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News 226

The Advertiser, July 2002
The Guardian, June 13, 2002


Art can always be an interesting supplement, even in the international news department, where racy politics, rancid philosophy and failing economics clap their hands in their various anticipations, degradations and desperations.

In the Guardian report of June 13, 2002, there is an intriguing revelation of Russian -  despite the danger of anachronism, one could almost say Soviet - art motions. Old-time Soviet forced 'art', governed by authorities' decrees and permissions, this is coming to be more ... appreciated, it appears, in Russia!

After all, it is basically a PRO-SOVIET style sort of nostalgia which may also have an element of anticipation. It evokes memories of neo-Nazis in Germany, except that this is not the discipline of the undisciplined, that is the threat of violence imposed,  to FORCE people, but the hankering of those who look to another sort of glory, and would perhaps see it re-installed in some rather different way.

The report starts with a somewhat intimate sounding meeting between a Russian of the cognoscenti, and the journalist. The "fashionable Moscow gallery" is considered, with an exemplar in a fashionable and immense landscape above the desk of the Russian visited, a stimulus for comment on art trends. The picture is one of many painters trying to capture the rural simplicity (and perhaps productivity in beautiful labour ...) of a milk-maid about her industrious craft. It paints the painters and their bovine cum labour, topic. The landscape was commissioned by Stalin's son.

Acknowledging the artistic derision, and perhaps the human scorn for the art work of the USSR's fallen era (it had fallen long before it fell, in the 90's, the heart preceding the body), its subservience to State philosophy, pragmatic needs, its cowering conduct in forwarding philosophy rather than discerning truth, or some such movements, the speaker notes that the artists were given little choice. They had to do it, and they did it. T

The BHF (bright and happy future) under Communism being the role for art, rather than the painting of Gulag victims or scenes, or capturing their sad scenarios, or the artistic interest of bread queues or the like, this is what came. The feeling had to be generated, like light where the electricity is cut off!  In the Gulag mentality of the day, this deceptive prettiness was termed "realism", though it was no more real than painting a body racked with (hidden) cancer in the liver, just before the impact on the cheeks became apparent, and calling that realism.

Now to be sure, it is real that the glow could still be on the cheek, for the body had lived quite a while before the cancer came. However, if it is meant to 'capture the truth', it fails. The truth is that necrosis is threatening, working with vital enthusiasm (as some cancer cells seem to do, really on fire), while what is being depicted, it is health!


This, it is real ? It is no more real than a painting of the moon so that one gains a distinct impression of the man in the moon, even being able to detect his current 'mood' (the mood, if one is 'perceptive' can vary somewhat, from perhaps a latent goodwill, to a gloomy time of tooth-ache, from distant aloofness to almost cheery camaraderie). It is something certainly, but its relation to reality is not that which depicts what it is qua moon, but what it is thought to be, qua observer as criterion!

The speaker noted that the works, those  of this type of conformist, State-serving, compelled type of art, fell from grace when Stalin had died; and the immediate impact dulled, and did so especially as the mounting acclaim of his policies, not as happiness-promoting but "cruel and senseless" took hold in the Russian society ... and beyond. Aesthetic feeling now appeared violated, artistic licence suppressed, meaning subverted, reality forced. That political art became mere inartistic blather in paint.

However, now is there a nostalgia ? is it that there has come a reversion, an inclination for the 'glorious past' ? Is this settling in ? It is suggested that something such is occurring in Russia, in this Guardian report.

It is, then,  interesting to see the current attempt to re-evaluate such paintings, such compelled art, and to find some sort of excuse, justification or even éclat about it. Such unrealistic 'social-realism' pictures are now being widely bought in Russia BY Russians, more than by foreigners, at the auctions. The point is made that in the 1990s, 9 out of 10 buyers were foreign; but now Russians are those who spend more on the pictures. The thing is becoming more national than international.

It is here that the really interesting aspect comes, in terms of our current purpose. There is a mood growing in Russia, it would seem, in which excuse is being made for this totalitarian abuse of art, in terms of a gap between what this genre is called, 'social realism' and the 'post-modernism' epics of despair, disconnection and visionary apathy which now wag their sad and unsagacious tails.

Now there is thought that perhaps there was emerging - always a nice word if you want to congratulate whatever it is - a certain perception of 'an intense painterly surface' along with the 'realism', indeed an 'authentic' - another nice word, one could use here - collectivism, a sense of artists co-operating. Then, in the report we have in view,  the language really begins: this emerging social realism in its rising thrust "prefigured postmodernism in its elision of image and reality", yes and there is to be seen at times "a talented hand".

