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Symbolism in Guernica September 24, 2010

Filed under: Writings — chicapod @ 10:27 pm

Artist Pablo Picasso
Year 1937
Type Oil on canvas
Dimensions 349 cm × 776 cm (137.4 in × 305.5 in)
Location Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid

The usage of black, grey and white symbolises life, in between and death respectively. White is life, black is death, and the rest, which is the present, is grey. All the figures are white, which means that there is life in them, and are enveloped in darkness, denoted by black, which shows that they are surrounded by death. To interpret this, the living is surviving in an environment full of death and sorrow during the war, making Picasso’s emotional message of anti-war sentiment fairly strong.

Next, I shall analyse the various symbols of the painting.

The light bulb at the top middle area of the canvas symbolises the man-made eternal sun. It illuminates the rest of the figures, bringing the torture and the victims of war to light, exposing them to the viewers’ eyes. This can show that the war is an act of brutal self-destruction, being caused by Man himself, and bringing misery unto himself.  The issues of war are reagarding the difference in Man bring more harm than benefit to mankind.

Upon close scrutiny, one observes a small, emaciated flower in the tight grasp of a broken limb holding a chipped sword. This symbol of the flower actually shows a hint of optimistic hope amongst all the suffering and pain. This hope, however small, lies in the hands of Man, and it is his choice whether to let the hope grow, or to crush and destroy it. Misery is brought unto himself but hope can also be reignited through the process of peace and harmony. Picasso is trying to convey the message of cooperation with one another, and learning to accept each other’s flaws and differences in a positive way. The right lies in our hands.

Other symbols such as the horse and the bull are mythological figures; they represent the Loyalists and Nationalists fighting against each other in the Spanish Civil War. Since both figures are in a state of extreme pain and suffering, both are not beefiting from the pointless war. The war is a fatuous act of unnecessary violence, the horror and injustice caused do not aid any political party in any way. It only adds on to the physical and mental torture to the countrymen, and political members alike.

Thus, in conclusion, Guernica is a painting with numerous symbols to depict strong anti-war sentiments.


Comparision of European Field and Large Reclining Figure September 22, 2010

Filed under: Writings — chicapod @ 8:50 pm

 European Field by Antony Gormley, 1992

Large Reclining Figure by Henry Moore

Which artwork, Large Reclining Figure by Henry Moore or European Field by Antony Gromley is more successful in conveying its meaning?

Based on my personal opinion, I feel that Large Reclining figure is more successful at conveying its meaning. I understand that Antony Gormley’s purpose of creating European Field was to portray all the 35000 tiny unbaked clay figurines as part of the whole, since the figures fill up the entire area of the exhibition space, and this signifies the audience as part of the whole picture: the audience and the artwork, It fells as though while the viewer is looking at the 35000 clay figurines, the 35000 figurines are staring back, giving one an overwhelming sense of impact. Even though each clay figurine is smaller than life and looks harmless, the total 35000 figurines exert a certain amount of pressure on the viewer. The enclosed space of the exhibition hall also gives a claustrophobic feeling, with so many things contained in a limited area.

However, the Large Reclining Figure by Henry Moore is different. Moore believes truth to material, where the material used to create his sculpture is an inspiration to him. It attaches closely to the posture of the reclining figure, giving and filling in the whole meaning of his art.  The simplified and curvaceous form of the Large Reclining Figure is elegant and simplified; it brings out the essence of the human reclining posture to the sculpture with just simple lines and curves, representing the parts of the human figure. Based on my contextual knowledge, I understand that due to Moore’s experience in World War 2, his sculpture depict the halfway state between life and death, with lying down symbolizing death and sitting or standing symbolizing life. The reclining position is somewhere between sitting down and standing up, therefore showing the phase between life and death. I think that his interpretation of life and death is very meaningful and interesting in this case.

The smoothness and curves of the sculpture gives it a touch of fragility yet exuding a silent strength at the same time, contrasting the use of hard material and soft form, constructing a “soft, melting figure”. The size of the figure is much larger than life, giving the viewer yet another imposing presence. Tender yet aggressive, nostalgic and emotional, the Large Reclining Figure does not give one a sense of detachment like when looking at the European Field (the viewers cannot enter the exhibition hall, but is forced to see the whole mass of figurines from a fixed point).

