By Naushin Jafery
How Modern Art can influence the British Public
Modern art has increasingly been employed as a medium of expression and inspiration. Artists have become social commentators; their work a product of the philosophical, political and cultural climate of their time. Throughout the popular artistic movements of the 20th century until present day modern art has explored current issues; from the anti-war sentiment depicted in Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ to the vision of consumerism in Warhol’s ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans’. By showcasing current issues and often expressing ideas or anxieties about the future, modern art is a snapshot of its time.
Art can be seen everywhere often clashing with everyday life through advertisement and street art. Art is a vehicle to convey to the viewer an idea, message or opinion; at times challenging them to be introspective, nostalgic and often to consider the world they live in. Through its multifaceted potential modern art wields an endless possibility to influence the British public. My own belief is the positive influence modern art can have is through creating an awareness of current issues. The legacy of the art of political satire and propaganda which appeared during the First World War and Cold War can also be seen in many recent works. Images expressing fear, the political climate and social tensions have become commonplace; such as the unsettling vision of the future shown in Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s ‘TH 2058’ instillation, previously at the Tate Modern. Many artists and recent works have also focussed upon our increased surveillance and the so-called ‘big brother’ society, such as Banksy’s 2008 graffiti piece ‘One Nation Under CCTV ’.
The influence of modern art upon the British Public is also encouraging debate and discussion amongst people and very often dividing public opinion on issues such as the depiction of religion. As art is at the forefront of exploring new, often radical ideas it continually endeavours to break down boundaries and test the water with regard to controversial topicality. Many artists grapple with issues regarding censorship, and freedom of speech in order to convey their ideas. The ‘Sensation’ exhibition of Young British Artists is an example of this, as it included images of child murderer Myra Hindley and the Virgin Mary. While the effect and use of such art is debatable, it goes without saying that modern art consistently influences the public in Britain by evoking a reaction from the observer, whether this be pleasure, contemplation or repulsion. Looking towards the future and Britain 10 years from now it will be interesting to see if the role of modern art is still as central in our society and if our anxieties about the future come true.
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