COMMENTARY: Painting and the End of History


Richard Bledsoe “The Offering” oil on canvas 36″ x 48″

“What’s past is prologue.”

-William Shakespeare

We have been unfortunate to live in a era when the educated classes have been indoctrinated into an uneasy and unsustainable relationship with the past. The elites don’t want to be held accountable for their ongoing deceptions and abuses, so there has been a systematic effort to deny and revise our understanding of history.

The past is full of examples of the consequences of the end results of power mad schemes, and the current anointed don’t want that perspective available. Here’s a hint: it always ends badly for the schemers, but usually after they have inflicted huge human costs and damages onto others.

So far in my brief existence, we’ve seen the enforcement of the postmodern mentality, with the core concept that all ideas and values are relative, and will serve whoever gets to grab the means of communications. We’ve been harangued about multiculturalism, which insists every civilization is of equal merit, ignoring the almost universal conditions of mass poverty, repression, strife and inequality that have always existed, and continue to be the typical standard of living most especially in places that do not follow the model of the West.

We’ve seen the utter collapse of Communist states, which talked egalitarianism while enslaving and massacring their own populations. But we are encouraged to overlook the catastrophic failures of this 19th century philosophy to ever work out in reality. Marxism is the big bait-and-switch by which aristocrats camouflage their graft and privileges, and our society is enduring yet another top-down campaign to get us all to buy into it.

Just few decades ago it was trendy to discuss “the end of history.” The thought was we had reached the perfection of human society and now we would tick along just like clockwork. The establishment wants desperately for this to be true, because this would lock the existing power structure into place forever. The current elites are secular, global, urban, technocratic, hypocritical, domineering, and arrogant. They think they’ve cracked the code to remain masters of the world in perpetuity.

History scoffs at this vision of Utopia, which to the establishment means they get to dictate to everyone else how to live and what to believe-even though their vision of existence is so empty and limiting. Life will crush them like it crushes all tyrants. We will make new history tracing their downfall.

My paintings are haunted by the past. The inspirational visions I have come dressed in the appearances of earlier eras. I am informed in this imagery by my readings in history and literature.

I understand my place is as part of a continuum, not just as an isolated fragment of the now. In my art I evoke an eerie nostalgia for the past. Not only do I understand that in time I will be joining that infinite regression, I also understand the past has much to teach us about the present. Really there is nothing new under the sun.

The art world in particular has been very misguided in its rejection of its own traditions. The obsessive insistence on so-called novelty and boundary crossing has rendered the visual arts into an irrelevant, rudderless shell of itself. The efforts to put the unskilled and soulless offerings of contemporary establishment art on the same footing as the masterpieces of earlier eras does nothing but highlight the failures of the current efforts.

Those who would erase or misrepresent history are not to be trusted. They are afraid of what the past proclaims about their current actions, and they know any informed judgements would be harsh.

In their 1999 Remodernism Manifesto, Billy Childish and Charles Thomson defended acknowledging the foundations civilization is built on:

5. We don’t need more dull, boring, brainless destruction of convention, what we need is not new, but perennial. We need an art that integrates body and soul and recognizes enduring and underlying principles which have sustained wisdom and insight throughout humanity’s history. This is the proper function of tradition.

These two English painters understood the power of historical perspective in the arts, and how it serves real progress in our culture. This understanding applies to more than just painting.

7 thoughts on “COMMENTARY: Painting and the End of History

  1. Agreed. History will always repeat itself when arrogance, ignorance (and greed too, for that matter) will continue to prevail in the human society. Those of us that study history shake our heads and sigh with disgust, while the rest of the world just seems oblivious and wrapped in their own doings and drama. You are unfortunately correct, the cost is always great. Why don’t the ones “in charge” ever learn from the past and make things better? Why is human (so-called) civilization perpetuating this damnation and suffering? What will it take ~ the obliteration of the whole planet before people finally realize “what’s up” but by then it will be too late? How can we get the awakened ones to unify to prevent more catastrophe?

  2. “Make it new,” said Pound. We have to be retaught the lessons of the past, but it must be done in such a way that catches our eyes and warrants our attention. Tradition is tradition because it is the accumulated wisdom of many generations of trial and error.

    It’s a tricky objective, but a vital one. Living in an age of countless blinking and bleeping distractions, and with the modern mindset telling us to discard the past for the shiny, new world that’s sure to come, we certainly have our work cut out for us.

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