Art: Art and Progress-Teleology

Teleology (from τέλος, telos, ‘end’, ‘aim’, or ‘goal,’ and λόγος, logos, ‘explanation’ or ‘reason’) or finality is a reason or explanation for something as a function of its end, purpose, or goal, as opposed to as a function of, say, its cause. A purpose that is imposed by a human use, such as that of a fork, is called extrinsic.

It contend that natural entities also have intrinsic purposes, irrespective of human use or opinion. For instance, Aristotle claimed that an acorn’s intrinsic telos is to become a fully grown oak tree.

In the late 18th century, Immanuel Kant used the concept of telos as a regulative principle in his Critique of Judgment (1790). Teleology was also fundamental to the philosophy of Karl Marx and G. W. F. Hegel.

If we were to talk about progress in art, we would have to posit the perfectibility of forms,. In the last century, the concept of “progress” was projected upon the arts as a measurement of quality. But expression, artistic vision has never been dependent upon the physical means of an art form.

 Vermeer has not been superseded in terms of artistic quality by Picasso or Pollock. And Michelangelo not by Giacometti or Moore, Palladio not by Gropius or Le Corbusier, he adds. And the mimetic properties of Greek and Roman sculpture are as good as any figurative sculpture created in the 21st century, in many cases they’re superior. 

“Good art” was “progressive art,”, and an artist did not have to commit some “groundbreaking” artistic deed to be considered a good artist. The discovery of perspective by Bruneleschi in the 15th century was also something like progress, as was the “sfumato” brushwork developed by Leonardo da Vinci, he points out. But the quality of execution has always been dependent on the means of expression,. The soul is “like the forms” precisely in respect to these metaphysical perfections.

French Impressionists, mirroring developments on the political front, set their work in opposition to the dominant trends of the day, elevating freedom and spontaneity. The Modernist illusion of progress is in effect a historical accident brought on by a cultural belief in a theory of it.

 20th century painting merely reflects cultural changes in the same way Byzantine icon painting represented a cultural shift in the 12th century, no more, no less. If you look at an Ancient Roman marble. portrait heads from the first century BC to the end of the first. century AD which are remarkable in their realism, and are great portraits. And then you look the wax. encaustic Fayum portrait heads, from the Coptic Egyptians. dated from about 160 AD. The best of those are as beautiful as any portrait of any. period, anywhere. Ife and Yoruba terra cotta and bronze heads from West Africa in the. 12–14th centuries are also unsurpassed in realism and elegance. And they are surprisingly advanced compared to what was being made in Europe in. the same period.

The obligation to be “modern” closes off the arsenal of means that developed in the past. What we artists can do is make art that is from within ourselves, he writes, but it may take years to find out what that art is about. The artist looks upon the material level as the most important one. The painter Paul Gauguin suffered acutely from cosmological vertigo induced by the work of Darwin and other Victorian scientists, he adds. He ran away from Paris, family, and stockbroking career to paint native girls in the tropics, but could not escape from himself. At the bottom of his disquiet lay a longing to find what he called the “savage” primordial man, humanity in the raw, the elusive essence of our kind.

Ligeti felt imprisoned between the past and the avant-garde. He felt he had to “surpass” modernism. For him, modernism had become petrified into a mentality which had to be “overcome”