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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Laocoon and his Sons a further analysis

While we can find the technique admirable perhaps to our eyes in the 21st century the sculpture has a kind of exaggerated emotionalism-the twisting and turning-the nudity-the exaggerated physiques-our inability to recognise the meaning of the drama-the drama contained within a very small tightly controlled area. However all these things are the result of artistic judgement or the limitations of the medium of marble.

One of the weaknesses of art that is based on a literary text is these texts tend to be culture specific. That is-while we might recognise a scene that has been visualized from The Bible say "The Crucifixion" we probably don't recognise a scene taken from ancient Greek mythology, its full meaning is lost to us unless we go to our research tools. An imaginative visualisation from a literary narrative is also quite a different process to the original impetus of the writer. Where details can be a given in a text this is not so for a painting or sculpture. In the Bible for instance there are no physical descriptions of the protagonists and in many renaissance paintings Jesus and his mother Mary look approximately the same age. What did Mary look like ? What did Jesus/Peter/Paul/James etc look like ? Our "picture" of Jesus is a product of the paintings and sculptures that were made from a detail poor biblical narrative. This is also true of how people dressed-the dwellings they inhabited etc.

What can we recognise about it now we have researched the sculpture's origins ? We are looking at the high point of the drama. An artist in theory could make a visual work of any point in the time line of a narrative-the snakes coming out of the sea, the dead bodies of Laocoon and sons, the moment Laocoon sees the snakes etc. It is easily argued though that none of those possibilities has the high drama of the moment of the living victims in the coils of the snakes. Artists must make judgements like these to realise a work of art. The use of nudity rather than clothing the figures dramatises their struggle.

The apparent age of the sons is also I believe a considered element in the drama. Their youth suggests an innocence that increases the cruelty of the punishment inflicted by the god. Here too is a subtle and balanced artistic judgement, their physique suggests an older male while their size suggests a youth, had their physique matched their apparent age the unity of the sculpture would be lost, if their age matched their physique the emotional impact would be lessened. Further-if by reducing the age of the sons the emotional impact is heightened why not represent them as even younger ? I suspect that if the sons had been represented as any younger that aspect of the physique may have become too grotesque-a very young boy with "manly" physique would render the sculpture laughable. While it is easy to dismiss older works as "conventional" and of no real value to us now I think that if we can get past the misgivings we have about such work they are still rich in lessons for any art student willing to look and think about what they are looking at.
The Laocoon sculpture is also significant on another level. It was unearthed in Rome a year or two before Michaelangelo began work on the Sistine Chapel and it is known that he knew the sculpture well. I believe the impact the sculpture had on him was a decisive element in the approach he took to the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Question ; What will "Modernism" be called in 50 years time ?

Hi, any answers to this question would be appreciated

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

The bridge

These are views of the bridge across the river I have been sketching. Changing the local colour of the bridge to see how each works. Both are in oil pastel. the "orange" version is earlier and was done late last year. I added a "detail" of each sketch.

Sometimes a detail can bring out a more interesting aspect of the subect if you are considering developing it further in an oil painting

Sunday, March 14, 2010

From an unfinished novel-The Hoplites Lament


Wrap me in my cloak
Tell my kin
The hot red blood
That kept this pallor
From my skin
Has left my body
And the earth
Has drunk it in

A. H. Sydney 2008

Coming Soon ; A further Analysis of Laocoon And His Sons

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Laocoon and his Sons the narrative

The statue of Laocoön and His Sons is a monumental sculpture in marble now in the Vatican Museums, Rome。
Attributed by the Roman author Pliny the Elder to three sculptors from the island of Rhodes: Agesander, Athenodoros and Polyclitus. It shows the Trojan priest Laocoön and his sons Antiphantes and Thymbraeus being strangled by sea serpents.
Laocoön was killed after attempting to expose the ruse of the Trojan Horse by striking it with a spear. The Trojans believed the snakes were sent by Athena orPoseidon and were interpreted by the them as proof that the horse was a sacred object. The most famous account of these events is in Virgil's Aeneid。
Various dates have been suggested for the statue, ranging from about 160 to about 20 BCE. Inscriptions found at Lindos in Rhodes date Agesander and Athenedoros to a period after 42 BC, making the years 42 to 20 the most likely date for the Laocoön statue's creation. It is not known whether it is an original work or a copy of an earlier sculpture.
The statue was probably originally commissioned for the home of a wealthy Roman. It was unearthed in 1506 (incidentally 2 years before Michaelangelo started the painting of the Sistine Chapel) near the site of the Domus Aurea of the Emperor Nero, in the vineyard of Felice De Fredis. Informed of the fact, Pope Julius II, an enthusiastic classicist, acquired and placed it in the Belvedere Garden at the Vatican, now part of the Vatican Museums.

what was Dada ?

Remembering Dada

Borrowing the mouths of terrible giants
To bite the sacred objects
These vocal volunteers refused umbrellas
For the violent storms within their bodies
Watched their guiltless silhouettes
Transversely prowl the writing
On the shaven heads of men
Who killed their daughters
Believing signs from others
Would reveal their inward journey

A.H. Sydney 1984

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Presentiment

Fragment of the First Presentiment

...........the scented saints are broken
Red is the colour of their feet
Black is the colour of their eyes
Smashed and left to the memory of frogs

Flowers shall grow through the hearts of men and women
Bringing blood into their mouths
Running toward the sun they will blind themselves deliberately

And fish shall jump from the water
Hiding with their shining bodies
Stones the children try to swallow
to stop themselves shouting in a new language

The flesh of the body will be like a prison
Mice will bring a message
Another rhythm in their curling fingers
Shakes the dice that cast the future.

