(the bitter art)
– an exhibition by Andrew Robertson
Boxing has been known as ‘the sweet science’ since the 1800’s when journalist Pierce Egan coined the name to emphasize his belief that the inherent strategy was often overshadowed by the brutality of the sport.
The irony in the name suggests that there is a duality to all fighting arts: a stark contrast between the sublime artistry of movement and the brutality that it delivers.
This is of profound significance to Robertson who has used the martial arts to understand and exploit spontaneity in his painting by balancing it with hard-worked technique. This dynamic is evident in the exhibited pieces – some of which have been developed from Robertson’s warm-up sketches; small ink drawings done after sparring.
With the rapidly growing popularity of Mixed Martial Arts as a spectator sport the exhibit raises some poignant questions.
The pieces remind us that we may still live in a world of gladiators: we watch men fight in cages, using ancient styles, endorsed by modern consumer brands. It is a very primal show of masculinity in a time when ‘being a man’ is hard to define. Are the warrior codes behind the raw aggression lost to us or are they still prevalent – just outshined by hype?
There are two sides to every fight and the question may well be: who is it we choose to pit ourselves against? Is the fight internalised, introspective, a quiet battle to better ourselves or is it a public throw-down to let the world know who we outrank?
A sweet science or a bitter art?