Sunday, 29 May 2011

Modernism, Monet and 'Maggie'

Both Claude Monet and Chuck Close were exploring paint, colour and human perception.

Maggie, (1996), Oil on canvas, © Chuck Close 

Water Lilies (1920) Claude Monet

1. Outline the intentions of each artist and 2. Describe the techniques of each artist
Claude Monet was one of the early impressionists (“Claude Monet, (1840-1926),” 2011). Impressionists placed “emphasis on landscape painting... [and aimed] to break up light into its basic components and to reduce shapes and forms to an ‘impression of the scene” (French painting 1830-1930,” 2011). The term impressionism originated from art critic Louis Leroy from Monet’s painting ‘Impression: Soleil Levant’ when he said it was just an impression and that the work could not be considered finished (“What is Impressionism,” 2011). The term was picked up by artists as a way of describing their works instead of a negative critique and created works in this style using similar techniques. They are characterised by “short, ‘broken’ brush strokes of pure, untinted and unmixed colours give the appearance of spontaneity and vitality” (“What is Impressionism,” 2011). The paintings surfaces were often highly textured with thick paint and were compositionally simplified and innovative with an emphasis on the overall effect not just on detail (“What is Impressionism,” 2011). Up until the Impressionists, history had been the accepted source of subject matter for paintings, but Impressionists looked instead to the many subjects in life around them (“What is Impressionism,” 2011). In Monet’s water lily paintings all these characteristics are clear especially in his view point that rather than giving a view from afar of an entire scene on a canvas, instead Monet has placed the viewer right up near, almost in the subject matter of the pond and the floating water lilies. With his water lily paintings he “wished for the paintings to encompass the viewer” (“Water Lilie, Claude Monet,” 2010), so as you were immersed in the subject matter. The aim of his large Water Lilies paintings, Monet said was to “supply "the illusion of an endless whole, of water without horizon or bank" (“Water Lilie, Claude Monet,” 2010). He wished to capture “the effects of light at different times of the day and seasons on the pond” (“Love, Not Light...Lilies,” 2011), in an attempt to capture the constantly changing quantities of natural light and colour along with the “shimmering reflections of clouds overhead” (“Water Lilie, Claude Monet,” 2010).
Chuck Close “has been a leading figure in contemporary art since the early 1970s” (“Chuck Close,” 1998). His works have been “associated with the style of painting called Photorealism or Superrealism” (“Chuck Close,” 2011). Photorealists frequently used a grid technique to enlarge a photograph and reduce each square to formal elements of design (“Chuck Close,” 2011). Thousands of tiny airbrush strokes, thumbprints or looping multi-colour brushstrokes (“Chuck Close,” 1998), make up his paintings turning them into mosaic like prints that reflect Close’s “keen interest in ancient floor mosaics” (Chuck Close,” 2000-2001). Most of his works are very large portraits based on photographs (“Chuck Close,” 2006), of personal images of family and friends, as well as self portraits.  His works form a link between representational systems of painting and photography (“Chuck Close,” 2011).

3. Find 2 quotes about each artists work, and reference them correctly.
·         "The motif's essential is the mirror of water whose aspect is constantly being modified by the changing sky reflected in it, and which imbues it with life and movement."  - Claude Monet (“Chuck Oscar Monet,”2006)
·         "These landscapes of water and reflections have become my obsession. They are far beyond my old man powers and despite everything I want to succeed in conveying what I feel."  - Claude Monet (“Chuck Oscar Monet,”2006)

·         "Artists...see both the device that makes the illusion and the illusion
itself. I'm as interested in the distribution of marks on a flat I am with the thing that ultimately gets depicted... [It's] shifting from one to the other that really interests me."
Chuck Close (Chuck Close,” 2000-2001).
·         “Some people wonder whether what I do is inspired by a computer and whether or not that kind of imaging is a part of what makes this work contemporary. I absolutely hate technology, and I'm computer illiterate, and I never use any labour-saving devices although I'm not convinced that a computer is a labour-saving device" (“Chuck Close,” 2011).

