nicolas rothwell’s dying race theory of art

In his own relentless trajectory towards the dark side, Nicolas Rothwell can’t help evoking the loss of “depth” and “knowledge” in contemporary Aboriginal art. This time, referencing the master printmaker Basil Hall, once again the Roth plays his trump card:

“But there is another, darker evolution that he sees inevitably at work. Something is passing in remote area Aboriginal art as the artists raised in the bush, from largely traditional backgrounds, die and younger artists come to the fore… “The old art was special,” [Hall] says; then, rather tantalisingly: “The surface layer of the new art from the next generation may look the same but that other, deeper layer of knowledge and authority is perhaps changing.” And then, Hall again: “You get the strong sense that every mark they make has a reason for being there. In certain images where the marks may be very close to those used in body-painting you realise the artists aren’t playing around, everything is in its place, it’s not just an amusing hobby for them. With newer work, it’s more art for art’s sake. There might still be indigenous themes, but it’s a different, more contemporary animal.” And then the Roth again: “And so things pass: the fixed marks of tradition in all their rigid beauty fade; newer works, perhaps freer, perhaps more adventurous, come in their place.”

Is just this a throwaway line? Or has “salvage anthropology” now morphed into “salvage art history”? No, the Roth has been at it for years.  Read on…


#1 HB on 04.06.10 at 5:33 pm

Contemporary animals? A new take on Aboriginal art no doubt. I’m so glad they’re not “messing about” up there in Bas Hall Country. I just love it when people think that art making is an “amusing hobby” don’t you? All that mark making with no meaning?

#2 HB on 04.06.10 at 5:35 pm

I do like that pun!

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