2002 Abstracts Stage 2

Which Freedom?

Faye Raw, 2002, Stage 2

Whether its freedom based on John Locke’s natural justice, reflected in Goya’s work, or Sartre’s existentialist and progressive notions, evident in Picasso’s work, the Modern period has done much to influence the contemporary concept of what it is to be free. Both artists were Spanish and these works portray the violent political turbulence of their times. Locke theorised that the state played a major role in determining an individual’s freedom and hence put forward a theory for the reformation of the legal system, as a means of according the ordinary man with freedom. This concept culminated in the theory of natural justice, which formed the basis for the civil rights movement and ultimately the contemporary English legal system. Underlying Locke’s theory was a Modernist faith in reason and the drive for progress. The modern individual was actively involved in this progress and was more reasoned in their judgement of the world. Early Modernity brought a greater emphasis on reason in all aspects of life and freedom was achieved through rationality, as the rational man was free to determine his will. Goya clearly demonstrates such values in his work. He was progressive, both in his technique and in his subject matter. Ordinary people became the subject, reflecting Locke’s conviction in their importance and, as is evident, the way politics affects their basic liberties. Which Freedom? Towards the end of the nineteenth century there was a shift in thinking which rejected some of Modernity’s earlier values, this mood was lead by Sartre and captured by Picasso. Sartre probably captured the general mood of High modernity with his existential theory. He did not believe that there was a fixed universal nature of man like Locke therefore man must decide his own nature and existence-how he lives. Man may feel some angst at the responsibility of freedom but we must make a conscious choice to create meaning for our lives and as there is no universally morality then our decisions take on a greater significance. The only foundation for human values is human freedom and absolute freedom constitutes absolute responsibility. Picasso reflected such tendencies, towards the individual’s mind and the deconstruction of previous theories, through his highly progressive work. He focused on representing the feeling that his subject gave him, as opposed to the reality, like Goya, whilst deconstructing the form. The liberty Picasso utilised in his work is, perhaps, the ultimate proof of Modernity’s contribution to individual freedom.

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