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Thread: Fine Art Appreciation Thread

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    Fine Art Appreciation Thread

    Post images of your favourite paintings, sculptures and objets d'art, and point out their intricacies for others to admire.

    I'll begin.

    Jakob Alt: View from the Artist's Studio in the Alservorstadt toward Dornbach (1836) (right-click and select "View image" for full-size view)



    Incredibly evocative and one of my all-time favourites; it's such a simple subject, yet it contains so much. The composition is masterful a perfectly elegant juxtaposition of round and angular shapes, and the focal point ever-so-slightly transcending the golden ratio. Note the easel facing the window, as if it were a smaller, condensed version thereof. The limited colour palette manages to be contrasting without being garish (the matte blueish pigeon grey opposed to the glossy, warm mahogany, and the shiny gold frame in the upper left corner referencing the window again with a nature scene). The sketches and the water glass on the desk, the shoddily pulled-up blind on top of the window, the flower pots on the windowsill actually lend an air of homeliness to a room which, considering its no-frills furnishing, should seem barren otherwise. It's easy to imagine opening the door to this room and feeling a soft breeze upon your face; upon closer look, there is quite a bit of motion in the tree tops and greenery outside, and the feathery clouds in the sky suggest a warm, sultry day. The entire work's detailing is meticulous, yet always unobtrusive: from the little clasps to fasten the fragile window to its frame, the slightly flaking wall paint at the bottom left corner and the ornate key on the desk drawer at the very right, over to the house number on the whitewashed walled fence of the neighbouring house outside and the fields and vineyards on the distant hills.

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    Senior Member Tetris Champion notdavidlynch's Avatar
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    Maurizio Bolognini, Programmed Machines (1992 - )



    A repeatable, conceptual/digital installation involving a number of computers programmed to constantly generate imagery that no one will ever be able to see. You can find plenty of writing on the piece online and from Bolognini in general (he's sort of insane IMO), but I'll only offer my knee-jerk reaction to the piece. I think it clearly illustrates the fundamental divide between the physical reality of digital computation and the meaning that we derive from it through our cognitive/perceptual abilities. The medial interface between man/machine is completely severed, and we're left to face the complete mindlessness of computation, the inherent meaningless of electrons bouncing through logic gates. Alternatively, we can see the machines as taking on human qualities. They are no longer co-operating with us. No longer on desks, but occupying open space, like us, and refusing to serve our needs. It's an assertion - they're networked and working together to create imagery, like a ballroom dance. The cords could be seen as umbilical, and the machines in a state of gestation - giving rise to? Who knows. Their position low on the floor and the emptiness of the surrounding room hints at the possibility of future expansion - or not, after-all, they're still only doing what we tell them to, and for now they'll just toil with it forever.

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    Mens bona regnum possidet ferrus's Avatar
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    That paining reminds me greatly of the delicacy of a Vermeer painting, but with a much more naturalistic palette and perspective.

    Les Illusions perdues ou le Soir by Marc-Charles-Gabriel Gleyre



    This is a painting I saw in the Louvre last September, in is in a room on the Denon wing right after the hall which contains various extremely famous Delacroix paintings (Liberty Leading the People, Massacre at Chios etc.) and so is fairly neglected by the knots of people that congregate just down the room along. It is not the most perfectly executed painting, and contains some of the disagreeable formalism of the French academic style - but I value it for capturing a mood and an existential experience that is rather rarely expressed in painting. Which is odd because a whole genre of Bildungsromans have emerged in literature to express this very human experience of losings one's illusions, seeing the world as more complex, intractable and falling into a kind of quietism. The painting has this wonderful diagonal composition which works almost cinematographically in forming this strange closeness between the recumbent philosopher, wishing for the life of pleasure, and the boat of Dionysian revelers. It is as if he is drawing them in, wishing to devour them. Yet the actual structure of the figures reveals to you that this is impossible - the philosopher is leaden, weighty - the jetty of stone emphasises this, landlocked and clearly too slow to snare his prey, and those on the boat are utterly oblivious to the figure whilst the sail sort of wraps the figures into a self-contained entity which is sharply separated. The boat has obvious echoes of the story of Dionysius' childhood, but is also seems to reflect something ethereal, in the matter of the boat of the underworld. The strange perspective of this painting is that it is those who are enjoying themselves who are ghosts, who are actually most enraptured in the folly of idealism and of heavenly things. And equally that these things represent a sort of life - contrast Dionysius's succulent grapes to the wan plant on the jetty. But the painting isn't a simple valorisation of life - it actually emphasises its transience, its fragility and the prepotency of existential nothingness around it. This goes against Christian thinking on the matter but I can't help but feel it is true. The water also has this glassy, dead quality, so that the curves of the boat don't actually seem out of place but feel as if they are all part of a supernatural drama, a kind of ice-rink show. Unfortunately online pictures don't capture the purple that surrounds the picture, which is what drew me in when I first saw it. It is this darkly pinkish mauve, almost contused, colour, that surrounds and wraps the painting and is offset by the porcelain figures on the boat, the marble-esque nature of the boat itself and the glassy water. All of these are subdued to - although only noticed by the philosopher - a dark, bittersweet haze or atmosphere of reflection which one feels must ultimately permeate everything. The wonderful aura is then capped by a moon which is almost a sigh in paint, a sigh that is both resigned and yet kind of resigned to the deeper beauty of nothingness. And of course the elephant in the room - the uncertain light, the almost primeval sense of life ebbing away is captured here.
    Die Logik ist keine Lehre, sondern ein Spiegelbild der Welt. Die Logik ist transcendental. - Wittgenstein

