About beauty – Part I

Love and beauty are two rarely uttered expressions these days, presumably for fear of saying something wrong or even appearing a fool. And yet, they are significant drivers for all of us; without them, our life would seem worth less to us.

Both are absolute – and ultimately undefinable – terms that have all but lost their meaning in our thoroughly functionalized, efficiency-oriented everyday lives. And yet, they are the touchstones that we perpetually strive for, both in our private and professional lives.

I have pondered the question of beauty in art for my whole life. Fully acknowledging the outdatedness of the very term, I did not resist temptation to ask the artists I was in touch with about their opinion on beauty in art. Here are some of the answers that seem relevant to me:

Julio Le Parc (2005):

The idea of beauty is very arbitrary, because it is linked to conditioning, to prejudices that people have about what is and what is not beautiful. In general, for me, something beautiful is something that brings me a certain peace, a certain energy, a certain hope… The idea of beauty has not to be tied to a work of art either, because I may find a situation, a landscape in the countryside beautiful. I may find a person`s behaviour beautiful, in the end…During other periods, the idea of beauty corresponded to established canons. Nowadays too, a beautiful woman is one who appears in the magazines with the right proportions, and the slimmer the better.

The same thing happens in art. There are fashions: what used to be considered beautiful is no longer so, what sells at the moment, what is fashionable, is what is beautiful. For me in particular, there are many things which give me that feeling of beauty when there is something that moves me, not necessarily perfect things. There are also drawings, paintings, that you can consider beautiful without the need for them to belong to the same tendency as yourself.

So, if I classify something as beautiful, its not because I apply a pre-established canon of beauty, but because the things I see and come across in life manage to touch me in some way or other, I feel that they are positive. In general, what has beauty helps people to live. When you come across something that is beautiful, you feel good. If you see something that is falling apart, deteriorating, wasting away, it provokes mortification; you don’t experience beauty, but something that pulls you backwards and downwards. I go down to the street and there s a couple of newly-weds, the bride dressed in white, the people well turned out, perhaps the sun is shining and they emerge from a church and its a beautiful moment. A funeral can be beautiful too, especially the old-fashioned ones, with the horses, a black carriage and the people behind. There is the emotion of the life that has ended, and at the same time there is the emotion of the life that continues.

(Le Parc Lumière, Daros-Latinamerica / Hatje Cantz, 2005, p. 25-26)

Fabian Marcaccio (2006):

I don’t think in terms of the concept of beauty, in the classical sense. Beauty is not one of my preoccupations before the work. It is rather a result. It has a certain dialogue with the abject. I am looking for balance rather than beauty, but its really a balance of chaos, a kind of trying not to reduce, to maintain a complexity. There is no difference for me between the work and my conception of life in itself.

The accident as an integral part of tranquillity and calm. War as an integral part of peace. Night mixed with day. The digital and the virtual connected with reality. Those seem much more important to me than an a priori about beauty. There is a certain dramatic beauty in an operation, like a beauty of poverty in the sensuous sense. I think that’s a more Latin American thing, because in America there is a certain taste for pop or what is vulgar, and in Europe there is a certain taste for the povero, in the Marxist sense of being poor, Italian Arte Povera. While in Latin America and in the more peripheral countries there is a certain sensuousness of poverty, because the poor wants to be rich, generally speaking, and it is the rich who can see Arte Povera as in some way refreshing. All these elements I am mentioning have a lot to do with the complexity of how to consider beauty at this moment. Beauty today is in disarray in the sense that it is facing situations that it never had to face before, not even in the twentieth century.

(Fabian Marcaccio, Paintant Stories, documentos daros 1, 2006, p. 100-101)

Guillermo Kuitca (2006):

GK: I get the impression that beauty and privacy are connected with one another. Its very difficult for beauty to be something public. My notion of beauty, probably like that of any other artist or anyone else who lives in an aesthetic world, is connected with what I find beautiful, so I have the impression that beauty is privacy.

HMH: I think that knowing also produces beauty.

GK: I probably don’t search for beauty, let’s put it like that, even though it may sound a bit abstract, but I don’t go out looking for it. However, if what I have done creates the situation in which the spectator has to look for or find beauty, that is something else, but I cannot go along that road for it. I have the impression that in any case beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In other words, its very difficult for the process towards the beautiful to be given by the work. Generally speaking, I think that if the work is constructed in an exaggerated way to lead in that direction, the most likely is that the spectator will be led in the opposite direction. I don’t mean this as a defence of ugliness, but I don’t think there is a contradiction between the one and the other.

(Das Lied von der Erde, Guillermo Kuitca, Daros Latinamerica / Hatje Cantz, 2006)

Carlos Amorales (2007):

Beauty is very important to me. Its something that I feel has always been expressed, in one way or another, or has always had an interest. I couldn’t give you a perfect definition of what beauty is to me, but I think that its that moment of contradiction that an image can have, of absolute seduction and absolute repulsion. Its like a moment of vibration.

I think that is how I could define beauty: as something that has a lot of meaning, but which loses it and opens up a space to you. And that is exactly what I try to do in my work; not to say something or to create a specific allegory or discourse, but to create the possibility for a viewer to be able to associate his or her own idea within a composition of images. For me beauty has that potential. I also think that beauty goes beyond reason and has a rebellious potential, above all with regard to all the discourses that exist in the world of art, which are very politicised. That is, to create something that is beautiful, but without knowing exactly what its saying, it can be very disturbing, very tricky, disquieting, and I like that. Beauty allows you to feel a work of art and not only to rationalise it, that you can be physically moved by it. Which is something very important in art.

(Carlos Amorales, Dark Mirror, Daros-Latinamerica / Hatje Cantz, 2007)

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