A nice find in the hectic city of Lima, while in the Dragonfly I merely mentioned I was going to make a mural in the countryside outside of the city -Yangas Valley. The conversation ended up in me taking on the largest wall they had. I reused the tactic of painting the whole wall in black oil paint- a complete transformation of the space from white to black gets a few reactions immediately. I’ve now done three large murals with pots of industrial oil paints- after the first one I vowed not to do one more like it. Like my Spanish, I am a slow learner yet.. deep waters run slow.
My travels started in Rio. ‘One travels to find ones self´’, many of us have a twist on that statement when we travel. For me I like to think I had a vague idea of what I wanted this to be all about when I started. In reality with a little time, isolation, passing mountains, lakes, clouds, volcanos, salt flats, ruins and people -both beautiful and sometimes disturbing- I had lost myself. Again.
By chance my trip to Buenos Aires ended up making a mural in the Rock Hostel thanks to the So’s idea of finding a traveling artists to create while there. This has continued to Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia.
The scarecrow has the ability to retain menace like an inanimate clown figure. It is impossible to avoid without great effort, images made by children or yourself will ultimately retain a psychological element of untrustworthy otherliness. A figure that just waits, in an aggressive stance, with our fear he may make a move in the night toward us at any time he wishes- or maybe a facial expression in our direction (doesn’t matter what expression).. but, the origin? The crow is such a clever bird, I have always found it hard to imagine they observe the scarecrow from a distance for hours and days without realising he is not alive. But then again, when we see humanoid figures such as mannequins, waxworks or film prosthetic characters deliver the same uncanny feeling (especially in the right light and setting).
This was off the top of my head, I embarked to paint in all innocence, merely painting an interesting figure (something my ‘eye’ realsied I could could tackle and for some unrealised reason wanted to make). He stands strangely like a mannequin in a field wearing the farmers clothes.
But, here there is the mythology to follow what you have seen:
1. ‘Scarecrows link to the planting and protection of crops and the changing of the seasons. In agrarian societies, Spring was celebrated as a time of resurrection – of life reborn after the dark winter. Sacrifice is bound up in this cycle. Winter kills that which grows, and breeds, until it is reborn in Spring. And for many societies existed the idea that some deity or power needed a gift to ensure the prosperity of the new season. The Vanir were a group of Norse gods connected with fertility that were associated with ritual sacrifice. Effigies representing the gods were erected, and is possibly where scarecrows originated. Scarecrows also possess attributes that lend themselves to being scary. They look human but are expressionless.’ ~superwiki.
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696–1770) was a master painter from the Venice region that produced these elaborate works that still seem to have the moments of the creative process still breathing within them. This is due to his style that he matured as a prolific draftsman and painter, a style that was more rapid and free that many of the painters of the time. The themes are recognised allegories that inspire the imagination of their grandeur. Tiepolo also worked in Germany and Spain and helped pave the way to the sketches of the masters being recognised as works of art independently.
This two oil sketches were for the Palacio Real, Madrid c1762. The female figure of Spain with lions represents the province of Leon, the older woman represents a castle for Castile, with the traditional protector of Spain as Hercules, with the column for Gibraltar.
Perseus and Andromeda (1730)
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, The Annunciation, c1735
Seated River God, Nymph with an Oar and Putto 1696 – 1770
One of the strengths of these sculptures is there ability to make some quite bold statements around the areas of death, loneliness, cruelty or pain.. sometimes sensational statements, while at the same time showing their materials quite simply and how they seem to have been put together by the artist.
This sculpture when view in person shows the pieces of wax fused together in order to create this somewhat destitute life form- or destitute reminder. This sculpture reminds me of the Bernini’s sculpture of Apollo and Daphne, mythological tale of Daphne, whereby the plant life begins to hold of Daphne’s body, beginning at the fingers, hands, arms and works its way across the body in a sculptural snap-shot in a running motion. Although comparable, in contrast these wax limbs are heavy, frail and limp.
I see a beautiful kind of morbidity.
Take a walk passed the skulls, the skeletons and the character of Death himself dancing on our backs, he is enticing us passed the diverse range of ways in which we can achieve the inevitable, and how we deal with it.. or is that not at the heart of the whole exhibition?
This is the kind of exhibition that you may find yourself thinking thoughts like: Everyone on the planet at present -not that long after I am dead in the grand scheme of things- will all have passed away, will all be gone. To myself, it often feels the idea of being truly dead (as a door nail), usually feels like a stretch of the imagination. Yet, I at times I feel I have rare momentary glimpses into this (often difficult to except) reality.
Sobering, thoughtful, funny, engrossing, therapeutic.
Death: A Self-portrait exhibition at the Wellcome Collection London. Donated by Richard Harris.
Historically speaking the grotesque is a decorative wall painting of interwoven hybrid human or animal bodies and mythical characters entwined with floral patterns using curving spiraling foliage elements. The name is derived from the “grotto” in grotesque meaning cave. Found on interiors of rooms or corridors or ‘hidden places’. The strange motifs of hybrids of plant, animal, and human forms were first discovered in the 15th century in Nero’s palaces.
There is a place for humour, folly and satire in the work that easily translates into contemporary versions. These whimsical works inspired work of the masters during the Renaissance, continuing in the art of the Baroque, Rococo- not to mention art of the postmodern or artists working today. Could it be that they retain a good working combination that opens up relevant debate between disparate elements?- Such as aesthetic beauty in the decorative vs the abject; the free-form mythical figures fusing bodies of humans and animals and plants within curved structures vs the crazed feeling from these exaggerated forms; the sheer enchanting absurdity of the characters mingling they way across the planes of the walls..
These images are taking by my self while around those unreal grand palaces in Florence. I found myself being more intrigued on my walk between rooms with these grotesques, as I slowly started to get a visual overload of the more polished master works. The seemingly less important status of the secret walls and ceilings give them their freeing of free flow painting. The kind of painting that resembles a masters oil sketch and can be extremely inspiring.
For contemporary artists take check out the exhibition ‘Disparities & Deformations: Our Grotesque’ at Site Santa Fe curated by Robert Storr.