Academic’s Exhibition Explores How We View Beauty in Art

A University of Worcester academic will be exploring whether art can be beautiful and still have an intellectual message through his photographic work.

Digital Arts Subject Leader, David James’ exhibition, The Aesthetic Revisited, at Worcester Cathedral, will see him revisiting typical techniques used since ancient times to create supposedly ‘beautiful’ art that is aesthetically pleasing.

He says through this pastiche he wants to ask questions about our emotive response to pieces of art.

The beginning of the 20th century saw the emergence of conceptual art that rejected the concept of beauty – the so-called aesthetic - which was deemed ‘anti-intellectual’. However, the aesthetic continues as an element in the work of many contemporary artists to this day.

David’s images pay homage to the essential elements of aesthetic art, such as the use of colour, shape, light and shadow, symmetry and the golden section, an ideal rule of proportion evolved by the ancient Greeks.

Each image in David’s exhibition, which runs from the evening of June 1 to June 15, portrays a scene, a moment in time, which is intended to be enigmatic and mysterious.

In the photographs, most captured spontaneously in David’s everyday life, residents will be able to spot regional sights like stately home Witley Court, near Worcester, Colesbourne Lake, near Cirencester, and Hergest Croft Gardens, in Kington, Herefordshire, but also some further afield like Beijing Airport.

“I want to revisit what defines beauty – the idea of beauty or the aesthetic as a bridge between observation and the artist,” said David.

“We respond to beauty in an emotive way, it elicits an emotional response, whereas conceptual art elicits an intellectual response.

“Art that is concerned with the aesthetic has been called anti-intellectual.

“My argument is that art can have a strong message intellectually but be beautiful at the same time.”

David teaches motion graphics, graphic design, photography, video production, illustration and contextual studies and is the Course Leader for the Masters programme in Creative Digital Media.

He specialises in motion graphics and came to higher education teaching after 29 years as an art director and designer, mostly with ITV.

His last post was as Head of the Design Group for ITV West, designing opening sequences and graphics for international productions and his work appears in books and journals on television graphics.

He was awarded a Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society in 2015.


Sarah Dawes