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I note that he is extremely careful to describe the work in deliberately secular terms: as a symbol of history, as a work of art, as a sculpture, but not really as an angel, absorbing and engaging with the iconography of the angel, going back to early Christian mosaics; the idea that the wings, excessively elongated in the work, might be a source of spiritual comfort and protection; the possibility that the reason why The Angel of the North has had such a symbolic resonance and significance to people in the north is precisely that it is an angel, an emblem of rebirth.

Near us at home in the East End is a solitary figure on a post in the Thames outside The Grapes pub in Limehouse. We know that every work by Antony Gormley is based on himself. But the image of the man on his own surrounded by water; the sense of spiritual isolation and the opportunity for redemption; the idea of man born into the world in order to make sense of it — it is not a purely secular work of art, but has something of the sacred about it, which we respond to, even if we do not necessarily pay attention to it, and possibly even resist it, as an idea.

It is probably not for me to comment on the possible reasons for the decline in church-going, except that I am myself a symptom of it, having been brought up to take it for granted that I would attend church and now being an almost entirely lapsed Christian. 

What should be obvious is that, as a culture, we have not lost a need for an understanding of, and interest in, the unknowable: the origins of man; our purpose in the world; the ethical requirements of our behaviour towards one another; the belief that there is more to life than the satisfaction of material wants; the importance of understanding other people’s culture as well as our own. These human needs used to be satisfied to some extent at least by church attendance. But no longer. We no longer, or at least the great majority of us, no longer look to the church for the understanding and satisfaction of these needs. But these needs for the immaterial, for the experience of transcendence, for the mysteries of life as well as its material wants, have not just gone away. They have to be satisfied in some way. That is why contemporary art has moved into the space of the unknown, the exploration of the ineffable, through the experience of transcendence. Contemporary art is not just secular, but sacred as well.
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amcdonald
February 28th, 2017
2:02 PM
Perhaps the author has `lapsed` into `western-Buddhism`. Tim Marlow at the RA claims the RA is both traditional and radical (so it`s not just a twee and quaint jumble sale). This `western-Buddhism` tartling favoured by Frances Morris and Sarah Munro (the new Directors of Tate Modern and Baltic here in the NE)and the anti-Brexit artists, is all pervasive in the artworld. It`s the official public relations language. Would that be because they haven`t discovered Akiane Kramarik or refuse to mention her marvellous works because Jesus taught her ? Her parents were atheists when it started. No Remainers are interested. Which is interesting to us Object Oriented Ontologists who voted for Brexit. Keifer,Kapoor and Gormley have never mentioned Akiane either. A Michelangelo sculpture of a naked Christ is to be shown in London. It`s been stored away for hundreds of years. What will muslims say about it? Akiane is even better than Leonardo. The Curse Of The Tate Modern Curator is not eternal.

MarkL
February 21st, 2017
1:02 AM
People will drift back to the church, just as they did in the nineteenth century; now that the politics of wishful thinking has finally collapsed, where else can the soft-hearted go?

amcdonald
February 4th, 2017
10:02 AM
The Louvre has lost 2 million visitors (even before the recent terrorist attack) and Brit museum visitors are declining . The new figures are at the Guardian online. Terrorism and austerity politics are blamed. Artists who voted Remain run the Royal Academy . The BBC is run by a Remain voting management. It`s `analysis` of Brexit and Trump is lazy and sloppy. Not a single word about Camille Paglia or Julie Burchill on the subjects. Isn`t the will of the people sacred? At least David Hockney is capable of a good interview in the Sun online.

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