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    Senior Member Tetris Champion notdavidlynch's Avatar
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    (Offended by the notion of fine art being limited to market objects, so I'll stick to non-objects for now)

    Vito Acconci, Seedbed (first performed 1972)



    Basically an empty room with the ramp pictured above. Vito lay underneath the ramp masturbating. He voiced sexual fantasies that were broadcast over speakers in the gallery. I obviously never saw this in person or anything like it for that matter. I also don't have some BS analysis of what he's doing. I just think it's funny, and builds on the long tradition of epic troll artists that took off when Duchamp stuck a urinal in a gallery. I personally think this piece would've been done better with close circuit video. Imagine Vito with a collection of screens where he can actually see the visitors that he's masturbating to/for. I personally don't think the fact that he can't see them is at all significant, it's just an extraneous circumstance - the fact that the visitor can't see him, however, is. The rift between him and the visitors is more confusing than charming.

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    Tehching Hsieh, Time Clock Piece (1980-1981)



    Hsieh is a mad man. Of all the crazy artists that I've been introduced to, Hsieh is perhaps the most deranged of the most successful. In his 2nd one year piece, he punched a time-clock and took a photo of himself every hour on the hour for one year (there may have been a few missteps along the way). No extended breaks for sleeping. Obviously, subjecting yourself to this sort of treatment is, in a way, dehumanizing yourself. The psychological effect of never going more than an hour without sleep obviously takes a toll, and all for the satisfaction of a time-clock and photo documentation. You can see a video of all the photos, and it's quite amusing how he changes as time goes on (he starts with a shaved head). This kind of dehumanization, however, is something that we all subject ourselves to everyday, to some degree. Most of us have jobs or school where we have to be in a certain place at a certain time for a specified period of time. We may even have to punch a clock, or swipe a card, or go through any other arbitrary system of documenting where we were and when. At least most of us aren't in public grade school anymore, with bells to signal us to come and go. Beyond school and work, there are queues in markets, traffic light systems to direct us and number of other mechanized/digitized/systematized control structures that we've been conditioned to abide by. Hsieh simply takes the idea to the extreme. In a later piece, he stays outside for an entire year, not taking shelter in any man made structure - almost the opposite idea, in a way.

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    dormant jigglypuff's Avatar
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    i spent enough time writing art essays in college so i'm pretty turned off by that whole thing by now. save it for later...

    Spoiler: edvard munch, the kiss

    it's the perfect level of abstraction and one of the greatest examples i've seen of "less is more" when conveying human connection and depth of feeling.


    Spoiler: qing dynasty-era meat-shaped stone

    revered for its realism, it's a stone that's been treated to look like a piece of pork, and it's one of the most beloved art treasures in taiwan. an exquisite absurdity.

    + cuz i'm not gonna bother to find, edit and upload the pics: the bathing/nude women & ballerina pastel paintings by edgar degas
    you really have to see these in person, or else you won't get it. a single stroke can capture an entire world. i remember this moment really clearly, when i first saw that a woman's red hair was actually green (it was one of his nudes). degas seemed like a bit of a killjoy irl and didn't wanna be lumped in with the impressionists. he considered himself a realist.
    Last edited by jigglypuff; 02-03-2015 at 06:46 PM.

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    Tom Tompson, The Jack Pine, 1916-17


    Something about being evocative of the raw beauty of the wilderness with an impressionistic style. Something about the colour pallette being incredibly true to life. Something about the resilience of the individual in the face of arduous, bitter cold and isolation.

    Thomson had a kind of romantic life and died under mysterious circumstances. His paintings are a joy in person.

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    Mens bona regnum possidet ferrus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tele View Post
    i spent enough time writing art essays in college so i'm pretty turned off by that whole thing by now. save it for later...

    it's the perfect level of abstraction and one of the greatest examples i've seen of "less is more" when conveying human connection and depth of feeling.

    revered for its realism, it's a stone that's been treated to look like a piece of pork, and it's one of the most beloved art treasures in taiwan. an exquisite absurdity.

