Where Are We Going?

In a society marked by waning social bonds, a flood of epidemic bad news and a longing for the freedom of the past, a Romantic spirit in art is surging. It entails a vocabulary of yearning for another world, another time and another place. To transcend the present horizon becomes a goal and its achievement is inspired by possible better futures as well as past good times. No wonder the social media is flooded with stories of happier times in the past; the safety of parental shelter; precious personal belongings and experiences. Yet, in its many manifestations in art, literature and music, Romanticism has never really been about the sentimental and the picturesque. Looking at Caspar David Friedrich's Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (1817), the picturesque of the scene serves to portray the lonely wanderer's wish to escape the present and explore the unknown.

Friedrich confronts us with a symbolically charged landscape. Many contemporary New Romantic artists do exactly that. The work of Performance artist Francis Alÿs is saturated with a wish for societal change; comment about the cyclical nature of things that don't really change; and a lonely struggling figure on exhausting journeys trying to produce alteration. In a recent exhibition at the Beirut Art Centre, Alÿs presented Knots 'n Dust (2018) in which he deals with the dust circulating in the air between Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Part of this exhibition was also a series of postcards with images of the dust on cars and the city. Becoming symbolic of the residue of war, Alÿs's dust reminds us of the coronavirus we are fighting.

Another New Romantic artist is the Spanish/South African artist, Pascual Tarazona. In his work currently featured by Elfriede Dreyer Gallery