4. Note 3 similarities of the work of both artists.
·         Both artists use small quick brush strokes to create their art. Close “[uses] the techniques of grisaille and pointillism within the grids. This is similar to technique used by the Impressionists” (“Chuck Close,” 2011), of which Monet was a part of.
·         Monet was interested in portraying “blurry evocations of nature” (“Water Lilie, Claude Monet,” 2010), with Close finding a similar interest “in how a photograph shows some parts of the image in focus, or sharp, and some out-of-focus, or blurry” (“Chuck Close,” 2011).
·         The two men both focused on a single subject for many years. Close worked solely on his art of the human figure (Chuck Close,” 2000-2001), whilst Monet had “years of tedious focus upon his pond and the water lilies at Giverny (“Love, Not Light...Lilies,” 2011).
·         Also the artworks created are in relation to the visual elements that they are made up of. Close was concerned with the shapes, textures, volume, shadows, and highlights of the photograph itself (“Chuck Close,” 2011), and transferring these into a painting. Monet similarly concerned with the light as it hit the surface of the water at different times of the day and the reflections it caused.
·         Both artists have works that are clearly of their subject matter whilst others take time to see. Closes self portrait to me seems to be possibly of his eye and partial face which took some observation for me to see. Some of Monet’s water lilies appear very cloud like or as if they were world maps drawn blurry where as others are more clearly flowers resting on the surface of water in ponds.

5. What are some differences between the artist's works. (At least 3)
·         Closes works have an almost even square or rectangular form, whereas Monet’s works tend to be long and drawn out across a large space.
·         Closes works are influenced by technology with the use of his photographs to capture the image before he makes his artworks. Monet’s water lilies are entirely observational and done empirically at the pond itself.
·         Monet’s works have a fuzzy, blurry effect from his brushstrokes compared to Close’s more chopped up and sectioned, squared off grids.
·         Both artists use colour differently to create a whole. Close uses colours next to each other to trick the eye into blending them to see an image, whilst Monet colours blend and mix as they were applied to define or merge shapes.

6. Describe your response to the work of both artists and 7. Other comments
For me I prefer Monet’s works. I appreciate Close’s works as they remind me of looking at things from an obscured view like looking through a window whilst it’s raining. To me they seem too technology influenced and mathematical with the grids and block/shapes or colour compared to Monet’s more painterly technique in applying media to create and define subject. I think the culture i was brought up in of painted works being done in a certain way affects my opinion towards these works and biases me towards preferring Monet’s for it more painterly feel over Close’s more contemporary approach to art.

Claude Monet, (1840-1926) (retrieved 25th May, 2011).

French painting 1830-1930 (retrieved 27th May, 2011)

What is Impressionism (2011).  

Love, Not Light, Reflected in the Pond of Monet’s Water Lilies (retrieved 27th May, 2011) 

Chuck Close (December 31, 2006)

Claude Oscar Monet (30 Sept, 2006.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Industrialisation and Art

Industrialisation in the late 1800s, and today. The artists of the late 1800's and early 1900's, in Europe, were influenced by the Industrial revolution.

1. What and when was the Industrial Revolution?
‘The industrial revolution may be defined as the application of power-driven machinery to manufacturing. In the eighteenth century all of Western Europe began to industrialise rapidly, but in England the process was most highly accelerated (Rempel, n.d.)’.  ‘Fundamental changes occurred in agriculture, textile and metal manufacture, transportation, economic policies and the social structure in England... The year 1760 is generally accepted as the “eve” of the Industrial Revolution. In reality, this eve began more than two centuries before this date. The late 18th century and the early l9th century brought to fruition the ideas and discoveries of those who had long passed on, such as, Galileo, Bacon, Descartes and others  (Montagna, 2011’). The industrial revolution seems to have been a sequence of changes to the way in which we do things to make them faster, easier and quicker to increase productivity and make life better.

