Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The West and the horrors of modernity

I was fortunate enough during my visit to Spain to be able to see an art exhibition for Goya as well as a quick swing by the gallery where Pablo Picasso's Guernica is held at. The mood for that day was incredibly pensive and, I must say, rather dark. I did not like any of Goya's paintings of the rich and famous of his day, ones which he probably undertook just to pay the bills, but I was captivated by his nightmarish sketches on war, famine and his own nightmares. Here was an individual who was deeply troubled by both the aggressive and inhuman onslaught of the modern Western state (in the form of Napoleons France) as well as the brutal resistance this necessitated. One of his famous paintings is of faceless, uniform and dark soldiers executing civilians against a wall. The other is of French and Arab cavalry being routed and torn to pieces by civilians and soldiers. In the former, humanity was being executed and each person had a different reaction to their imminent death ranging from despair, horror and defiance. The soldiers faces are not visible, they are darker and they are painted in a way which shows their brutal, efficient strength. In the latter painting, the utter insanity and desparation of the fighting is in stark contrast with the intelligent gaze of the horses in the midst of it all, something I had not noticed till reading about it, but which stood out sharply afterwards. I liked Goya, I see in him someone who is painting the sickness and madness which has permeated Western society. A society which had been forced to the edge of madness by the fanaticism of Roman catholicism and then tipped over by the inevitable reaction into a ruthless and efficient modernity that has murdered the souls of these people. I don't know how he would have seen todays hopeless 'postmodernism'. We were glad to leave that gallery and go walk in the sun afterwards.

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