The return of the sublime

Dominic Redfern, one of my Honours supervisors suggested that the sublime was something that may be relevant to both me and my work. From Wikipedia:

In aesthetics, the sublime (from the Latin sublimis (exalted)) is the quality of transcendent greatness, whether physical, moral, intellectual or artistic. The term especially refers to a greatness with which nothing else can be compared and which is beyond all possibility of calculation, measurement or imitation. This greatness is often used when referring to nature and its vastness.

I then did a quick Google search and came across a short article the return of the sublime: the romantic impulse by Max Podstolski. In it he discusses the return of the sublime within post-modern art. Some of the points he raised really connected with me and what I’ve been contemplating with relation to my art:

Artists are impelled to rebel because the establishment is always a form of tyranny which curtails artistic freedom. Even when it appears on the surface that “anything goes”, as with postmodernism, there is the tacit assumption that an artist must adopt the trappings of PoMo theory-speak to be taken seriously by the artworld establishment. If not to do so is to risk being ignored and marginalised by the pecking order, then why not quote a French philosopher or two in your next exhibition catalogue? Could be a smart move, career-wise.


There is very good reason for artists with an ounce of integrity to be concerned with “highly emotive concepts” such as the sublime. For a start, why shouldn’t they be passionate about their art? Isn’t irony equally past its use by date, if not more so, having been done to death in recent years? As the saying goes, there is nothing new under the sun. The flipside of the coin is that there’s nothing old. The pendulum of artistic fashion swings where it will, but artists should take inspiration from wherever they find it.

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