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Art and literature have been prevalent right from the pre-historic times. There were cave paintings, which evolved and formed certain practices of art. In certain cultures, types of art forms became prominent, leading to creating a legacy of its own. When writing became a nomenclature, literature also surfaced in various forms. First it was in the form of religious books, history writing and then into various other ways. As the society evolved, various ways of art and literature emerged. In the last century, art and literature has formed into a way in which the expression of the mind is displayed. It had its own impact in various ways in the society.
History has shown that there has been many art form prevalent in the world. Starting from the pre-historic period there were cave paintings and Stone Age paintings. As time progressed Greek art, Mesopotamian art, Chinese paintings, and Roman art flourished. In the dark ages and in the renaissance many art forms flourished like, Byzantine art and Italian Renaissance sculpture. Modern art era started in the mid 1850’s where arts like Macchiaioli, French Impressionism and many other forms surfaced. Secession and Art Nouveau were the two movements which broke away from the tradition.
Displaying the everyday truths in paintings was the theme behind Realism, which continues till date. Even in literature, Realism was practised in terms of stories being written on middle and lower class of people and script was also chosen from the daily conversation of that period. The French Revolution encouraged Romanticism as an art format. Artists broke away from the traditional way of art and portrayed common people in their arts instead of kings and queens.
World War I has been one of the most important events in the entire history of mankind. Millions died, new deadly inventions were created and the thinking patterns of humans changed. The war created poets among soldiers. Among them was one of the most illustrated poets, a soldier ‘Wilfred Owen’.
He fought, killed and saw death at close quarters. He wrote about the horrors of battle field, of the gas, of people getting killed in trenches. His poems were in sheer dissimilarity with the previous poems on patriotism and the general public opinion on war. His poetry is a bequest of his reflection of his thoughts in praise of the soldiers who actually fought. His poems were realistic and were shocking. Owen was considered and regarded as the leading poet of the First World War and his poems had the allowance of patronage. His poetry reminds us of all the ills that happen in the battle field. After the First World War, many wars have been fought. The Second World War, Korean War, Vietnam War, Arab-Israel War, Indo-Pak War, Iraq War and many such wars. Truth in Owen’s poetry remains the same. Soldiers from both the sides fight for their country. Many of them die a horrific death and truth in Owen’s poems still remains.
Brutality was opposed, not by force but by arts and literature. A movement called ‘Dada’ or ‘Dadaism’, as it was called, started in Zurich, Switzerland. It was an anti-art movement. If art meant something, Dada meant opposite of that art. If art meant beauty, Dada meant ugly. If art meant a meaning, Dada meant no meaning. If art is sane, Dada is insane. People associated with Dada movement, believed that ‘reason’ and ‘logic’ lead to wars and the pogrom that followed the war. If only one could stay away from the logics and reasons, one can have emancipation.
Hence the route was taken to destroy the traditions, the cultures by portraying the opposite of the then belief systems, through opposing, unsystematic, pragmatic and petulant way of literature and art. Dada performed the task of blasphemy, in the end.
Dada was a protest in a peaceful and an intellectual way, against the society, using art as its weapon. Dada gave an impression of being destructive, not on physical levels, but on intellectual levels. At present, Dada has its presence; it is still being used as a measure of protest against certain political backdrops. Now, artists are willing like to join such movements, only to express oneself and not to unseat.
Dada’s way of portrayal, influenced many other forms of art and literature. Expressionism is one the art forms, which has its beginning in Dada. Ernest Ludwig Kirchner
founded the artist group ‘Die Brucke’ (The Bridge). Human figures, especially nude ladies in natural surroundings of their homes were the focus of his paintings. His said about his paintings, “My paintings are allergories not portraits”, which expressed that human body can be expressed for its fullness and vitality. Impressionism was prevalent in German paintings at that time. Kinrchner’s paintings depicted a strong response against them. His work was for a particular culture, but it was recognised in the world, especially in America. It also influenced thinking of many generations.
In the mid 1920’s, in Paris, France, another cultural revolution took place. It was an offshoot of Dada movement called the ‘Surrealism’. Components of surrealism are element of surprise, putting things which are not similar to each other, an element of unexpected juxtapositions and usage of non sequiturs, which mean that an expression does not follow correctly the same sequence of the previous expression. The purpose was to remove the previously held false appearances of dream and reality. Surrealism involved creating paintings which were illogical and contradictory to the real picture. Animals with strange features were created. Human beings being juxtaposed with birds, animals and any other everyday article were created. It brought out the uncanny behaviour of the humans in the forefront.
The unconscious mind played a pivotal role in bringing out the images of objects which were not to be there in the real. Idea of surrealism was to voice, to demonstrate as to what was in the human mind, to let the unconscious mind revel itself. Surrealism threw off the prevailing culture and kind of reprimanded the lineal reality. Such is the impact of surrealism that at present, this technique is being used in advertising for creating a perception for product and increasing its sale.
The past and present, both are present within the society. Past forms of art and literature are still being practiced. Present forms are also being practiced, in terms of its practice and is being displayed in terms of creative works in advertisements, communications and other media. Both forms are still relevant.