The Animal Spirit
by Aaliya Shakti
Human art pre-dates human language—it's one of our oldest practices. Art is intrinsic to our nature. Its products should be readily understood and accessed by anyone. Sadly, that is not the case with a lot of art in the modern era. There are complex reasons for this. Art has shifted away from documenting nature realistically; from toiling in the capricious service of patrons and theocrats; from functioning as decoration. The industrial age came on the heels of the Enlightenment and photography stepped up to the plate to challenge the need for painterly realism. Artists found more value in introspection, delving into psychology, metaphysics, politics and even interpreting the new reality of particle physics. The function of art was radically overhauled. Artists, working at the coal face understood this shift but the general public often lagged in seeing the necessity of sacrificing beauty on the alters of modernism and post-modernism. And that has led to a drawn out disconnect between the arts establishment and the public who still flock to the pre-20th century masters and largely avoid modern art.
A gallery isn’t a random collection of artworks. It’s a curation, a story telling. A work of art out of context can be daunting to someone not steeped in art history or art theory, but a properly curated gallery gives you context, it builds connective tissue and helps you to broaden your horizons. The story that Nuna sets out to tell is summed up by that single word: context. If you begin at the beginning, with the first symbols and animal portraits painted on the walls of caves, you see it. The human hand and mind working together, saying something that the artist wanted others to hear.
If you follow that thread into historic times, you see how that original artistry was transformed by culture but was rendered by the same sophisticated human hand, and with that realisation you can make sense of what came before and after. In classical times, a honing and veneration of skill led to an outpouring of monumental art. The renaissance revived that tradition after the middle ages, through which the grand tradition of western art was kept alive by the annotations of monks copying books in scriptoriums. The excess energy of the Renaissance inspired a reactionary energy that splintered into movements and rebellions and led to abstraction and stylisation in its myriad forms.
The spread of western cultural influence around the globe has infiltrated other cultural traditions and you can see a fusion of ideas and practice reinvigorating art in these cultures too.
And so we have returned to the beginning—the paintings of half-man, half-animal that spoke to shamanistic mythologies on the rock canvasses of our ancestors find a corollery in the modern depictions of the minotaur by Picasso. Both sets of works are laden with sexual energy, bristling with inscrutible intent, and represent the human hand in concert with its companion mind. Art has lost none of its power over our imaginations. The chance to view art as a tapestry, as afforded by Nuna, is a rare opportunity, not to be missed!Return to Essays