In the arts, the idea of “Romance” or the “Romantic” is a ripe mining ground, a universal, cross-generational theme. There is massive appeal in the idea of losing oneself in something exciting, remote, glamorous - a new love, a pursuit. It is to an extent a word that describes a feeling above all, one that we also employ in order to romanticize the mundane or our past, to cast a rosy glow that turns the everyday into something special. In the fields of both music and the visual arts, movements such as the New Romantics of 80’s London, or late 18th Century Romanticism, both explored common threads within the genre, such as heightened emotional states, with an emphasis on imagination, freedom from social conventions, and glamour. Though these movements come and go, their lasting contributions can be seen in the ways in which the next generations of artists build upon their legacy.
Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, 1818, (image courtesy of WikiCommons)
In pop culture the New Romantic (way before Taylor Swift’s use of it) was an iconic movement in music history, characterized by an embrace of eccentric, flamboyant, fashion in all of its sequined glory. Inspired by David Bowie and Roxy Music, the New Romantics coupled glamorous looks with a new synth pop sound that proved transformative, capturing and exposing the essence of the alternative visual style of the time. Before that, in the 18th century, the term Romanticism was used to group together artistic, literary, musical as well as intellectual movements that all emphasized emotion, individualism, as well as glorification of the past and nature. Later, in the early 20th century, Neo-Romanticism brought together a group of artists that used the portrayal of nature in their art both as a way to criticize modern society and Industrial development, as well as call for a return to simpler times by way of romanticizing the landscape genre.
In her paintings, contemporary artist Anna Kincaide captures the magic, glamour, fashion and romance that inspired the New Romantics, while also hinting at elements of nostalgia and the love of nature that defined the Neo Romantics. Kincaide captures the mood of a dark romance that combines elements of nature and the figure, a visual representation of modernity and our yearning to lose ourselves in an escape.
Ryan Jones’ luxe compositions feature both a nostalgia as well as a romanticization of the past. Iconic moments in fashion, exotic destinations, and richly painted textiles are captured in a visual collage that blends the vintage with the present day. The paintings are an indulgence - elegant, clever and subtle, enveloping us in their offer of a dream.