‘God So Loved’ steals show for Bassett
Arguably, one of the greatest shots in golf was played from the 18th fairway bunker on September 10, 2000, at the Bell Canadian Open. Tiger Woods, with a six-iron, blasted his ball 214 yards out of the sand and across water to have it land greenside for a makeable putt and the tournament win.
It was a shot complicated by the rules of play in a trap and the perfect marriage of impeccable technique to flawless execution. Incredulously, Woods claimed disappointment with the outcome; in the clubhouse interview, he said he was trying to get closer to the flagstick.
Art, like golf, possesses the same elements: rules, techniques and execution. This is the basis from which an artist communicates the depth of an idea, asseverates concept and renders creative articulations. It is from this point that this review approaches Robert Bassett's new show at Masterworks.
Why are art rules, techniques and execution in art so important? The context of art defies dogmatic principles and offers infinite paths to aesthetic renderings. New order emerges from this context and, while there are no limitations, or a single path, it is from the established that we get innovation and invention.
We are not bound by the axiomatic or standard criteria, and we should see beyond references and points in time.
Traditional artistic canons become the framework for appreciation, but this never subverts the freedom of the artist, nor should it impede the journey. And so begins Bassett's Journey of the Dream.
This exhibition more than any other presented daunting challenges for me. It possesses symphonic sweep in several of its movements but was inharmonious and dissimilar with its visual elements and the combination of orchestrations in others. The abstract still life, Buttered Popcorn and Strawberries, lack the depth of warm light, which leaves these pieces emotionally flat and distant, although Floral Oasis succeeds because it possesses a balanced compositional voicing.
This is not to suggest a prerequisite order of perception or the imposition of order that is nothing more than nature's imitation. Challenges in this vein, but with slight variants, exist in the Gombey depictions: Whispers, Majestic and Joy Stepper, to highlight a few.
Renditions of one of Bermuda's most significant cultural icons give equal weight to movement, colour and several other focal points of attraction.
In these pieces, the focal points are obscured in the absences of contours and proportions, which link back to the relevancy of rule, execution and technique. It feels as if the symphony's composer has become pedestrian with his artistic and logical coherence.
Unfortunately, much of this dissonance is present in the musician-themed works — Bebop, Swinging and Waiting for the muse — and again for virtually parallel reasons previously touched on. Lest you think all is lost, there comes in this show a sublime operatic overture worthy of the great conductor James DePreist.
With the portraits and abstract paintings presented here Bassett gives flight to creative impulses and imagination that are well-defined illuminations of theme achieved through unifying components — lines, forms, shapes and brushstrokes that are extraordinary artistic expressions.
These portraits, Primitive Dreamer, Wisdom Child and Phenomenon, possess a centrifugal weight and value that are communicated in a transcendent, poetic language of beautiful notes. With this aspect of the exhibition, it feels as if a different Bassett has entered the gallery.
The larger pieces, Dancing with the moon and Journey of the Dream, soar on an arc of gorgeously realised articulation that is nothing short of exquisite. The artist clearly demonstrates and controls the purpose of breaking rules. The objective is achieved with absolutely realised and wilful success, and is lifted free from any burdens of duality in expression.
A precarious balancing act is to make art. To proceed and to conclude are often conflicting goals for the artist.
With God So Loved, Bassett gives every art lover a singular reason to see this show. Accolades and rhapsodising fail to convey the innate power of this piece or its pure excellence. There is a divinity of presence that transmits a humanistic message external to, and greater than, its artistic value. God So Loved is a substantially phenomenal achievement.
So let's come full circle. The principles and elements of art via rules, technique and execution are our philosophical, visual and intellectual standards for the definitions of art and how we view it.
Without this as an accepted starting point, we are stupefied into the cancerous process of accepting a devaluing proposition as artistic expression.
Journey of the Dream by Robert Bassett is at times uneven and challenging as it is extraordinary and hypnotic.
This is not a distraction, as its greater strength as a show is to create appreciation with a currency of genuine, ecstatic enthusiasm for its artistic reach.
• The exhibition is at Masterworks until December 16