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Defending Beauty in the Age of Commodity

25/02/2013 14:31 GMT | Updated 25/04/2013 10:12 BST

Ana's thought: "The depth of my soul is measured by the profundity of my art."

When we remember the defining moments of art history, we call to mind the painters and sculptors of the Renaissance - the geniuses Michelangelo, Raphael, da Vinci, Dürer, Van Eyck - those driving forces in a new age of realism who broke ground in perspective and colour. They chose to serve as mirrors to their lives and their beliefs. In the Baroque period, Caravaggio and Bernini imbued their works with potent emotion - to this day, their art is irresistible to the eye of the beholder, for it resonates deeply within our hearts. Amid the sea of splendor that is our past, one cannot help but ask what today's art world offers in response.

Today's world is one of commodity. Modern culture demands that our gratification be instant - and in turn, all things are made instantly! Our idea of success is something that darts by with all the quickness and effete of a shooting star. Media insists that our attention span not last longer than a handful of moments, and shock value and sensationalism sing their siren songs to eager ears. Among all of this disarray, it has become quite rare to find the pairing of substance and beauty. We are told to reject the idea that art was something once considered 'fine', that beauty is archaic.

In the age of masters, it was understood that art flourishes when properly cultivated. Instinct was important, yes, but true magnificence was mastered by learning. Through institutions like Florence's Accademia e Compagnia delle Arte di Disegno, promising and passionate artists were given ample opportunity to develop their skills. The modern push to constantly accelerate stifles the promise of creative souls, deprives them of the life experience necessary to awaken the greatness asleep inside them.

As artists, there are difficult questions ahead - who among us will be brave enough to rise up and answer why have we chosen to turn our backs on beauty and emotion? Why must our celebrations of the wondrous human body be distorted and turned in to pornography? What messages are we spreading through our art, and to whom do they speak? Above all, can we still expect to ignite fires that will burn forever, marking our time as something resplendent, in an age that praises only entertainment and shock value?