The Sublime and its relevance in Contemporary Art

Here is an art essay for you which explains the concept of the sublime and whether it is relevant in contemporary art society, as always comment and like.

In order to determine if the term sublime is relevant in contemporary art I am going to examine four artists who work with different mediums in contemporary art, these mediums will be land art, installation art, painting, and video art. As to achieve a broader sense of contemporary art and prove how the sublime is a relevant term to use in the contemporary art scene.

Edmund Burke (1729 – 1797) broke down what made art sublime into seven aspects in the 18th century[1] I am going to use these seven aspects to analyse whether the artwork/ artists featured in this essay could be considered sublime; a breakdown of what is considered sublime art from the era the movement was prolifically scrutinised will help me prove how contemporary art uses aspects of the sublime.

Darkness – which constrains the sense of sight (primary among the five senses)
Obscurity – which confuses judgement
Privation (or deprivation) – since pain is more powerful than pleasure
Vastness – which is beyond comprehension
Magnificence – in the face of which we are in awe
Loudness – which overwhelms us
Suddenness – which shocks our sensibilities to the point of disablement[2]


Considering the dictionary definition of the sublime (“of very great excellence or beauty”; “(of a person’s attitude or behaviour) extreme or unparalleled.” Or, “Producing an overwhelming sense of awe or other high emotion through being vast or grand.[3]”) you could say when contemplating art that the sublime is the relationship between aesthetics and emotion.[4]

If this is true, then you can understand why painting after literature became the media to represent the sublime due to the ability to symbolise nature and the experience of man on one visual platform although it is a secondary representation; “…that art can only express sublimity through representation, and therefore only indirectly.”[5]

The first artist I am going to focus on is contemporary artist Dion Salvador Lloyd (b.1967); an abstract painter whose subject like the sublime artists is landscape.


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