    + cuz i'm not gonna bother to find, edit and upload the pics: the bathing/nude women & ballerina pastel paintings by edgar degas
    you really have to see these in person, or else you won't get it. a single stroke can capture an entire world. i remember this moment really clearly, when i first saw that a woman's red hair was actually green (it was one of his nudes). degas seemed like a bit of a killjoy irl and didn't wanna be lumped in with the impressionists. he considered himself a realist.
    The meat shaped rock is quite wonderful. It actually induces vicarious hunger, at least the outside coating really does look like a crackling slab of pork ready to be crunched through. It's sort of interesting that the kind of attributes associated with realism were much broader than the kind of photographic quality of painting (to which the term is almost exclusively associated in European art), to actually include the sort of visual signifiers of other senses and a tactile quality in China.

    Degas' bathing painting are kind of a perennial secret favourite of mine, having seen them at various art galleries across Europe. They're wonderful because they are kind of a renunciation of a specific tenant of classicism (and the nude genre in general, with respect to both male and female forms) that only certain poses are beautiful. This had a social and religious function in Antiquity (and indeed most traditional cultures that represent this have some sense of this too), but at least in classicism it was a worn out trope that didn't really fit with anything but pedantic academicalism when disconnected from a liminal and social role. The 19th century's art in the West (and by the early 20th century outside there too) was, for good or ill, trying to capture a sense of individualism, and some of that is the kind of beauty found in everyday life (and thus connected to the individual) - moments of beauty marked by their sui generis appearance in the midst of the everyday. And by that I mean the kind of uniquely or strangely beautiful movements and attitudes real people make. I think they capture perfectly.

    Degas also had a good way of destroying the pretensions of bourgeois life in a very sly and subtle way.
    Die Logik ist keine Lehre, sondern ein Spiegelbild der Welt. Die Logik ist transcendental. - Wittgenstein

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    dormant jigglypuff's Avatar
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    @ferrus
    the degas nudes are my favorites. i remember doing research on him and being surprised to learn that he pretty much was a "confirmed misogynist" as a person, whatever that means, and how some people are so reluctant to believe that or think of him that way since he was a "painter of women." personally i consider his depictions of women some of the most beautiful in the history of western art. his nudes were in his day criticized as showing women in "distorted" poses. the flip side of this is of course that they often come across as more naturalistic and more spontaneous. learning more about him, he was not very spontaneous in his process at all and abhorred painting outdoors (he never painted "en plein air" which was a distinguishing practice of the impressionists and famously mocked monet for doing so). his compositions were meticulously composed, the sense of spontaneity a result of his studying of photographic "snapshots." many of the poses of his nude models were directly taken from photographs, but they don't feel that way. they have a feeling that's completely the opposite of the stiffness you'd expect from a high dependence on photographic reference.

    whew, i wrote all this on my phone.

    re: meat stone: if you see this in person, it's actually much smaller than you'd think. it's super cute. and you have to wait a long time to get into this room. it's displayed alongside the jadeite cabbage.
    Last edited by jigglypuff; 02-04-2015 at 01:22 AM.

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    Mens bona regnum possidet ferrus's Avatar
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    I kind of wondered why these priceless artefacts were in Taiwan, but looking at the history, it would seem about 20% of the items in the Forbidden city were 'evacuated' to Taipei during the civil war and so the national museums in Taipei and Beijing come from the same stock but are in some sense the rival institutes of two governments claiming to be the national government.

    Which sort of made me think about the politics of the way we display fine art. In the past, throughout the world, fine art was usually either for public religious or cultural display and performed a social function (and this includes most of the art Medieval Europe under the aegis of the church), or in the hands of private collectors or patrons. Art wasn't an institution so much as something that had a function, or was a token of social standing. That kind of changed with nationalism, and it is kind of interesting that the cult of the individual artist and nationalism went hand-in-hand. Without a national identity or culture - however ambiguously defined - there wasn't a sense in which there was a purpose or an interest for this to be created. Most individual artists saw themselves as above this of course but... their value for modern governments comes in defining a national culture. The Louvre was just a first example of this. Both Beijing and Taipei are in some sense appropriating what was a very complex set of social objects for the sake of defining a fairly monolithic cultural identity in the modern era, and academic classification and taxinomy often helps with this also by making national cultures seem like some kind of organic progression or sequence rather than a complex set of messy interactions.

    I see modern day avant garde artists try to escape this clutch (in many countries in the world), but there does seem a temptation to become embraced back in it again. Either in old age with the perks that come from being re-established, or posthumously when the subversive or troubling elements of an artist's work can be neutralised for the mass culture.
    Die Logik ist keine Lehre, sondern ein Spiegelbild der Welt. Die Logik ist transcendental. - Wittgenstein

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