If contemporary art is the term that designates nowadays a specific mode of relating to the world, which is both critical-discursive and excessively attentive to the developments of the market, it seems that it has left out several notions which were previously associated with art. Beauty, the aesthetic category of modernity, is perhaps the most striking oubli. When one detects it in contemporary art, it becomes matter of fascination and inquiry.
The work of Canadian artist Zachari Logan is an unfolding of this idea of beauty. It encapsulates both a visual expansion of beautiful forms and colours, and a reflection of the limits of this category in a system where the main focus is on either concept or process. In idealist aesthetics, beauty need not be tied to intellect or knowledge, rather with a certain harmony of sensibility, imagination and intelligence. Discovering beauty is the work of the viewer, triggered by the recognition of certain characteristics in the object that raise it to the level of the human. Over the past two centuries, this has lead to the tying of beauty with either form or idea, giving rise to an understanding of the category as either a sign of decorativeness or one of intellectual purity. In any case, it has lost any value in the second part of the 20th century. If it is making punctual comebacks now, it is certainly as an idea of beauty which can no longer be either decoration or concept, but a reconfiguration of the world in the same way that all contemporary art is understood to be.
Zachari Logan’s series of drawings, figurative depictions of a delicate human and vegetal nature, precisely transcend the decorative dimension, despite being strikingly harmonious and sensual in visual terms. Arranged in the gallery space at Angus-Hughes Gallery in London, they draw the contours of a world – of an attitude towards reality. Drawing is a process through which reality is understood, categorized, but also experienced. In a large piece in the middle of the gallery entitled Eunuch Tapestry 3, flowers and trees cover the entire surface and hide living creatures in their folds; the eye follows lines and shapes in a sensuous movement that brings both pleasure and a certain uneasiness. The thought could be something as simple as ‘the world is mysterious’, but this thought has entered both body and mind, and moved them with desire.
All of the artist’s projects have an organic quality to them, which resonates with the conception of drawing as a tool to experience the world. In his latest project at Schleifmuhlgasse 12-14 in Vienna, this experience focuses on a local symbol of beauty, the Empress Sisi. Drawing a parallel between her emblematic feature, the long, sensuous hair, and his own locks which he cut before the start of the project, the artist develops a body of work in which beauty is questioned as the element linking nature and convention. Hair as abstract line and living form; symbol of vitality and cultural feature; element of identity and token of universality.
Unfolding on the level of intimacy, as opposed to the personal-made-disturbingly-public level of discursive contemporary art, this questioning awakens the viewers’ eye and encourages vision. This is an experience through which different understandings of art are brought together into something new – a look on the world that belongs to contemporary art because it bears its critical and self-referential dimension, but one that sets itself apart from the formula of contemporary art because it is brave enough to take on the challenge of vision.
by Cristina Bogdan