David Westling Artist

Artist's Statement

One wants to proceed as if the revolution of the mind of the late 19th and early 20th centuries actually did happen. But this is an age of retrenchment, in which the politics of art has taken on a pedestrian character. The example of Dante has been forgotten. As Jacob Burkhardt has said:
"In the Middle Ages both sides of human consciousness, within as well as without, lay dreaming or half awake beneath a common veil. The veil was woven of faith, illusion, and childish prepossession, through which the world and history were seen clad in strange hues. Man was conscious of himself only as a member of a race, people, party, family, or corporation — only through some general category. In Italy this veil first melted into air; an objective treatment and consideration of the state and of all the things of this world became possible. The subjective side at the same time asserted itself with corresponding emphasis; man became a spirited individual, and recognized himself as such.”
--Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance In Italy, p. 70.

Now the "general category" has reasserted itself. Individualism took a wrong turn and reappeared in its guise of Ahab. This, of course is a stilted and false individualism, but the strong tendency to collectivism in the current intellectual climate does not seem to admit of a more beneficent individualism.

The poetic spirit's task is something far different now than it was in 1910. One does not wish to fight battles long ago won, such as establishing the legitimacy of Cubism or Surrealism. One must adopt a different and ever different approach to avoid serving the dictates of the Combine. Picasso's words on this subject still apply: "Art doesn't exist to decorate the space above the sofa. Art is an offensive weapon in the defense against the enemy." But what is the enemy? It is a shapeshifter. And so the individual pictures keep changing their character in my work. At the same time, we are beleaguered by creeping MFAism. One learns to defer to the pedagogic imperative there above all else, which leads to an art that smacks of obscurantism on the one hand and facile political posturing on the other.

The artist is situated, better than anyone else, to partake in the struggle against repression. As such, in this era, one wants to play with the basic categories of artistic expression. But the progressive refusal of traditional means is itself now incorporated into the academy, and the Surrealist "crisis of the object" is still with us. I pursue an art of radical destabilization for this time, not the time of the Modernists or even the postmodernists, for I feel like leaving ideals behind and creating realities.