Marvellous! Some talent was suborned. How impressive! Elision of image and reality is becoming one of the high-points of the concentration on 'social realism' ? The unrealism of realism pokes its nose around the corner: hidden in the depths, now sniffing the air.  How 'artistic' it all sounds, dwelling in emergences, opposites and trends where the words are the chief virtue that can be seen! Abstractions are coming to the fore in the concrete; skill is noted in the compulsions; the depictions become pregnant in their pedestrian compliances with the 'art' of evoking social response from viewers, pregnant with reversionary tendencies to abstraction, which is avant-garde.

Leaving however the muddle of words,  the clangour of opposites, and the accumulation of concepts, the abuse of art in which the political, the philosophic and the artistic become wedded, the first being first, and the last last, and the children are credited with meaning, even sensitive expression of human longings, aggregations of human reality, despite their parentage, perhaps like cripples yet showing some semblance of human form despite their affliction: let us look at the impact.


We are beginning to see in Russia, a certain

a) nostalgia for the epoch past, for its taste, flavour and mode.
b) feeling for the mood of the thing, for the discernible work of artistic toad-stools in 'expressing' the fallen tree trunks on which they feed, the human race in this case, so cut down.
c) effort to integrate the Soviet disaster, its laceration of love, its reductionism of truth, its closed-eye brigade insistence that was so anti-God as to move toward  ludicrous subversions of human life like tense adolescents, tearing down anything in the way of their current theme: with humanity.
In what direction however does this 'integration' appear to go ?

It is towards a meaninglessness freely opted for, an abstraction from reality arising from desire, a feebleness of heart, a disease of understanding, an etiolation of the plant of life, an asthenic stumbling that some prefer to publish as preference, compared to one which some sought to impose as a command. Communist autocracy's flowers of art are being compared with dissolute man's flowers of heart, addressed to art.

The difference of course is that the former was manufactured under directive illusion; the latter with inspective allusion. The latter, the freely fallen,  tends towards the hopeless through lack of vision and understanding, while the former - though in fact hopeless drudgery of man to his inhuman human master - merely played with a hope that was visible only in the verbal or artistic expression, never in fact.

Is there not then a certain resemblance ? Both are hopeless, each fails to gain understanding, each is reductionist and drab in spirit, and if one had a false hope which was paramount by acute distortion and oblivion of the whole spirit of the thing, yet forgetting that, look: they both in the end moved to nothingness of heart, aching of spirit and depreciation of all that is wonderful.

Put differently: two follies of spirit had one thing in common, that they wax eloquent on negation, wander in degeneration; but one of them had an uplift for the drooping breasts of humanity, which deceived few, and was as ostentatious as poor in taste. It deceived.

Well then, if both are deceived, yes they have something in common. But if one is organised deception and the other a poignant expression of a fading heart, itself deceived and hence fading, it is certainly true that the point of contact is tangential rather than substantial!

The human race has been experimenting in philosophy with degraded and degenerate styles, some commanded, some free, both downward, and one though deceived, is being compared with the other. It is as if a military band is being compared with Chopin. Now Chopin on comparatively rare occasion CAN have a VERY martial feeling, certainly with a little pathos, humour and vitality conjoined; but there is no sense of the commanded. To command his work would itself be to deny it. It is far more subtle, varied and sensitively interpretative of many things in human life. It would be like commanding or commandeering a child in his play. Its very essence would be deprived, and its beauty depraved quite readily.

So here. However what is simpler is this, that the ART trend mirrors the PUTIN trend, at the national level: it is one which would like to retain symbolically, BOTH the hammer and sickle, and the symbols of PAST IMPERIALISMS, before communism came to blight the land. Putin is giving communism a past place, and so is this art genre.

A sense of national greatness, a resurgence of interest in  being a POWER has often surfaced in the past few years, in this land, either in aspiration or in frustration. Putin is beginning to give it legs, as when he is bargaining for more place in NATO! This was so thrusting as to lead to its description by Lord Robertson, Nato's secretary-general,  as "a moment of opportunity" (Guardian, Nov. 24, 2001). The new possibly prospective powers for Russia in NATO, to include some of veto, and a more central situation, without parity however, have been backed by Washington, Blair and Moscow, but not viewed as delicious at all, by some of the Eastern European members, who are well taught in what Russian grandeur can do! Such is the Guardian report's tenor.

The movement relative to NATO,  is NOT here seen as towards integration, but INFLUENCE! It is not to make Russia a simple partner, but as in the UN, a considerable power.

It would offer togetherness, and take from vigour; it would give involvement, but no guarantee of direction, except of course, a general sense of opposition to terrorism, which the works in Chechnya are characterised to be, with growing effect now that USA itself has suffered.

Whose terrorism, however ? this is the question!

What is clear is that  in many ways the world of organised powers is becoming stronger in alignment, less visionary in purpose, more pragmatic in kind, led by fear without moral consensus, moving into the dark depths of political monsters with less meaning, less commitment, more ambiguities, more synthesis of opposites, always hopeless, such devices often acting as the hoped for saviours of the confused.

