Thursday, March 5, 2009

Keats and Yeats are on your side

Gerald Kelly, T.S. Eliot, 1962, oil, National Portrait Gallery. Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.

When I read John Hurrell's recent critique of youngish Auckland art group Raised by Wolves as being "too earnest and ‘goody-two-shoes’", and most of all lacking irony in their artistic practice (something to which I admit I am also very partial, though of course I'm nowhere near as old as John), these remarks by T.S. Eliot from 'The Uses of Poetry and the Uses of Criticism' came to mind.

"No generation is interested in art in quite the same way as any other; each generation, like each individual, brings to the contemplation of art its own categories of appreciation, makes its own demands upon art, and has its own uses for art ... Both artist and audience are limited. There is for each time, for each artist, a kind of alloy required to make the metal workable into art; and each generation prefers its own alloy to any other."
Which is not to suggest that criticism can only be made by members of the same generation: more that each generation has a concord of mutual understanding which is difficult for others to enter. I suspect in fact there's all sorts of irony going on here, just of a different variety. Or maybe I'm misreading it entirely?

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