The Art of Destruction

Fontana (1899-1968), Concetto spaziale, 1964-1965. Ink on paper.

Fontana’s distructive puncturing of the canvas was an act of liberation, he stated that he escaped from the prison of the flat surface when he makes these marks. This was radical at the time.

The horrific legacy of the holocaust, the Atom Bomb and the Cold War brought a generation of artists from Japan and Europe with a radical new approach to painting and performance.

‘There can be no poetry after Auschwitz’, the philosopher and composer Theodor Adorno.

Adorno suggested that there could be nothing artistic that could be produced at such a crushing time in history. In fact, it seems that especially those areas that were devastated by war a new creative process was emerging. A new generation of artists from Japan and Europe were exploring an approach to painting which was rooted in destruction as a creative process. Often unaware of each other as artists there was a break with ideological traditions. These distructive processes of ripping, burning, puncturing, disrupting and cutting would bring regeneration through healing. The acts of destruction allowing the artists to produce honest, personally reflective work.

The Nouveau Realists and the performative Gutai group were all making work which was identified by these distructive elements. Almost like a therapy the traditional was scraped away, allowing this new concept in artworks to flourish. This shift in attention speaks of the times, stress, and potential for a mental health crisis, and the need to work through those issues.

Artworks speak of the times in which they were made. Covid 19 cannot be compared to previous wars, humanitarian atrocities, or acts of violence. It has been a difficult time across the globe and perhaps we will see a shift in art as a result. Covid lockdown started in the second module of my MA, now in my last module I can see that over the last 18 months my work has started to evolve. Cutting, removing, folding, concealing are all being employed in final pieces.

Rip It, Burn It, Tear It, Cut It — the Art of Destruction | Christie’s. Accessed 3 June 2021.

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