Ugly is beautiful
Avant-garde art is painting a flower during a war
Avant-garde art does not mean new art. In the art world there arise, and people speak about, numerous new forms of art, but these are tests for new art forms. The very essence of Avant-garde art is different.
So often, when talking with friends, they propose some strange idea saying ‘if you do this type of work, it will be interesting.’ Basically, they propose things to me thinking that I will like them, but it just embarrasses me. Just because we do extravagant things does not mean we are being avant-garde.
Living in society, men are equipped with the ability to adapt to it, understanding its influence.
There are people who gather information from it by using logic, and they fit in, but others live spontaneously in an intuitive manner. Thus, under the influence of society, every person responds in his own way and can live in it, accepting consciously or otherwise how to live in it.
The problem is the question of what the influence of society is. The sociologist Durkheim called this ‘psychological and social pressure’, but the way this pressure is felt is different for each person. For example, there are people who just look at what is in their immediate vicinity, and others who look further afield.
Avant-garde artists in particular feel this social pressure very little. In fact, there are many artists who do not have common sense and are insensitive to the influence of society. They are individualists and therefore they have a more forward-looking way of seeing things, and this way of living is expressed in their art.
If we think about events like the Second World War, or economic development with its ensuing environmental problems, they are considered unbelievable and questionable years later, but history shows that at the time, people thought they were a normal and obvious response. Avant-garde artists, however, express themselves independently of social development and perhaps do pictures of flowers even while a war is raging. This is avant-garde.
I always say that a picture is a fake, and a painter who abandons himself to fake things does not feel subject to social pressure. In other words, he expresses himself without the limiting and controlling factor of common sense. This is avant-garde art.
Many animals, especially catfish, become agitated before a great earthquake happens, though their behaviour is simply incomprehensible to human beings. Avant-garde art is the same.
Avant-garde artists are often thought to be incomprehensible by ordinary peo-ple, and their actions are considered eccentricities simply meant to capture the attention of the public and amaze them. If we look at the history of art, it is clear that the avant-garde has always revolutionised art and sounded an alarm bell about the way people live, even though the masses considered the artists involved to be clownish at the time.
In Japan, when the works of world-famous historical artists are discussed, it is invari-ably the beauty and the quality of the technique that are praised. This is because the Japanese are an ignorant people and they don’t care in the least that these works were created in the spirit of the avant-garde. When critics talk about Millet, for example, they always emphasise the beauty of his pictures, but he doesn’t strike me as a particularly good painter at all. At that time, there were plenty more much better from the technical point of view. But if we consider that Millet himself, influenced by the Rococo, had started out painting beautiful princesses with their splendid dresses, and then changed direction completely, portraying the beauty of country scenes and couples in simple attire, it is his avant-garde approach that they should appreciate him for.
I can say the same of Chardin. In an era when one would have expected paintings of magnificent flowers in ornate vases or luxurious interiors, Chardin painted old pans in the kitchen, with potatoes and vegetables poking out. Also of great significance was his pioneering spirit, placing still life at centre stage at a time when it was normally only a secondary subject. In short, the still lifes that were not considered worthy of painting were now proposed as protagonists. Avant-garde art thus revolutionises the perspective of what beauty means, and at the same time shows what human existence is like.