Monthly Archives: August 2016

Exhibition- Georgia O’Keeffe

TATE Modern, 6th July to the 30th October 2016

  • Very busy show , difficult to read all the notes but like the added work by Adams Anseli and the father of photography- Alfred Stieglitz.
  • 13 rooms dedicated to her work displayed in order of time.
  • The Tate mentioned she was a musician before a painter but in BBC film they mention how Feminist looked to her as an icon and the meaning of her paintings , particular ‘Grey lines with Black, Blue and Yellow‘ expressed female genitals and vaginas. This was not what her painting was about as expressed in the film but more her vibrations of the landscape painted.
  • She was disappointed with her art education and was taught to paint like John Singer Sargent. She reflects on her work as painting, painted for other people and not for herself. She felt she was painting what they wanted. She wanted to paint something she felt. She first started with charcoal before exploring colour. She was always very confident with colour but something about wanting to go back to basics and start again. I feel this is a need to erase conditioning, like the art education she received which was conforming her to a style.
  • This going back to basics is something that Giorgio MORANDI restrained himself with. He painted Bottles and still life for years while he explored the relationship and value of form as space and lines relation to other lines. ‘He did not feel that by reducing the numbers of objects he painted, he reduced the range of his vision. On the contrary, the very narrowness of the field became the vehicle of his liberation. This is a modernist position.’ Siri Hustvedt pg 132 of Mysteries of the Rectangle (Winterhouse edition, Princeton architectural press, New York 2005)
  • She is a Kinaesthetic artist where she needs privacy and stillness in her life to feel the work. All her work is charged with feminine  emotion. After reading Kandinskys writings ‘The art of spiritual harmony’ his theory of artists freedom to express feelings other than imitate nature. Here she experiments with synaesthesia (stimulating one sense therefore triggering another sensation)  When her friend took her paintings to show Stieglitz , he exhaled with ‘Finally a Women on paper’.
  • My favourites   were the Charcoal work.- Rams Horns 1949, Alligator Pear 1923, The Eggplant 1924 Oil on canvas. Why? Because they show her assertive power over the charcoal. The artist connection with charcoal to paper has much more connectivity than artist to paint to brush to canvas. The eggplant has a subtle cubist style background in which suggests that this realistic painting is still abstract. I was intrigued with her bone paintings as painting bones is not very interesting but it’s her view of the space around the bone and looking up at the sky though the holes in the bone just shows her signifying shapes and colour ,Beautifully.
  • I was really drawn to Moonrise By Henaudez. New Mexico 1941 photograph. It shows a intriguing MASSIVE BLACK empty sky and looks like a painting.

17th century Dutch Painters, of still life and Flowers.

Notes on a painting that you admire.

  • De Heem Jan Davidsz (1606-1683)

Still Life, Breakfast with Glass of Champagne and Pipe, 1642

From <

I admire this painting  because it oozes seductiveness. The oysters and the lobster show decadence and desire and the orange that has been sliced and then peeled like someone being undressed. The bread has been torn at like some erotic gesture, the glasses tipped over like some sort of statement that the food is no longer required. The grapes and the pomegranate show off their seeds like fine glass bubbles and the shine of the silver symbolises wealth. This coded message is of wealth and life. The tipped over glasses symbolize life flowing and this painting shouts a decadent life with some  serious raunchy Baroque sensuousness.

Techniques used by the 17th century Dutch Painters were dependent upon the artist but they shared a style of art- Flemish Baroque. The Italian Baroque was influenced by the Catholic church during a time of reformation and hence why the dramatic use of colour to depict joy and spirit . Baroque originated from mannerist style (intense emotion) and renaissance style of solidity and grandeur. Each country either exaggerated the style depending on Catholic domination or toned it down to suit a more conservative view like in Holland which was predominantly  Protestant  but where –