Hence, I think that the Large Reclining Figure by Henry Moore is more successful in conveying its meaning than European Field by Antony Gromley.


Matthew Ngui: Point of View

Filed under: Writings — chicapod @ 4:16 pm

How does Point of View require audience participation?

The audience needs to view the art works from afar to get the full view of the message “You are always in transit”. The message does not make sense if the viewer only sees it from a sole pillar. Hence, it requires the requires the audience to walk from the start of the train station to the end of the train station to view the message.

The different angles in which the audience views the message is also different, since it requires viewers to walk around the text, past the text just to get a full view of the whole image.

In conclusion, the artwork requires audience participation to  a large extent.

How is the text-site specific?

Firstly. the message is relevant as the site is a train station, and “You are always in transit” allows the passengers to pass the pillars to observe the message.

Secondly, the text makes use of space. The sense of depth provided by the receding pillars for the message creates an effect that goes from near to a far distance for the viewer.

Thirdly, the text does not obstruct the passengers during the alighting and boarding of trains. It not only provides a touch of humor and elegance in the train stations, it also does not occupy any space, being just conveniently stuck on the pillars.

Hence, it is site specific.


Ng Eng Teng: Mother and Child September 19, 2010

Filed under: Writings — chicapod @ 1:30 am

I did this for one of my assignments for SOVA.

Ng Eng Teng the artist.

Front view of the public sculpture.

Back view.

Full view.

Option B: Individual Report on Public Art in Singapore

 Artwork: Mother and Child

Artist: Ng Eng Teng

Location: Far East Plaza

Brief Biography of Artist:

Ng Eng Teng is an independent and prolific artist, creating more than 300 sculptures over a span of forty years, from monumental public works (most notably Mother and Child, Wealth and Contentment) to life-sized or smaller sculptures in bronze, (such as Tension and Pride of a Mother) ceramics and ciment fondu. He also specialized in other categories of work, particularly the functional wares, maquettes and drawings. Since the start of his career, Ng Eng Teng produced huge quantities of artworks, amounting to more than 1700 pieces in total.

Being a leading sculptor in the region, Ng Eng Teng demonstrates his extraordinary ability to endow imagination and inventiveness to art. As quoted from a close artist friend, “Eng Teng continues to surprise with his impressive ability to create new forms and volumes, never looking back but delving into unknown areas where he previously had not ventured, even when dealing with familiar subjects. Humorous, ironic, ambiguous, rich in erotic connotations and full of poetic presence, these extraordinary works substantiate his position of prominence in contemporary sculpture.”

The human figure remains Ng Eng Teng’s principal source of inspiration. From his earliest, tentative explorations to his mature, masterful creations, figuration is a recurring subject matter. He constantly explores familiar themes, particularly the female figure, which his fertile imagination transforms into the most unexpected and surprising images, as seen from his artworks.

Feldman Report on Mother and Child

This huge (about 2 to 3 times the size of an average human being) bronze sculpture depicts an abstract female figure reclining on a pillar, cradling a similarly abstract figure of an infant tightly to her chest. It is a modelled, not natural subject matter. The female figure has a triangular halo behind her, probably representing her flying hair, or even a headdress. Her face is defined by hollow eye sockets, a protruding nose, high cheekbones and thick lips, forming a somewhat contemplative expression. The same goes for the infant’s facial features; both mother and child are looking far away in the same direction. The mother’s hands are dislocated from her torso, connected only to her child’s body rather than her own. She balances on bottom at the pillar, with her legs bound together by rectangular strips (probably representing her long dress), arched upwards in an unnatural manner. The whole sculpture looks smooth and rounded. Since it is made of bronze, the figures are brownish-black due to prolonged deoxygenation.

The composition of the artwork is somewhat triangular, with the bare feet of the mother, her headdress and her bottom forming three distinct points of the triangle. Mother and Child is three-dimensional, and its rounded figures give the viewers a sense of visual depth and volume. Use of geometric shapes (triangular halo behind her head) and lines (rectangular strips on mother’s legs) enhance the abstractness of the sculpture, and also gives it a trace of simplicity. However, it is visually appealing as there is a balance of the forms; the more complex facial features of the mother and child contrasted with the rhythmic patterns of her dress, represented by the rectangular strips on her legs.

