Irish Art Today

Contemporary art is more difficult to categorise than the art of the past because any material can be used, and any subject can be addressed.

Where in the recent past, artists were concerned to express a recognisable Irish identity in art, they now reflect the multicultural society brought about by international travel and migration – both to and from Ireland . Where in the past artists concentrated on idyllic, rural images, they now look at life in towns and cities, or to the threat to the environment. Political concerns have changed also, and rather than monuments to powerful figures or to heroes, artists prefer to draw attention to the victims of violence or injustice. Art is often used to challenge the establishment or stereotypes.

The materials of art are often chosen to add to its meaning. Compared with traditional materials intended to last indefinitely, the new ones are used for their intrinsic meaning – such as disposable matter to suggest a consumer society. The distinction between painting and sculpture is often deliberately blurred, and an artwork may comprise several related parts, collectively termed an ‘installation’. The impact of new technology, like the internet, has not only affected the structure of society, it has also provided new subjects for artists, and new means of expression (digital and video art).

In general, the aim is no longer to make a grand ‘statement’ to influence or educate the viewer, but rather to offer an image or object that prompts the viewer to draw their own meaning based on their own ideas and experience. This ties in with the idea of the art museum as no longer a ‘temple’ for art, but as a ‘forum’ for exploring and debate.

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