Prompted by terror, moved by fear, combining as disastrously in World War II, with direct moral opposites, with horrendous callousness as when the USSR actually became an ally, the world is diving into a political camp that is more a cramp than a calling, a spasm than an insight, a capitulation than a victory. From this, of course, the one world rule is quickly becoming more and more visible, the 'Moslem menace' more and more accomplishing not some victory for that disastrous religious totalitarianism, replacing the free worship of God with debasing abuse of force in the realm of faith (cf. More Marvels Ch. 4), but a victory for the arrant and erratic humanism which ignoring man, in its reductionist clamour, soon and of course, ignores his needs. Thus is born a new dictator. Perhaps in a little you will meet him.

As to the Christians among us, we look for his early end; the only fit fruition of such seeds. His annunciation becomes his devastation as we read in II Thessalonians 2:4ff., for AS he declares himself, indeed SHOWS himself that he is 'god', so his end comes. However, before that, there is to be "one hour with the beast" (Rev. 17:12-13); and that will be a rendering in the heat of philosophic follies, at the international level, and of religious subjectivism, which will anneal many (Daniel 12:7,10). Alas, it will not give temper to the steel, but steel to the temper. Man without God is without manhood, and being left as a devil deprived, he shows it as beast in motion, in commotion with the very insensitivity of hell beneath, the judgments of God this time, being not merely national, or in some international combination, but on the world itself. That, it leads conveniently to judgment on the world as such (cf. SMR pp. 502ff.)..

Many have waited so long for the end of all these things,  that they fret: but as Peter put it, God is not slack (he said this prophetically of the delay which he knew must come before Christ should return, after the Gospel had fully accomplished its work in this world - Matthew 24:12). Not at all is He indifferent, but quite the reverse. The case is, says Peter at that distant date, that God is not willing that any should perish (II Peter 3:9). History is not aborted; but consummated. There lies the difference.

In all this inhuman humanism, then,  towards which we are once again moving, as if Hitler and Stalin were not enough, coming into its new and if it were possible worse mode, since it will be international and have no national counterpoise to its arrogant self-assertion, we find that one thing remains both clear and simple. It is this.

Losing Personality by Affirming Autonomy

Man is not yet content to be a product, even a personal product of the Almighty; and though
voiding himself

while this is calamity itself,
he savours victory in the slush.

He snorts as a war-horse at its prodigies, at his inventions, his knowledgeable ignorance, his purposeless desire for survival (cf. TMR Ch. 6), his evacuated sensibilities and materialistic pre-occupations, as if a marriage without love, could at least glory in the house, and ignore both the supposed love, and the parents' contribution altogether. Such children, they are horrors; and when it is this world which so moves, NATURALLY there will be, as the last century has abounded in showing us: horrors abounding, collisions and collusions confounding, sacrifices of integrity, ending in the sacrifice of man for his illusions. Hell is not far beneath all that. It already has its dissavour, its stench (cf. Matthew 7:13-14, Jeremiah 4:18, Isaiah 5:13-14).

Let us hear the last of these:

This is like tracing the prognosis of a fatal disease!

Cheer up, however. God is not mocked. The times for the nations to seek Him, for the evils to attest their hearts, the ideologies to exhibit their frustrations, rich for eternity, are swiftly passing. When the end comes, it will seem sudden! (cf. Revelation 1:7, Matthew 24:30, II Thessalonians 1, 2).

That is one major reason why mankind is now suffering in ways so extreme, so complex, so numerous in its wars, bodily smashings as if erratic youngsters were deliberately running the family car into pylons, in its psychological bestialities, as when force is used to try to change conviction, a political darling increasingly routine. it is that it reflects the folly of the false aim quite accurately.

The other reason, naturally, is this: if you MISUSE what you have, IT SHOWS IT. It does this more or less, depending on its sensitivity, purpose-crafting and specialisation of what is being abused. Man, for his part,  is MOST specialised, being intended by God for fellowship with God; and when he uses himself for himself, a forlorn practice now becoming in art, philosophy and politics more de rigueur, then the depravity of aim becomes the degradation of pain, pretence, superficiality. It hurts like a cancer. It is a cancer. That is the other reason why the current situation is what it is. it is this: it is SHOWING what it is. The symptoms are being sought to be wrought apart from the disease; but this public relations from hell, smells of disjointed logic, indifferent perception, convenient suppression both of evidence and of people.

It is of course true that beauty, the beauty of holiness is unchanged; and even this earth cannot despatch it, though so molested by so many for so long with such inane philosophies investing themselves into politics and vehemently voiding their follies on their national and international victim. This wonderful globe (oblate spheroid if you feel scientific)  still is filled with mute testimonies, eloquent to the glory of the Maker of such artistic finesse, design felicity and supreme system.