Mother and Child is site-specific. Situated in front of the busy shopping centre, Far East Plaza, on Orchard Road, people can be seen sitting on the edge of the fountain pool containing the sculpture, and walking past it. This sculpture serves as a resting area for shoppers, and it also beautifies the surrounding area, at the same time neither obstructing the entrance nor frustrating the public, since it only occupies minimal space in front of the shopping centre. Many tourists take photographs there, so this is also a landmark of Far East Plaza. To get a complete image of the sculpture, one has to walk around it and across it, as it needs to be deciphered from different angles of the sculpture.

The artist is bringing the theme of motherly love to the public. Judging from the fact that the hands of the mother are not connected to her body, but rather, connects and covers her child protectively, is be enough to symbolise the kind of sacrificial affection that a mother has for her child, even willing to be disembodied just to make sure her child is safe. The strong expressive forms of the sculpture also invoke the reflective mode of the viewers. It is marvellous how the artist has created a world of pure motherly love through the manipulation of bronze using simple yet effective geometric shapes. Brownish-black is the sole colour used for this sculpture; probably to epitomise the sombre and everlasting motherly love for the child. This is an appropriate colour choice, since it is serious, and has a strong and vivid impact on the audience

Personally, I think that the artist is successful in conveying his ideas through his artwork. Through this sculpture’s fusion of East and West influences, the artist applies East Asian arts to his works, using Chinese Shiwan techniques (as seen from the details of the figure’s face) to create this western-style sculpture. This process-based technique has resulted in sculpture which is immediate and vivid. As explained above, the sculpture is site-specific, and at the same time, full of life. When a person walks past it, he or she will have to take a while to ponder over the significance of this artwork, since it is visually appealing (full of voluptuous form) and also very outstanding in the whole area. With its prominent contours, Mother and Child is gives an expressive and emotional image of motherly love for her child. Hence, the artist is successful in conveying his ideas through his artwork.


Maya Lin and Richard Serra September 4, 2010

Filed under: Writings — chicapod @ 10:55 pm

One of my SOVA assignments.

1.       What makes Maya Lin’s work successful in public?

In her works, Maya Lin has maintained a careful balance between art and architecture, as seen from her most famous work, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The memorial is made up of two black granite walls which are 75 m long and sunk into the ground, with the earth behind them. This design is extremely simple, but its elegance flows through its landscape. As an architect, Lin also emphasizes the artistic value of her structures. For the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, her conception was to create an opening or a wound in the earth to symbolize the gravity of the loss of the soldiers. Her simple yet graceful style has been successful in public, garnering many awards and accolades.

Maya Lin “merges rational and technological order with notions of beauty and the transcendental.” In other words, she seeks to alter the natural landscape to find harmony between human activities and nature. Her works address how humans relate and respond to the environment, and presents new ways of looking at the world around us. They do not create any negative impacts on the pristine landscape, but rather beautifies and improve it further. This is also one of the factors of the success of Maya Lin’s work in public.

2.       What does Richard Serra mean by “site specific” for Tilted Arc?

It means that Tilted Arc is meant only for the Federal Plaza in New York City, where it was situated. If the sculpture was to be placed in somewhere other than the location mentioned above, it will not create as big impact on the viewers or might not be as ideal as it was in Federal Plaza. This is because the Federal Plaza has some pre-requisites that other places do not have; it is the location’s uniqueness that Tilted Arc is best when placed there.

Since the Federal Plaza is a central business district in New York, there are many busy people there at all times, whether outside or inside it. With Tilted Arc situated right in front of the office building, the employees of the building will have to walk around it to get to their workplace. Although many complained about the inconvenience posted, they are challenged to view the artwork in different angles and perspectives, dramatically changing the aesthetic of the plaza while doing so. As Richard Serra puts it, “The viewer becomes aware of himself and of his movement through the plaza. As he moves, the sculpture changes. Contraction and expansion of the sculpture result from the viewer’s movement. Step by step the perception not only of the sculpture but of the entire environment changes.”

There is also a kind of masculine beauty in Tilted Arc, which comes from its minimal Modernist lines and material. It is an abstracted shape that combines rough and massive material with its elegant and poetic lines at the same time, giving people an unconscious sense of hope at what lies at the end of the humongous steel curve.

The above is what Richard Serra means by “site specific” for Tilted Arc.