The Art of Defining What is “Contemporary”

Brooke Whistance
3 min readJun 21, 2021
The Art of Defining What is Contemporary
Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

When we speak of “contemporary”, we refer to what happens in our time what is current, what is new, what is today. However, once established in the reflection on art, the contemporary becomes a category that increases its descriptive capacity and the set of manifestations it comprises.

The contemporary is a malleable space where reflection updates its tools and rehearses conceptual constructions that account for the incessant experimentation that the field of art enhances.

In this sense, contemporary art is characterized by having multiple interpretations, “opened-ended “ which implies a deeper understanding of art is required. Those art lovers who do not invest in this deeper understanding often leave the public confused or disappointed.

Some art goers expect a unique and accurate definition of what art is and the frustration appears when confronted with the multiple ways of conceptualizing it. The search for understanding the meaning inscribed in the works becomes both a goal and an obstacle in the relationship that contemporary art establishes with its audiences.

The contemporary in art has also been associated with the emergence of the historical avant-gardes. Peter Bürger argues that the goal of the historical avant-gardes (Futurism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Cubism, Expressionism) was the reconciliation of art with the praxis of life.

In its attempt to eliminate the gap between art and life, the avant-garde had to destroy the art institution and transform its isolation into a productive force for social change. Through the avant-garde, according to Bürger, the artistic subsystem reaches a stage of self-criticism, both against the artistic distribution apparatus and the status of art in modern society.

In third place appears the generalized position that attributes the specifically contemporary to the neo-avant-garde that emerged in the 60s. This transformation compromises the artist and his practice and from Dada to pop art, passing through happening, performances, arte povera, conceptual art, among others, a transformation has been taking place in the role of the public. The various artistic avant-gardes have sought to distort the dividing lines between art, work and public, carrying out a complete revision between the borders art/life, creation/perception, production/reception, authority/reality, trying to break the hierarchical and pyramidal dynamics modeled by the spectator passivity.

Artists have attempted to react to the notion of contemporary whilst ironically embracing its fundamental constructs; that of a deeper criticism and investigation of societal interests. The British painter and fine artist, Degard has developed such a notion whilst evoking an important difference in her work which she describes as a contemporary visionary. This difference she states is ‘a need for truth and certainty from the notion of personal experience. Non-local (previously described as para-normal experience) needs to be involved in contemporary research and thinking and involved in our institutions’ Degard’s unique style involves painting the Aura around her subjects. She calls the energy around “peoples and things” as Conscious Aura, which she details through vivid strokes brush, illuminating different shades of color, attempting to create the unique Aura of each person and thing.

Degard is a graduate of The Royal College of Art with notable accolades from Alan Davie Foundation.

Degard pioneers this concept which has brought her to showcase her incredible works in multiple exhibitions and art shows across the world. Her style is unique of her and she’s often called the “Painter of Auras” by the global art fraternity.

Being an artist, Degard is also a writer, curator, researcher, and founded the genre of Contemporary Visionary in fine art. She has presented her work in state-of-the-art exhibitions, Quintessence of Consciousness at The Royal College of Art. She also held a solo show at Museum Alzubair and Saatchi Art.

The contemporary artist has also authored four titles. She is a committee member of The Colour Group and a fellow of The Galileo Commission for the Scientific and Medical Network.

At present, Degard is pursuing a doctorate degree in Fine Art in London.