Archive for the ‘art’ Category

Keen on Jan Steen

In art on March 5, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Genre paintings depict scenes from life in a realistic way.

The ‘noble’ subjects idealised by eminent institutions like the Academie des Beaux Arts in France were left behind. Flemish art continued being misunderstood by Southern Europe for as long as the Academie’s influence survived.

The artists in Holland compensated with their skill. And it sold well. Jan Steen (1626-1679) in Leiden, found that his moralising portraits of real life sold well.

Steen owned a tavern, but was a devout catholic. This exposure to what to him was moral depravity must have inspired several important paintings.

I love the way he has depicted the breakdown of order in this family. I take the sleeping woman to be the mother, because of the key in her hand and the fur trim of her top. The grapes, and the empty wine vessel tipped sideways onto the floor make it clear what just happened.

It seems so mad!

The young woman is making the parrot drink, and the kids are feeding the cat with what looks like a pie for humans. There is a boar unnoticed in the centre of the proceedings. The child round the back of the sleeping mother is looking … cheeky. I bet he’s about to pull a prank on her.

What seems more sinister about the painting are the couple in the background. The woman seems young compared to his grey beard. This is also a warning about the effects of alcohol as well as some jolly times.

Could this be an early warning of beer goggles?

When realism emerged in the 19th century, the need for realistic representation was still felt, and observation was all important. However, when Impressionism developed, the need for precise detail was replaced with the need to quickly capture the atmosphere, a short moment of time.

This development came along with the development of photography, which could have removed the necessity to record details for memories sake. Painting took on a new role, to convey the artist’s personal feeling, or impression of what they are seeing.


Arshile Gorky: Retrospective at the Tate

In 1, art on February 19, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Chris Ofili is the name dripping off any guys lips who tries to sound interested in art. Strangely frequently, I will meet a man in a bar, and the conversation goes to poo. It’s interesting, I thought input is much more interesting for men than output…

So, I end up at the Tate Modern, looking for the Chris Ofili, only to find it is at the Tate Britain, about ten stops away. My friend has come anyway, so we wondered into the Gorky. I had never really come into contact with Gorky’s work before, and found myself at first disappointed.

Frankly, the introductory room of his early paintings was unimpressive. They were just copies of Cezanne and Picasso, without the integrity. And to be honest, his abstractions didn’t grab me, BUT his latest works were a few portraits. The eyes are large and smooth and they look right through you. Some limbs are morphed and strange. they are terrifying, but beautiful.

This is the best picture I could find of this portrait. Her hand is oversized and almost looks cloven. The simplicity of the colours comes in contrast with his multicoloured abstractions.

He looks like a man who is alone. His expression seems open, and vulnerable.

This is based on a photograph of Gorky with his mother, she died of starvation in Armenia, and the artist moved away and became Gorky. The eyes are hollow, but full at the same time. They confuse me.

Close Your Eyes and Hope to Die

In 1, art on January 20, 2010 at 5:46 pm

The Raft of Medusa by Theodore Gericault, 1819

This painting seems melodramatic, and frankly not relevant to life today but as a poor substitute for an action movie. But NOT SO FAST buddy-oh, this painting has some conceptual undertones which can relate to some very contemporary issues.

The subject is a true story. A ship called ‘La Meduse’ crashed off the West coast of Africa, carrying some future French colonists. However, when it became clear that the ship would sink, the officers took the lifeboats and escaped, leaving 150 people to cast out on a raft. With only 15 of 150 people rescued, the French public were shocked by tales of cannibalism and gruesome conditions at sea.

It was the greatest tragedy after Napoleons escapades in Russia.

It also raised a few feathers among the public because it showed how the ‘little people’ got screwed over by the authorities. This post-revolution France who has seen a republic become an empire become a monarchy again. No authority was absolutely certain anymore, but this painting served as a sharp reminder that ancien régime hierarchies had not changed much at all.

Now where does that feature today? After a brief skim of the economist, it seems that the little people will be paying for the over-educated rich.

In the painting, there is a crescendo of hope, beginning with a father contemplating his dead son, and slowly rising to a figure standing and waving a flag. But there is no sign of a ship in the horizon. Is this false hope?