  • Ruben’s style shows Flemish Baroque with his Italian education and his influential Catholic  faith. Highly ornamented style , harmony and balance and the leader of the Flemish art school.
  • Rembrandt use of dark back grounds moved away from the ornamental style and in later works where he painted like he was drawing with a brush or used lots of paint and used the butt of the brush to scrape though the paint.
  • Vermeer used a camera obscura which exaggerated perspective and gave an out of focus look to the highlights he made. He painted domesticated moments and used cool blues, grey and yellows to provoke calm.
  • Fabritius Carel (1622-1654) was a pupil of Rembrandt but reversed his masters technique of dark to light but painted dark onto light backgrounds as in ‘the Goldfinch’

Samuel van Hoogstraten, Feigned Letter Rack with Writing Implements (c. 1655) Not all still life’s were adverts for wealth and decadence as seen in this painting. Some were interested in different compositions such as areas of non Catholic regions as religious artefact’s were not popular. Still life’s were a measurement of skill in depicting reality and in ways of mastery ,of many forms, textures and studies such as fabrics, metals , glass, fur ,cloth, flowers and Light.

Rachel Ruysch, Roses, Convolvulus, Poppies, and Other Flowers in an Urn on a Stone Ledge (1680s)


From <,_Convolvulus,_Poppies,_and_Other_Flowers_in_an_Urn_on_a_Stone_Ledge_-_Rachel_Ruysch_-_Google_Cultural_Institute.jpg>


  •  Some flowers that were painted were worth more than the actual painting and the Dutch in particular would normally display tulips as singles in many single delft vases but in the ostentatious paintings in the 2nd half of the century, flowers of all seasons would be painted as a statement of being able to have it all and when ever you like, but within a painting. Some of the arrangements are ridiculous but this shows the transition being made between religious endorsed art to paintings of flowers with some symbolic connection to religion but also to the horticultural and important business of agricultural Holland.





Research a painting that has Iconographic significance. What object symbolises meaning and what is the meaning?


Kalf , Willem (1622-16923)

Still life with Lobster, drinking horn and glasses.

The collection is carefully placed without looking like its presented to the viewer but more like a snap shot of a decadent , intriguing display of objects that has caught your eye. The Turkish carpet is strangely draped with in this arrangement which leads me to believe, that it might have some Iconic Significance.


The single buffalo horn set into a silver mount which features Saint Sebastian, patron saint of archers, who was bound to a tree as a target for two Roman soldiers. It dates from 1565 and is kept today in the Amsterdam Museum. The horn suggests that the painting was probably commissioned by a member of the Amsterdam archers’ guild.


From <>


A contemporary viewer would admire the virtuosity of the technique but also the wealth on display. The objects were chosen to show the talent of Kalf and the way he skilfully depicts the different materials within the light and the significance was the context of the commission which may originate from the Arches guild.


Symbolism 17th century


Wealth- Lobsters, silver, fine glass

Educated- Music and books

Life and Death ,Vanitas theme of brevity of life- Candles, skulls, vessels, hourglass, pocket watch.

White- purity and righteousness.

Black- Evil, famine, darkness

Red- Sins, blood shed

Blue- Heaven, godliness, commandment.

Green- Life and nature.

Amber- Sun light, divine glory

Scarlet- royalty

Silver and gold – worth.


The symbolism of flowers had evolved since early Christian days. The most common flowers and their symbolic meanings include:

rose (Virgin Mary, transience, Venus, love);

lily (Virgin Mary, virginity, female breast, purity of mind or justice);

tulip (showiness, nobility);

sunflower (faithfulness, divine love, devotion);

violet (modesty, reserve, humility);

columbine (melancholy);

poppy (power, sleep, death).

As for insects, the butterfly represents transformation and resurrection while the dragonfly symbolizes transience and the ant hard work and attention to the harvest.[


From <>


The meaning at the time and the paintings meaning now, is a whole other question. I can suggest that this painting in 1653 was commissioned for a certain wall within an establishment therefore its meaning was to show its importance and wealth to a certain audience and  society such was the Arches guild. They may interpret the painting to suggest that Archery is a way of life, just as important as food and drink is to survive but its more than surviving , its living well off .