2. Research both Modernist paintings in order to comment on the subject matter, form and style used to celebrate the machine and motion in each painting. Answer the question in 2 parts for each painting. Both paintings featured on this blog that are from the early 1900s were painted by Modernist painters from the group called 'Futurists'. The Futurists celebrated the machine, and objects in motion. Their primary objective was to depict movement, which they saw as symbolic of their commitment to the dynamic forward thrust of the 20th century

 Umberto Boccioni - The City Rises
‘Boccioni was perhaps the most significant artist associated with the first wave of Futurist art (The Times, 2009)’. The futurist artists were obsessed with portraying speed and movement in art. It was a movement concerned with the modern world and ‘the idea of a complete renewal of human sensibility brought about by modern science (Willette, 2011)’. ‘The Futurists preached violence and believed in the virtue of destruction for the purpose of sweeping away the old and the worn out and the useless, with the hope of bringing industrialization about, dragging Italy into the modern world (Willette, 2011)’. ‘Like other Futurists, Boccioni's work centered on the portrayal of movement (dynamism), speed, and technology (Umberto Boccioni: 1882-1916,” 1999-2007)’. ‘Futurist art is optical and not intellectual, always related to things that move, that are directional and dynamic, colorful and fragmented (Willette, 2011)’. In his painting The City Rises he depicts ‘the construction of an electric power plant (“The City Rises: Umberto Boccioni (Italian, 1882-1916)”, 2011)’. It clearly shows the influence of the industrial revolution with the building of a machine plant for the new discovery of electricity to power the civilised and urban world. The workers portrayed in it appear hot, busy and hard at work. They appear surrounded by what could be dirt and steam mixed with sweat, shown with their ‘powerful bodies lean[ing] at impossible angles as they exert themselves in service to the task at hand (“The City Rises: Umberto Boccioni (Italian, 1882-1916)”, 2011)’. It looks powerful and constantly moving like the sea, reflecting the busy and bustling movement of a construction site by those of the lower working class. The horse represents strength to me and the power of the working class who control, build and shape the world and lives of those of the upper classes in society. The contrasting bright colours of red and blue define different objects making it appear crowded and chaotic. It is a futurist artwork in which is concerned with ‘the technological process and the energy of the urban environment (“The City Rises: Umberto Boccioni (Italian, 1882-1916)”, 2011)’.

Dynamism of a dog on a Leash (1912) Giacomo Balla
Giacomo Balla was influenced by the futurist movement and strongly appealed to the idea of showing movement in painting.  Previously in ‘classical European painting there were rules about how the figure [was] to be depicted. No part of a figure may be duplicated, multiplied. If a figure is shown with two right arms, that's because it literally has two right arms. It's a mythical creature. On the other hand, if a figure is in motion, waving its right arm say, this is never to be conveyed by giving it two right arms (to indicate two stages of the action) (Lubbock, 2009)’. But with the futurist movement brought about by the industrial revolution with increased scientific knowledge and accelerated advances in technologies, artists wanted to show and portray this idea of the fast pace of life. Giacomo Balla's Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash shows a lady speeding along walking her dog. ‘The lady has roughly 15 feet, variably solid and see-through. The dog has eight countable tails, while its legs are lost in flurry of blurry overlays. Four swinging leads go between them... The dog, meanwhile, gives the impression of frantic scampering. Its legs thrash beneath a body that makes no progress at all (Lubbock, 2009)’. Balla has done this to try and show the motion of movement in a static 2-dimensional artwork. ‘Multiplications, echoes, flurries, blurs: these motion effects, supposedly capturing the action of the walking legs, become a way of creating new sensations and new phenomena (Lubbock, 2009)’. Not only does it show movement it, also shows a rather close-up image of the movement of an everyday street occurrence. This is a unique feature of futurist works of the industrial revolution showing everyday lower class images of everyday life and happenings. The close up focuses on the feet and represents the fast movement of the industrial revolution.