Are these people so desperate to survive that they will believe anything this self-appointed leader says?

Perhaps this could be a bit of a joke on Gericault’s part, the little people get screwed over once, only for it to happen again.

Where does Creed Lead?

In 1, art, Contemporary Art, Theatre on December 16, 2009 at 8:18 pm

On the ArtLive! conference today at the Dominion Theatre, hosting Germaine Greer, Quentin Blake, Martin Creed, and someone else whose name now escapes me.

The discussion title was “What is Art?”

A pretty useless question to ask, this kind of debate never gets anyone anywhere. But, my school organised it, and to be honest I was so excited to see Anthony Gormley speak!

But Anthony Gormley pulled out last-minute, to be replaced by someone whose name still escapes me.

A little birdy tells me that Anthony Gormley actually went on holiday, and not had unavoidable circumstances. I guess the call of the Maldives in that loud huh.

Martin Creed was so adorable! Words cannot describe his hesitancy, and let’s be honest, strangeness. He walks on stage, and mumbles something like “Um…. so. I don’t really know what I’m going to say… but I will tell you what I do… What I do is make things for people to look at really…”

A dancer joins him on stage, mimicking him every time he scrunched up his brow and did little jigs.

Everyone was holding back laughter, he said things like “Winning the Turner Prize [in 2001] was nice… it was like school again… and I hated school…”

Soon our Mr Creed opened for questions. A room full of 6th forms is lethal. It prompted

“How much crack did you take this morning?”

He replied in complete calm, “Oh you  know… average, a medium amount.”

In the midst of all his bumblings there were some very clear ideas. Is he acting? I don’t think so, I think he’s speaks near to a stream of conciousness, and doesn’t fully form ideas before he speaks them. Definitely something really interesting going on there.

Martin Creed’s definition of art is something which is called art by other people. Germaine Greer agreed with him, though managed to impart the same message about… 20 minutes quicker.

She was sharp, quick, concise. The majority of public art was dismissed as naff, shit, and even disturbing.

The most memorable thing that she said, is that Graffiti is art. That art is also about ‘tagging’ your name. That made me really want to go out and…

Hmm. Is it still vandalism if you draw an incredibly moving picture? What about a poem? I always get the temptation to write a poem on the back of club bathroom doors, give those stupid drunk girls a second thought other than ‘oooh! table!’.

Oops. Off topic.

Quentin Blake was really inspiring, he talked about his work for hospital bedrooms, and his move away from books. He is so positive. It was refreshing to see such unfazed positivity.

A mural-esque illustration for a children’s hospital in France. He said that many of the children had recently immigrated, and now had long-term physical or mental problems. He thought about their feeling of limbo by being dislocated from home, and how to assure them that they are safe in this hospital.

Giorgione – The Renaissance’s Dark Horse

In 1, art, Poetry, Renaissance on December 9, 2009 at 11:42 pm

Today, in a sleepy History of Art lesson, a slide of Giorgione’s Tempesta c.1508 shook me out of post-pub fatigue.

The hangover slid away to the deep green and the strangeness of this picture.

It looked like a scene of some magic fantasy, not all good. Somehow I related to this scene, which is strange because the idea of breastfeeding gives me shivers, and Italian scenery is hardly familiar.

Giorgione (1477 – 1510), was born Giorgio Barbarelli da Castelfranco, but like a lot of painters shortened his name. I guess artists names were one of the first types of slogan.

Gombrich agrees:

“Giorgione has not drawn things and persons to arrange them afterwards in space, but he thought of nature, the earth, the trees, the light, air and clouds and the human beings with their cities and bridges as one. … From now on, painting was more than drawing plus coloring. It was art with its own secret laws and devices.”

There are only 5 paintings left known to be of Giorgione. He is one of the most elusive painters of the Italian Renaissance. Contemporary of Titian in Venice, Competing with Michelangelo and Raphael in Rome, he did not produce such a volume of work. Even the size is smaller, the Tempesta is barely bigger than an A3 piece of paper.

I think this multiplies the mystery of the woman’s stare – the lightning bolt.