It is still true that truth cannot be announced by what denies it. The whole schema is still subject to its own subjectivity; and God alone is available for the truth which He declares (cf. TMR Ch. 5).

It is still true that the Gospel is the only logically possible answer. Indeed, it remains true that its environments of terms, in the Bible, depict just what is happening to the world, with that combination of indolent mystique and rank humanism, which deludes, obtrudes, denudes, until man becomes a sort of raw nerve exemplar of misuse of equipment. He over-reacts, because he is exposed. He is exposed, because he refuses his cover (Isaiah 61:10). He grows ugly without his completion, clothing and keeper.

Terror, daft actions, rash beliefs, ramifying religions, false prophets, delusive glories, all these with the earthquake systematics, the famines so immense as if to be a court of corpses, arising political domains, all these are the predicted premises of the end of the Age: when Truth appears, and His people disappear, until He comes with them (cf. SMR Ch. 8, Answers to Questions
Ch. 5). That ends the antichrist, the man of sin (II Thessalonians 2), who will symbolise the hideous autocracy in its final thrusts against the Maker of liberty, the engineer of love and the sovereign constituting truth.

In all this, is there not an intense sense of déjà vue ? After all, we have been told all about it in the Bible for 2 to 3 millenia, and in some aspects, relative to the Jews in particular, but also to their inter-relation with some of the Gentiles, for nearer to 31/2 millenia. It is happening now. It always does happen, what God says.

He also said this (Luke 13), after Pilate had socially, but not so sociably murdered many, and following the tragic episode when a tower fell on some people:

That last declaration was repeated, once for each instance.

Now the tower has extended itself, till it has become the Twin Towers at the World Trade Centre. This is an even more eloquent indication to mankind, of his entire inadequacy, sophistication or not, to rule this world. It does not at all reflect on the victims; it reflects on mankind. When the asteroid, or like heavenly body, called Wormwood, noted in Revelation 8:10-11, as to come, does just that, with disastrous but not fatal results for this world in the impact, there will be a warning yet more eloquent. The recent movement of a small but potent asteroid apparently within the orbit scope of the moon, thus becomes a suggestive preliminary, like the advice session of the police, if you failed to notice some minor traffic regulatIon.


The loss of licence however can be a further index. Man does not have OWNERSHIP of the world, but merely a licence. Its revocation is coming.

However, the provision of eternal licence, of authority and scope to love the Lord, to become and be a child of God, to be changed into something better than this world's increasing conformity exercises, namely into a freely loving disciple of Christ, appearing constantly before God (Psalm 84:7), this is not only available. For us who take it, it is also free. Its cost being borne by Christ (Romans 3:23ff., 5:1-12), while its provision involves only this, that in Him, you repent, believe, receive and are thus more than revised: reconstituted. As such, you are transformed into one who loves obedience, is filled with the delight in the Fatherhood of God, and seeks faithfulness to Him, loving His word because IT IS HIS (cf. John 14:21-23).

Titus 2 and 3 tell it so lovingly. It is a work of power, this child-making marvel for man, as the creation of the universe was (cf. II Corinthians 4:6); of intelligence as was that (cf. Repent or Perish Ch. 7, A Spiritual Potpourri Chs. 1-9, SMR pp. 251ff., 211, TMR Chs. 1, 5); and it is one of imagination and enterprise. For that matter, going to hell, the evacuation from God eternalised, is also an enterprise. ALL enterprise is not good. You have to consider first three things: its origin, its destiny and its meaning.

Man CANNOT be meaningless (SMR Ch. 3) , since God has conferred meaning on him, without which he is like a car without a steering wheel: hence post-modernism and all the rest. These but reflect the damaged apparatus, ex-steering, ex-mechanic, wantonly and wilfully so. These sicknesses do not relate to nothing; but to something - to man minus his base, creator and director. In seeking to direct himself, he IS sick, looks sick and his words and ways, artistic, political, psychological, social and economic come to reflect the status quo and the situation (cf. SMR Ch. 5). The art may be artful, but when it reflects the sickness, depicts the very portrait of severance, it is evocative to the lost, of their lostness, but provocative in terms of beauty: for it depicts but ashes, never an inspiring topic, though one worthy of some analysis.

Analysis ? This is the more productive however when their nature, as ashes, is not confused with the body which preceded this degradation!

Beauty for ashes is the better procedure! Instead of listless depictions, or those with bewildered passion, called art, yes or controlled vampings, in place of such dabblings in degeneracies, you get what HAS beauty, that of the Lord who MADE it and from whom its conceptions, meaning and only explanation comes (cf. SMR Ch. 5, and see    Indexes): and you find in Him something beyond all art, the reality itself.