Nicholas Merton MA(Cantab) ATCL lives and works in Peckham, London, with his wife the activist Chrissy Merton and their two daughters adopted from China.
He can be contacted at email@example.com
Royal Society of Portrait Painters 2003
Royal Society of Portrait Painters 2004
Royal Society of Portrait Painters 2005
Royal Society of Portrait Painters 2006
Royal Academy of Art 2006
BP Portrait Award 2007
Royal Society of Portrait Painters 2010
Royal Society of Portrait Painters 2011
Royal Society of Portrait Painters 2012
A NEW PARADIGM
We are living a disembodied existence. Over the last three hundred years conceptual thinking in art has, in my view, gradually become the overall context in which artists live and from which artists create their work. ‘Nothing wrong with that!’ you might say. But according to the late James Hillman, “our concepts extend their grasp over concretely vivid images by abstracting (literally “drawing away”) their matter”. In my view, a lot of contemporary art is losing its substance. Many of the installations, sculptures, paintings and ‘New Media’ that thousands flock to see are now becoming leaden idols rather than living, iconic carriers of vision and creation. This new glamour, shock value, titillation and cleverness parallel the celebrity culture filling our screens and magazines as an escape from the leadenness of daily life. Many of us have become adamantly metaphysical, dreaming up conceptual or spiritual worlds to either explain away or fill up the hole left by the physical imagination, which has now largely been emptied out.
Except as a commodity to feed our insatiable desires, MATTER NO LONGER MATTERS.
So, do concepts have any real substance? They cannot be touched, seen, they have no aroma. Hillman said of “the ego” and “the unconscious”, “I have personally never met either of them, except in a psychology book”. And yet, ever since the time of the Renaissance, we seem more and more to have thought of ourselves as our “minds”, our “thoughts” our “egos”, “opinions”, “judgements”, “evaluations”. As we are reading this we are likely to be judging and evaluating the squiggles of ink on these pages, and that automatic criticism almost always, in my view, gets in the way of allowing what we are experiencing to contribute to us. The context in which we live is so powerful, it is almost impossible in modern western society to separate ourselves from our analytical notions, and, I suggest, we are consequently living a life where we are no longer present to the substance of existence, to what is really here. Is there not now for a lot of people a sense of despair, where nothing much matters and somehow everything seems inauthentic? “Is this it, is this all there is?” we wonder. We seem to have a society where personal gratification of feelings and desires, selfish exploitation of the planet and a blatant and blind disregard for the facts has left thousands dying of hunger every day, a heated planet, and a mode of expression which can only entertain a jokey cynicism or a well-meaning seriousness which thinly veils an underlying stratum of deep resignation, (which we all pretend isn’t there).
If we really desire a life of substance, a life that matters, perhaps we should pay attention to our experience, our experience of sensate physical phenomena, and start creating a language of images and words that call forth a world that we actually want.
As Confucius said, "THE THERAPY OF CULTURE BEGINS WITH THE RECTIFICATION OF LANGUAGE".
How do we rectify the language of art to create a world that we really want? Before the Romans commandeered the word “cosmos” it meant fitting order – appropriate right arrangement, so that attention to particulars takes precedence over universals (by universals I mean concepts that live wholly in an epistemological objective world rather than the subjective experiential world in which we all actually live) . If we go back to the roots, to the origins of our teleology, our ‘cosmos’ is given by our state of integrity: a state of wholeness and completeness that is for the most part missing in who we are for ourselves and in our physical world today. The scientific, conceptual paradigm from which we view the universe could be enhanced by an aesthetic cosmology where one experiences inspirational display and sensual delight in the quality of our moment to moment existence, reconnecting us to the world we actually inhabit.
OUR LIVES COULD BE SHAPED BY A PROFOUND AND RICH METAPHORICAL IMAGERY WHERE WHAT IS THOUGHT, SAID AND WRITTEN COMES HOME TO LIVE EQUANIMOUSLY WITH WHAT THE SENSES SEE, THE HEART FEELS: BEING DEEPLY TOUCHED BY AN AROMA OF BEAUTY.
- 1James Hillman Alchemical Psychology (Spring Publications 2010) p18 Nicholas Merton, November 6th, 2016
- 2Ibid, p12