Yesterday – on August 6th, a very sad thing happened. Robert Hughes – one of Australia’s great intellectuals, and a champion of art passed away.
Presented at school as our ‘art history lesson’ – his television series ‘Shock of the New‘ was shown, in its entirety on old video tapes – starting to wear from over-use but precious none-the-less for the gold within. In our darkened room we were exposed to glowing Rothko masterpieces, terrifying Bacon works where the paint looked like meat smeared across the canvas, saw Van Gough as more than a picture, and I met my first huge art crush – Edvard Munch, who spoke to me night and day in terms of colour and freedom of brushstroke for years. Some of it I understood immediately, some needed time and thought, but he had such a brilliant turn of phrase and that mix of peculiar looks, physicality & intellect that is always fascinating and makes one think twice about dismissing a statement that is challenging.
I think, if I had ever met him in person he would have scared the life out of me. He seemed fierce, even in his later days – after his car accident, when he was obviously uncomfortable in his body – no doubt having time to sit would have been frustrating for someone who reportedly liked to enjoy the world and everything in it.
He was probably ready to go. But what a loss.
Hughes made me think – as a young person, that art was worth fighting for. That stretching your mind to see everything in a considered and individual way was the meaning of existence for an artist – and that was what I wanted passionately.
We are all on a lifelong journey of learning. Lately I have found my art journey to be a very personal one. Tapping into the bigger consciousness and searching for meaning beyond my own soul’s expression has been beyond me. I used to spend a long time enjoying discussions on why a big black square was more important art for the things it brought out in the viewer than a well executed pastoral scene. I still believe that, but accept totally that not everyone has the energy or the will to connect on such a deep level. Being reminded by Hughes death of his search for meaning within art makes me ashamed on some level that I have concentrated on the mark-making more than the conceptual journey, but in some ways life seems too short as one ages for that.
I miss you already Robert. The world seems so much smaller without you in it.