Development of the still life 18th,19th and 20th century.

Still life’s have always been at the lowest within a hierarchical genre , more women painters were selling this style of genre and flowers appeared more on wallpaper or porcelain and so therefore the development of decoration in the late 18th century.

The 19th century was a mass of change and art moved away from the religious foundations that castrated movements and the devastation that the mechanical eye (photography) had upon painting but also the amazing changes that were resulted because of the development of technologies. Artist were no longer trying to depict nature true to itself but something more intelligent and this is the birth of avant-garde. Impressionist and Expressionist movements were the catalyst for cubist and Fauvism movements of the 20th century. Again colour harmonies and the development of colour theory had an impact upon this genre.

Reproduction of art was the reason that found objects and collage became a part of  the DADA movement . The still life had became more complex, mirroring the complexity of global developments and the destruction of wars.

Surrealism and the use of symbolism emerged again but with more abstract representation than the 17th century Dutch painters.

Deconstruction of reality unfolded and left us with no forms or composition at all such as the action painters –  Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings, eliminated all recognizable content.


How are contemporary artist interpreting still life now?


The contemporary viewer still understands the language of still life and knows it has a hidden meaning or another agenda so the contemporary artist has confronted this and made a spectacle out of it.  For example any of Jeff Koons work actively appropriates our relationship with nature and the materialistic. With the development of the digital age and where most visuals are virtually coded messages , the arts have transformed into 3 dimensional forms, almost like they are competing or juxtaposed with technology. For example Damien Hirst and any of his aldehyde tank installations or Tracy Emin ‘my bed’.

I particular like the work of Gragg Tony (1949) and his work called ‘Eroded Landscape’ 1992. The use of frosted glass looks ghostly and mysterious and the structure of the foundations of the glass, with the use of two vases that take on the role of Greek columns. The shelf is arranged like any shelf full of glass that you would find in someone’s house and therefore explores the space between reality and imagination. The glass in this arrangement means far less than the glass seen in a 17th century painting but they are similarly arranged for the viewer and both convey a sensitivity that ‘still life’ pronounces.

Tutors Comments for part 1

This is the first Feedback I have had for painting one. I was not able to send my tutor the painting for the assignment as it wasn’t dry enough to send with the other paintings, But will send with the next batch of Paintings. My tutor was able to comment looking at the photos I had posted on my Blog, Not ideal but better than no comments at all at this stage.

Overall comments

  • Good start
  • Promise and potential
  • confident with colours construction and tone
  • Log Book show evaluation but be more analytical and less descriptive.

Feedback on Assignment 1

  • Competent standard of Technical and Visual skills and a realization of ideas showing Quality of Outcome.
  • Some evidence of creativity that are satisfactory
  • Ask- What is and what isn’t working= Analyse!

Sketchbooks and Blog

  • Do not stick photocopies of pages of books into sketch book as assessors do not accept these for evaluation. Write up your own notes or copy pictures only.
  • Why did you crop the drawings of the still life (using different grounds) project?
  • Need to explain my decision process more in the sketchbook along side the drawings and explain direction of view point. For example – why did I not follow the traditional path of still life objects within a context. My intentions were clear in the assignment work that My focus was on shapes and the creating of a form within the 2d structure of a frame but this was only mentioned later on, not during the process of why I chose that composition over another, Why I chose a contemporary composition and context rather than a traditional one. I might know what I’m thinking but I need to inform the viewer my Message.

Suggested Reading.

The Mysteries of the rectangle by Siri Hustvedt

Progress in Art by Suzi Gablik

The 5 c’s (tutors recommended toolkit)

Concept-message to viewer

Construction- strength of form and proportion.

Composition- Viewpoint design, perspective, spatial organization.

Context- Background and the image relating to other artist work.

Colour and Tone- Shadow, tone,grounding, light direction, contrast and tonal range.