The Monotony of Change

But in all cases it is not that the noble nature loves monotony, any more than it loves darkness or pain. But it can bear with it, and receive a high pleasure in the endurance or patience, a pleasure necessary to the well-being of this world; while those who will not submit to the temporary sameness, but rush from one change to another, gradually dull the edge of change itself, and bring a shadow and weariness over the whole world from which there is no more escape.

John Ruskin, The Stones of Venice

In the quote above Ruskin is talking about architecture, and the need for both change and monotony in a noble work, monotony acting as a contrast that makes variety all the more enjoyable; but that quote may well be talking about modern art. With the loss of context in modern culture, artists differentiate their work through originality rather than execution. Modern art strives to be different; the modern artist does not build on the methods that the old masters have spent their whole lives developing, and does not use historical, religious, mythological or philosophical themes for material. No, the modern artist brushes that aside and begins with a clean slate so that their work may be deemed creative and original. But with every work of art striving to be different, novelty itself becomes monotony, and the pleasure we receive from change is lost.

March 2012

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