Sydney 1984 A.H.

In Memory of Joan Miro

Joan Miro-(Monday to Friday)

On halcyon Mondays
Trembling egyptian lepers
Look closely at his trousers

On invidious Tuesdays
Handsome irrational policemen
Prohibit his multi-lingual dreaming

On childless Wednesdays
Shouting marsupial librettists
Practice his outrageous silence

On distasteful Thursdays
Waiting Roman poodles
Become his elegant signature

On liberated Fridays
Writhing organic nails
Fill his Herculean pockets
Sydney 1984 A.H.

In Memory of Giorgio de Chirico

Paradoxically, the misogynist aims his Gattling Gun

At those he does not wish to harm

Perhaps some monstrous or idealistic ship can tomorrow

Sail (with him on board ?)

Swiftly over the horizon.

Premonitions grow wantonly without provocation

Uttering blasphemies as they depart

To colonize or exterminate him

The painting had been a painful experience

Like ventriloqism with no voice-box

Like a hungry prophet his husk shook in the wind

Memories, stripped of daffodils

And pointing out into the sea

The isthmus, and Time is not Charity
Sydney 1984 A.H.

Houses by the river.....

Some more sketches of houses among the trees in oil pastel from my river sketchbook.
I,m aiming for a unity in the shadow areas by using varieties of blue
this means I have to stay in the white/pink/red/red-orange range for the houses to be able to use blue as a shadow there as well

Coming Soon: A Further Analysis of Laocoon and his Sons

Can My Limbic Brain Help Me Analyse Art ?

Can My Limbic Brain Help Me Analyse Laocoon and His Sons If we can resist the urge for a moment to run to our art history book and just look at the sculpture we can make an assessment of the sculpture by just looking and making judgements from our life experience then proceed to what we need to research to round out our analysis. Three figures who look like they spend lots of time at the gym. What the relationship is of the figures to each other we cannot tell. The figures are in the coils of a giant snake. It looks like a painful and life threatening experience Why? We don’t know. All are nude.A major component of the expressiveness of the piece is this straining of muscle against snake coils. If the figures wore clothes much of this would be lost The two boys in comparison to the larger figure we could judge by size to be around 12 years old but their physical development looks slightly exaggerated for such young boys. However if the physique of the larger figure is exaggerated in the interests of expressiveness the sculptor is forced to exaggerate the physique of the younger figures to maintain a unity among the figures. If the physique of the figures were on an ordinary scale the drama of the figures would also lose some of their force. There is also, I think, some exaggerated contrast in the bearded older head and the “beardless” boys and between their more styled hair and his disheveled beard and hair. The head of the man also seems older than his physique suggests. So much for what we can judge by looking

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

More pages from my riverside sketchbook. Currently I'm using blues for all the shadow areas to create a unity in the shadow. This means I stay in the white/pink/red/red-orange range for the houses so I can use the blue for shadow on the houses.

I'ld like to turn some of the better sketches in to more developed paintings. Will probably fill a sketchbook before deciding
which sketches to consider
developing into paintings

Monday, March 8, 2010

Trying to be epigrammatic about art

The painting on the left "Dedham Vale" by John Constable makes the medium conform to the landscape. The painting on the right "The Terrace" by Bonnard makes the landscape conform to the medium

Coming Soon; Can My Limbic Brain Help Me Analyse Art ?

My Limbic Brain Won’t Let Me Enjoy Modern Art

The human brain has been thought of as made up of three layers that have been laid down as the human brain evolved over millions of years.(The triune brain theory of Paul MacLean –perhaps a kind of psycho/physiological variant of Freuds id, ego and super ego). The most recent, the neocortex emerged with primates.The neocortex is responsible for language, abstract thought and imagination with infinite learning capabilities. The second is the limbic that emerged with the early mammals.The limbic is responsible for our emotions and value judgements (based on previous experience) of agreeable and disagreeable experiences. The oldest part of the brain is the reptilian. This is responsible for breathing, heart rate and other basic functions.
I believe that when people first look at a work of visual art it by-passes the most sophisticated part of the brain the neocortex and reaches the limbic and reptilian parts of the brain. This explains its effect on people in its depth and intensity of like/dislike and how for some people the value judgements they make about visual art and how rigid these judgements can be. No amount of “reason” can change some peoples’ mind about “modern art” for example. It also explains why so much of the writing about visual art is unconvincing once it is described in words ,particularly when the words are lists of superlatives, or any real insight is avoided by writing about the artists’ life struggle/biography This is also why labels are needed in art criticism/history, “mannerism”, ”baroque”, “classicism”, “Impressionism” “Hellenism” “ modernism” and the rest. All of these labels are substitutes for any meaningful dialogue about works of visual art. This kind of approach also fosters the disdain of the “modern” for the “conventional past”
For an aspiring visual artist most of the writing on visual art is useless or worse, a kind of red herring. I have read thousands perhaps hundreds of thousands of words about visual art and very few have given a useful insight into the problems and processes of visual art. What can be done ? I believe the first thing that readers of writers on visual art must realise is that not many visual art writers have actually produced visual art. They are literary people. Second that visual artists of whatever period are faced with more or less the same problems, the shaping of a medium into a visual experience. Our job as producers of visual art is to LOOK. That is; NOT to ”be moved”, or to “draw on our stock of historical classifications” etc.