Multiculturalism, Italian Painting and Scottish Romantic Myth.

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This paper considers aesthetics of plurality with regard to the relationship between visual representation of 18th Century Romantic Scottish Myth, Ossian, and Italian Mythic and Historical painting. It develops from practice-based Fine-Art PhD research, referencing original artworks developed concurrently with this study.

Aspects of the arts in 18th Century Scotland resisted Italian cultural influence, and the apparent incongruities of bringing together overseas and home-bred elements, particularly in Scottish painting as ‘New Classicism’ became more popular than, Dutch derived, traditional Scottish works. For example, Scottish painter Alexander Runciman (1736–1785), whilst developing his Ossianic series of paintings, was criticised for painting traditional Scottish themes in an untraditional Italian style. Indeed the artist's first proposal was an Homeric series, and the change to an Ossianic theme occurred at a later stage.

Whether or not Runciman's Ossianic series are simply Scottish equivalents of Italian painting, they are not as representative of a monocultural Scottish identity as they might first appear. Additionally, it is well documented that although James MacPherson purportedly unearthed the manuscripts of ancient bard Ossian and claimed that they were examples of ancient Scottish literature, these turned out to be an ingenious fabrication by Macpherson.

Current eclectic approaches to art are arguably inconsistent with historicity, narrative and forming notions of cultural identity. Furthermore, the multicultural aesthetic has been criticised for politely distracting from wider themes of social inequality. However, the contention of this paper is that current practicing artists, and those theorizing about art, can benefit from an understanding of unstable processes of evolution in art form: that an attempt to merge and analogize several originally discrete themes is beneficial. Consequently, this analysis considers aesthetics of eclecticism verses syncretism, tending towards the underlying unity that allows an Inclusive approach in contemporary painting practice.


Keywords: Art History, Myth, Painting, Multiculturalism, Cultural theory
Stream: Anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Studies, Humanities
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Jonathan H. Milburn

PhD Student, Fine Art, Duncan of Jordanstone, The University of Dundee
Tayport, Fife, UK

In my practice-led (Fine-art) research I examine creative process involving mythic elements both historical and contemporary. The thesis is that the artist can mythologize modern concerns of consumerism and multi-culturalism?

I spent December 1999 in two countries, Bosnia: a country recovering from ethnic war; and Scotland: celebrating a comfortably materialistic Christmas. Mythical structures, both in word and image, were one of the few ways I found to address this contrast. The partnership of art and archetype helps us comprehend inner responses to such experiences: archetype as shared symbolism from myth across the world. This is the central issue of my research. Key examples of practice for my research are the painters Mark Ryden and Odd Nerdrum who represent through archetypes, inner responses to contemporary social. Key thinkers are Carl Jung who claims the function of myth, fairytale, and theology collectively allow us to find meaning in complex moral and ethical issues, and, by contrast, Jean-Francois Lyotard who warns us about limitations of myth as masternarrative.

Ref: I08P0560