To quote Damien Hirst “If you can ‘do’ the art world at 32, it means that there is something wrong with the art world, not that you are a genius”. André Durand saw Away from the Flock once, in the Serpentine Gallery the same day another visitor poured ink into the formaldehyde. The thought of a black sheep triggered his imagination – a blackened, dead, Postmodern lamb. So often a victim in European art, the lamb suddenly became a symbol for art itself; the aquarium a tomb. For Durand, Hirst’s pickled sheep swiftly emerged as an apt symbol of how far art had gone astray.
Neomodernism is a new movement in art. Neomodernism is a philosophy of art, a way of looking and seeing that creates personal relationships with works of art from the 5th century BC to modern times.
Neomodernism acknowledges the primacy of the Hegelian Idea, upholds both figuration and abstraction, and resists the traditional distinction between old master and modernist works of art.
Although political correctness has wrought havoc with many traditional symbols of European art, the lamb, a revered and ancient symbol, has fared far better than most. Early Christians adopted the lamb, a sacrificial animal of the Old Law, to represent a triune innocence of gentleness, purity and self-sacrifice that would challenge sorcery and defeat paganism: when the lamb bleeds into a chalice, it represents Christ’s sacrifice; when it carries a banner, it becomes a symbol of Christ’s resurrection.
Indeed, the lamb in painting has experienced a mystical re-birth in a picture by André Durand which reflects upon Damien Hirst’s Away from the Flock, a Postmodern work that has achieved iconic status as a symbol of Britart. In Durand’s picture Away from the Flock, the lamb symbolises art that has gone astray.
Durand’s Away from the Flock/Et In Arcadia Egois an emblematic ‘Neomodern’ picture, extending the dialectical movement from so-called high art to Postmodernism and beyond. Neomodernism restores the traditional and eternal values of art while contemplating the essence and potential of the present.
Away from the Flock/Et In Arcadia Ego, with its traditional painterly values, is an epiphany of the Hegelian Idea, eloquently manifest in the nude shepherd. Durand’s four shepherds refuse to tend Damien Hirst’s sheep: Postmodernism is dead, yet Durand possesses the talent and humility to recognise and acknowledge the primacy of the Idea in art. Durand has entombed Hirst’s Away from the Flockin a Neomodernist arcadia. Spirituality and beauty in painting have been resurrected. The Ilissos-like shepherd’s self-contained beauty dominates the composition, and links the picture’s iconography to ancient Greece.
Like Henry Moore, Durand has spent many hours in the British Museum contemplating and drawing that indisputably great piece of sculpture, the Ilissos from the east pediment of the Parthenon, which represents a formal discovery as valid as the formulation of a philosophic truth (Kenneth Clark The Nude, A Study in Ideal Form, Pantheon Books, 1953). We understand why the artisans who painted the Greek sculptures were often paid higher wages than the sculptors when we study the way Durand has rendered in oil on linen the luminous flesh tones of his shepherd. Here we are confronted with a nude on a par with its predecessors – a self-assured Ilissos reborn, greeting the 21st century, and signalling a new direction in the history of art: Neomodernism.
Armando Bayraktari, 2000
The Neomodern Manifesto sets out a programme for a revitalised approach to art founded on art history, discipline, and philosophy. Neomodernism sees art as an expression of the most sublime spiritual principles and interpretations of the universe and man’s existence, in line with the belief that the reality we live in is but a mirror of a deeper one that can only be reached through inspiration and imagination.
NB: Neomodern criteria are illustrated below by Durand’s pictures unless otherwise indicated.
A Neomodernist picture manifests the Idea in the Hegelian sense meaning the Absolute, the spiritual presence in a work of art.
A Neomodernist picture has links to the works of art that preceded it and or antiquity.
The nude or the symbol of the nude is the basis of a Neomodernist picture.
Every element in a Neomodernist picture is justified in terms of the whole composition.
A Neomodernist approach to religious subject matter is objective and philosophical, not an affirmation of faith.
A Neomodernist treatment of political or historical subject matter is detached and philosophical – never propaganda.
A Neomodernist artist must have sound drawing abilities and a command of the other traditional academic disciplines, such as perspective.
A Neomodernist picture concentrates the soul in the eye.
A Neomodernist work of art is emblematic rather than psychological.
A Neomodernist figurative or abstract picture has Albertian depth, space and light, never stressing the flatness of the canvas surface but exploring its limitless depths.
A Neomodernist picture presents scientific principles aesthetically.
A Neomodernist work of art heightens the sense of newness, regardless of when it was made.
A Neomodernist work of art is tactile.
Simplicity of form is Neomodernist.
A Neomodernist work of art has movement and stillness simultaneously.
Both figurative and abstract Neomodernist pictures pronounce “painterly” values.
Neomodernism precedes and supersedes post-modernism.