Cao Fei's RMB City (2007-9) refers to China's recent rapid industialisation and urbanization.
RMB City (2007-9)  Cao Fei
3. Research Cao Fei's RMB City (2007-9) in order to comment on this work in more depth. i.e what images has she used in her digital collage that refer to China's present and history, and why has she used these.
Cao Fei is an accomplished Beijing-based multimedia artist. She is one of the ‘new genertion of Chinese artist (“Cao-Fei – Utopia,” (2009)’. Her project RMB City is a work built in Second Life,’ a vast 3D online world that has operated since 2003 (“Cao-Fei – Utopia,” (2009)’. It is a world in which registers can purchase real estate, set up businesses, and engage in all manner of virtual interactions. It enables users to act out what u can’t do in this world and accomplish things they otherwise could not. Fei was first introduced to Second Life by Zhang Anding (aka Zafka Ziemia), her composer for the Siemens Project (Artkush, 2008)’. Being interested in new technology she was curious if she could ‘use this as a platform for a project (Artkush, 2008)’. Using her online identity – China Tracy – she built RMB City in Second Life on the Creative Commons Island of Kula. The city is ‘named after Chinesse money (“Cao-Fei – Utopia,” (2009’), and ‘refers to “renminbi” or “people’s money,” China’s official currency (Artkush, 2008)’. The city shows a perverse view of Beijing - a blend of communism, socialism and capitalism (“Cao-Fei – Utopia,” (2009)’. The online city is constantly under construction replicating the real world Beijing. Fei has filled her urban world with ‘overabundant symbols of Chinese reality with cursory imaginings of the country’s future (Michael, 2008)’. In it are also skyscrapers and religious monuments which show ‘Chinas current obsession with land development (Michael, 2008)’ and urbanisation. ‘Candy-striped smoke stacks suggest continuous industrial production and ships move goods swiftly in and out of port (“Cao-Fei – Utopia,” (2009)’ reflecting China’s current industrial status and place as the centre of manufacturing and trade in today’s society From looking at the work I can see what appears to be a floating slightly abstract Chinese flag in which the stars suspend it in the air; a giant flying panda looming over the city; a wheel similar to London’s Eye; rising water over and between buildings; a statue of Mao – a former leader of the nation and the Beijing Summer Olympics  Stadium. All of these images/icons reflect China’s past and some of its future. It shows the current and urgent need to protect the endangered Panda; it’s amazing possible future technological advancements in architecture and transport; as well as remembering the past and how far China has come. In a way China is influenced by the idea of futurism and getting rid of the old and replacing it with the new scientific advancements and technologies but still clinging to its past and seeing how far they have come.

4. RMB City is described as a utopia/dystopia. Comment on what these terms mean, and how they can be applied to the work.
Dystopia is described asa society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding’ by Many think that the world we live in is dystopian as in the real world we live in misery and human tragedy occurs all around us. Utopia is an ideally perfect place, according to, especially in its social, political, and moral aspects. It is an ideal place or state. For Fei, RMB City was an ‘experimental utopian world for the 3D online virtual community of Second Life...ideal futuristic city in three dimensions (Michael, 2008)’. ‘It is a Second Life version of her vision of the Chinese city today’ (Artkush, 2008) for users it is a perfect world in which they can create for themselves a new identity and appear as they choose. For younger users it is just a part of everyday life in the technological environment that is the 21st century having another life online.

5. Although the Modernist paintings and the contemporary digital work have emerged from
different contexts, there are also many similarities. Comment on the similarities that you can see in the work. Look at the moving digital image at, if you have not
already researched it.

Both types of works are similar in that they work with what is current at the times and what is advancing in a futuristic approach. For the industrial revolution time period, they looked at new industrial settings and developments at the time portraying these in paintings and using new methods to portray subjects in them such as the many legs of Balla’s dog showing movement. For the digital world in the 21st century, using Second Life, an online medium shows the futuristic approach incorporated into artwork using current technologies that would not have been possible without the scientific and industrial revolutions that began in the 1800’s.  

·         The Industrial Revolution by Joseph A. Montagna, (2011)
·         The Times Online. (January 12, 2009). Study for The City Rises by Umberto Boccioni (1910).
·         Dr. Willette, J. S. M. (8.4.2011). Defining Futurism FUTURISM AS THE AVANT-GARDE.
·         Umberto Boccioni: 1882-1916 (1999-2007)
·         “The City Rises: Umberto Boccioni (Italian, 1882–1916)” (2011)
·         Lubbock, T. (2009, Spetember 4). Great Works: Dynamism of A Dog on a Leash (1912) Giacomo Balla
·         Cao Fei – Utopia, (2009, June 18).