Friday, 16 October 2009

Active art

Whilst in London we came across a few pieces of art and installations that i am going to call 'active art'. This is because the actual art involved a process or the art displayed was a finished product but you could actively do something with it.

The first one is Antony Gormley's One and Other. Located on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar square. This piece of art ran from 6th July to 14th of October. It saw ordinary people occupying a time slot of an hour each in a space normalLy reserved for the elite, for the kings and generals of this nation in statue form.

'There was something very poignant about the sight of a single human on a space designed for a massive statue. Gormley championed the little guy against the intimidating grandeur of the square's institutions ...' (Alex Needham, The Guardian)

Gormley was trying to create 'a representation of the whole of humanity'.

It saw 2400 people have a slot on the piece during the duration of the work being in place.It saw people occupying the plinth, every hour, every day, for twenty for hours a day, for a hundred days, without a break. Occupants were picked randomly from the 35000 people that applied and could do WHATEVER THEY DESIRED whilst on the plinth.

Gormley says,
"Who can be represented in art? How can we make it? How can we experience it? These are questions that have exercised me for years. Whether you see the plinth as a protest or pole-dance platform; studio or stocks; playpen or pulpit; as a frame for interrogation or for meditation, it has provided an open space of possibility for many to test their sense of self and how they might communicate this to a wider world."


The Afnolfini Portrait

I have a few favourite pictures,

Picnic in the garden by Edouard Manet. Le dejeuner sur l'herbe and A bar at the folies- Bergere also both my Manet.

My other favourite picture is
The afnolfini Portrait by Jan Van Eyck(1434).

It is located in the National Gallery in London and each time i go the city i love to see it. My fascination for it never fades and i enjoy finding something new and exciting in the image on each new visit. I could literally talk about this painting all day!

It is known by several different names, these include; The Arnolfini Wedding, The Arnolfini Marriage and Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his wife. Part of the reason for so many different titles is the uncertainty and mystery surrounding the subjects in the image. It was first thought to be Giovanni de Arrigo Arnolfini and Giovanna Cenami but it has recently been discovered that they married in 1447, 13 years after the portrait and six years after Jan Van Eyck's death. Other possiblities include an undocumented 2nd wife or his first wife who passed away?

The latter theory would reinforce the theory that some people believe to be true about this portrait being a memorial portrait. The painting is highly symbolic and above the two figures is a candelabra, with two candles. The one above the male figure is full and burning bright, a representation of life. Whilst the one other his female companion has burnt out and remains a small stub.

Another theory is that it is infact a pictorial marriage certificate,although the actual identity of the couple unknown, with the artist Jan Van Eyck signing the image as if he was a witness to the marriage. It is also thought that one of the figures in the reflection of the overly large mirror is the artist, adding further evidence for this theory.

The fact that couples are expected to get pregnant of their first night of marriage together in these times, also reinforces the fact this could be a marriage painting. The lady already looks pregnant, but she isn't. The dress she is wearing was the fashion of the time.We understand that the couple are of wealth as there is much symbolism to suggest this, the clothes, are expensive although the painting is considered to be unornate for people of such wealth, blossom oranges and the set up of the room all also indicate money.

There are also plenty links to fertility, with the females green dress representing hope fore a baby, the removing of shoes so the people can touch the earth in order to be more fertile. A strong belief at the time. The red sheets in the room represent the physical art of love and the white cap featured on the lady shows her purity.

I love the fact that everywhere you look in the painting there is symbolism. We know it is the height of summer based on the cherry blossom on the tree outside.This is also representative of wealth and fertility.The small dog at the front of the painting represents loyalty. The mirror is surrounded by scenes from the passion, representing salvation and the oranges are further symbolism of wealth and fertility.

There is also evidence of the gender roles, as accustomed to the time. The man in the image gazes out at the viewer openly, whilst the woman submits to her husband and gazes longingly at him.

Jan Van Eyck was known at this time as the first person to use oil paints. He branched away from the usual tempera technique that was so vastly practiced around him.

Images from


After uploading my Tate modern blog, i realised i hadn't included any of our London trip at all. Here is the usual in pictures, summary :)

Tate Modern

I thought it was about time i finally compiled a blog about our trip to tate modern. He are a selection of my favourite works from the day;

Scale;No Title (Table And Four Chairs).(2003)
Robert Thierren

I thought this piece are art was wonderful. I thought this to be so as it made a really big impact on the viewer and i believe it to be engaging for the young and old alike. I love the way the sculpture is 'in the round' allowing exploration from all angles and i really like the way you can get into the art and walk around, through, behind it.

This picture shows the scale of the work as i am standing next to one of the chairs and the base of the chair is level with my head. The work reminds me of a fairyland style work and i think is particularly representative of Guilliver's travels.

Venus of the Rags
Michaelangelo Pistoletto (1967)(1974)

I liked this work because i tied the contemporary and the traditional together and created a new composition, with a twist. I like the humour and comical value of the piece. I really enjoy the juxta-position of the different genres and i think it would raise a few smiles amongst the people who look at it.

It reminds me in someways of the work of Banksy and his cheeky, controversial, can this be classed as art? style. It is something i am particularly a fan of.

Richard Serra

I was really interested in seeing this piece of art as i studied this artist as one of the ones who influenced my work last year. Richard Serra is known for his process art and he made this piece by throwing molten lead into the corner of the room and leaving it to cool, therefore creating the art. This would mean that this piece could never be reproduced the same again and even if the same technique was followed, nature would most likely have a different effect another time round.He made a series of these 'splash pieces'.

Robert Morris


I also looked at Robert Morris for the same process art reason. He created his art by cutting felt and hanging it from a nail on the wall and letting gravity complete the process that nature desired it to and therefore the final piece of art with it. This method would also produce unique results.

" The creative imagination requires a certain abandon and disregard for results, which often paradoxically generates the most useful outcomes"

(Mcniff, 1998)

Yorkshire Scupture park, Wakefield.

A collection of images from the day, a very long journey later.

I really enjoyed the sculpture park, more than i thought i would. The only downside was there wasn't enough time to enjoy all of the 500 acres. We only managed to explore a small section of the delights that were on display and finding them certainly kept us fit that day!

There were some real gems amongst the ones we did encounter however, and i love the fact that it is all open air and the sculptures are 'in the round' allowing them to be explored and enjoyed from all angles. I particularly was a fan of Sophie Ryders work as i thought it was both inspiring and ingenious.