The truth has been an object of discussion for past thousands of years. It raises many difficulties and uncertainties in philosophy of the truth, either by relying on theses about truth, or implying new theses about truth.

The problem of truth is what truths are and what makes them true. This brought many controversies and theories trying to define it in the most accurate way; as well as the definition it addressed also issues and problem of the theory.

As we established there’s a number, possibly an infinity of ways for answering the question ‘What is the truth?’. The very basic theoretical classification of the truth was split into: the philosophical truth and the cultural truth. We will try to consider not in depth the philosophical truth and then focus more on the cultural truth.

The Philosophical truth:

  • Semantic – Semantics is the linguistic and philosophical study of meaning in language.
    • Analytical – True because of language, meaning of the word (e.g. triangle has got three sides – the definition of the word is included within itself),
    • Synthetic- True because of physical conditions; they are true by how their meaning relates to the world (e.g. Rabbits eat carrots – true, however not necessarily has to be).
  • Epistemological – a study of the nature of knowledge, justification and rationality of belief.
    • A priori – Known before experience (e.g. Triangle has three sides),
    • A posteriori – Only known after experience (e.g. Rabbits eat carrots – learnt through observation).
  • Metaphysical – Metaphysics are branch od philosophy that deal with the first principles of things, including abstract context such as being, knowing, identity, time and space.
    • Necessary truths – Couldn’t be false (e.g. black kitten is black; 2+2=4),
    • Contingent truths – Could be false (e.g. black kitten is playing with another black kitten).

That’s the philosophical approach, it is a thinking game to debate what is truth and breaking it down to its very methodology and going into even more depth and detail.

How do we know reality? How do we decide what is true and what isn’t?

Cultural truth is the truth we know as conditioned by our perspective of the world, which makes it one and only truth to ourselves as a one or a group of people, however it can be different in else one’s eyes. For an instance the cultural truth and a take on it in the art and philosophy, has diametrically changed throughout the centuries.

The knowable reality that we are accepting as the truth is realism. Realism in philosophical approach is a view that the object exists in the reality independently in our conceptual scheme. In the art movement realism is an attempt to represent the subject most truthfully, avoiding any artistic interpretation or exotic and supernatural elements. It is the art of accurate depiction of lifeform, perspective and the details of light and colour.

The realist movement began in the mid-19 century and it was a reaction against romanticism. Instead of idealised, romantic, almost nostalgic fertile paintings naturalists (different name for realism) were focusing more on common laborers and ordinary people in their day to day activities and work.

The truth and its representation were taken deadly seriously and was read through the very reality that people were surrounded by.

Next global movement was modernism, which started in early decades of the twentieth century and was building on late nineteenth-century precedents. Modernists were creating in the experience and values of the modern industrial life.  They were refusing to continue the realistic view on the world and try to have very fresh and new approach to what reality is; which was shown in their new imagery and use of new materials and techniques. They felt that it would better reflect the realities and hopes of modern societies.  

There is no only one art style that would define modernism; it is encompassed by many different ones, however there are few principles that could define modernist art. It would definitely be a rejection of the conservative history and values believed in realism, experimentation with the from, media, colour and techniques. Modernism, together with the development of the science, discovery of an engine and improvement of the industrial life, was often looking into utopian future and vision of human in very futuristic society and belief.

The key art styles within modernism were:

  • Futurism – avant-garde art movement started in Italy in the early twentieth century. Its aim was to capture the dynamism and energy of the modern world. Futurism was celebrating technology, speed, youth and new objects such as car of an airplane. Futurists were trying to free Italy from the stigma of their past and make the country known of something different that only museums of countless cemeteries (Marinetti, Manifesto).

Artists were using experimental colours and media to represent the reality they were living in. That was the most truthful observation, yet very subjective interpretation of their surroundings.

  • Neo- Impressionism – an art movement where artists were inspired by the optical theory and how human eye is perceiving the seen image. Neo-impressionists were painting using only primary colours, by applying them onto canvas in very tiny adjacent dabs to create the illusion of light and perspective.

For the neo-impressionists painting using only primary colours, was closer to the truth of how we see the world; as it was proven by science that this is the correct explanation of the colour theory and how the human eye works. Therefore, their version of the truth was even more far away from the realism discussed before, however it could have been seen as more accurate.  

  • Cubism – a revolutionary, fresh and new approach to the representation of the reality invited by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in early twentieth century. Cubists were painting using geometrical forms and applying the impression of what they just have seen onto the canvas in very simplified form. Artists tried to transform the three-dimensional state of objects onto the two-dimensional canvas and it shows; it deconstructs the physical forms and different perspectives and state of the 3D object down to their pure concepts and shows them all at same time in one space.

The perception of the truth in the cubistic paintings were different in instance that the painted object can exist in different dimensions and be shown from different angles at same time, which would be a truthful representation of its physicality.

On the other hand, post-modernism was a reaction against the ideology and values of modernism. The movement was born out of scepticism and suspicion of reason. It was challenging the universal foundations of the truth. Post-modernists were believing that the personal experience and interpretation was more concrete than abstract principles. They were embracing multi-layered complicity of the meaning of their creations.

Similar to modernism, post-modernism cannot be defined and closed in single art style. It was fading the line between high and low art and challenging what should be exhibited on the gallery walls. It introduced new freedom and was accepting anything, including the pop-culture and everyday life. Post-modernism was highlighting the fact that subconsciousness is same important that the consciousness and the world can be interpreted through many different ways.

The key movements and artist of post-modernism:

  • Guerrilla Girls – Feminist movement; a group of anonymous female artists formed in New York in 1985 fighting against sexism and racism within the art world. The group is using Guerrilla Marketing as a form of protest, their work can be found on posters, books, billboards and any other public appearances. According to them the content matters more than the person behind it, that reason why they are anonymous and using pseudonyms rather than their names and never show their faces.

The truth in their opinion is the one that, sadly we have to face every day and fight for our own rights. As well as that they are questioning, like most post-modernists, what deserves to be called art. They are manifesting that art could be something that is not necessary placed in a gallery space. Working with a poster as a way of speaking was very innovative at this time.

  • YBA (Young British Artists) –
  • Jeff Koons
  • Gilbert & George


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