bank by all the human investment canvas “existential free credit artsis, cathars by bump start” or by shear steely spark of will to lay a fingerprint to join up our one hundred and eighty past on our new future together. We are not splitting the atom or rendering masonry but we are passing the CV history baton and restoring chemistry with or without fake news chaos! We are inviting the conduit of the “brush” to engage our primal need to create and regenerate ourselves by paint. This primal urge in a post-social, rigid class Britain brands the blend of non-herd British instinct for independence from other cultural, political, socio-economic judgmentalism. This process does not need to compartmentalise; and a “nation of shopkeepers” could we be a nation of painters too? Our individual and mass composite expression can be truly uniquely representative of all Britons whilst uniting and restoring disparate one hundred and eighty years which began the proverbial term of “modern art”. We can consider binding its staggered and wayward progress as “our” development to entrust new generations to mutually sustain, conserve and then transcend our impetus for greater achievement! The “plot” is not a conspiracy but a self-build started by an English painter, Turner, that is ancient and restorative as well as forward and free thinking without aesthetic or political conventionalism or inhibition by state dictat!


So what do we mean by Chinese state denial of false imprisonment and human rights violations that are barely concealed beneath the western radar when this provides China with an alibi for the deliberate encouraging of a 'civil rights business'? It means that the west is being manipulated. A state denial within a denial for export proffers a re-invention of an era of post-cold war Europeanism for a post-truth, white noise, false flags agenda. It is indeed a highly lucrative two systems and two-faced agenda-bender stimulation of both western suspicion and fear but also to induce an indirect western subsidizing of modern China. The digital Chinese company Hua Wey may have been outlawed in some western countries but the mass purchasing of American national debt (into the trillions of dollars) has anchored Chinese capitalism into the very back yard of westernism. This financial 'take over' traps American foreign policy or has fired the starting pistol for a new trade stand-off a new art race in which eventually 'the glut' of Chinese conceptual art will be the indicator of a bigger macro-economic plague being played out! A mutual deterrent of 'blowing each other out of the economic water' demands collective nationalistic capitalism driven by state enforcement upon individual impetus in a state of 'communist consumerism' initiated by China, regardless of whether it's a failed mutation of Marxism or a corruption of capitalism.


Does this afford China huge short-term cultural global pre-eminent status? Will China continue to swamp the art market? Or will China back channel its emergence with an emphasis on its ancient pre-communist ink Buddhist art to re-draw cultural expectations and re-grow its stock of the pre- and perhaps anti-communist foreign market? This offers great cultural power, but its Achilles heal might involve the very absence of centralized control if China cannot close its opening of Pandora's box! This is where the British lead! The apex of our own British mass paint exercise without any concerted financial enterprise will 'decentralize the shit out of the art process' by free paint without any undue influence effecting it by the global cultural conceptual art brand that may or may not be dependent on when, if and what the Chinese communist party decide on the merits of its cultural relationships and state dictat! In fact the 'British cottage paint industry' may not be able to compete with Paris, New York and Beijing but its symbolic revivalism is symbolic of a rejection of macro-cultural enforcement that could be more instructive because of its aesthetic independence. Indeed, it's only a matter of time when China will expose western globalism as derivative and destructive just as conceptual art was to the late 1920s work of Marcel Duschamps himself!! 'Idea art' was Duschamps baby that is a century old and in a palliative care home for the art elderly, contrasted with 'Chinese initiative' in its own brand! But can Chinese conceptual art survive the recessive, derivative and digressive decay of western markets, or will America buy up the Chinese cultural conceptual art going into debt, biding its time to flood and dump it on the global market? How to make very little money and to arrest power from the Chinese is and always has been a capitalist western weapon with a very important client to work for.


Therefore the medium of paint binds generational progress whereas idea art (conceptual art) can digress and become tangential and devalued, susceptible to a hostile 'take over' without roots and foundations, in the history and the future of art. The ground to cover and the ground to uncover in itself exhausts passivity and breaks out from the physical dimensions of each canvas and stimulates a process of paint escalation. 'The infinite canvas' can never answer all questions but it inspires and enfranchises unique possibilities of momentum! Paint doesn't fail to illuminate; it only incenses and increases the variables of potential.


'Form exactitude' and, the definitive is yesterday's thinking readying itself for a shelf-life. Unlike the American generation of purchasers who salvaged the impressionist and post-impressionist modernist programme of the late 1890s, formal limitations of 1950's abstract expressionism first devalued the painting modernist medium by fast tracking prematurely post-war cultural America, with an absolutism that personified the American brand without any care or consideration for the consequences. Unlike previous generations it was not informed by American cultural insight. Formally its esoteric but clumsy over emphasis did relocate art to New York from post-war stricken Europe, but it too was 'new money' buying up 'American bling' without historical and cultural foundations to root and anchor global inter-dependance upon it. It is with great irony that 'new money Beijing' has provided the American post war consumer dream with that level of self-critical perspective that has given the very roots and foundations that America may well have benefitted from. It is a further irony that the medium of low-tech painting may well culturally bail-out the cultural superpowers from their over fixation with conceptual art. Perhaps the real strong and powerful foundations of 'modern art' remain inside the D.N.A. of paint, and its chasing-down of what it means to be a painter, now, before and after!!