February 19, 2012 § 1 Comment
I found a very pretty Japanese post card. Love the colours.
January 23, 2011 § 4 Comments
Someone gave me this book – Den belägrade staden – for Christmas. It contains prints of charcoal / graphite drawings made by a Swedish artist, Mattias Fagerholm. I hadn’t heard of him before, or seen these works, so the book was a really nice surprise.
The artist was given the opportunity to partake in a polar expedition to Antarctica in 2002. Many of my favourite images of the book are the ones in the chapter called “Antarctica”, like the ones in the photo below (“Fitzroy” and “Antarctica II”). Visually, these two images remind me of old Japanese woodblock prints (Ukiyo-e), and how mountains and waves are rendered in those prints. But the atmosphere, compared to ukiyo-e, is different. Frozen, darker, more menacing.
I like his architectural drawings a lot, too, like the ones shown below (“Hamnen” and “Container 2”). There’s a dream-like quality in them; like a nightmare in black and white, in slow motion, where the only audible sounds are muted and low.
This is the artist’s website: http://www.mattiasfagerholm.com/.
December 19, 2010 § Leave a comment
Albrecht Altdorfer: Saint George and the dragon (1510)
The vegetation of the forest completely dominates the surface of this painting, which was painted by German artist Albrecht Altdorfer around the year of 1510. The motif is Saint George and the dragon, here in a forest setting. Something that might strike the viewer as different when it comes to how St George and the dragon are presented here, in comparison to how they appear in other representations, is perhaps the absence of action. There’s no excruciating struggle to the death, there’s no victorious moment showing St George defeating the dragon. There is something puzzling about the image – it is introverted, inaccessible, closed, almost.
A confined setting / a private view
The dense vegetation forms a backdrop to the confrontation between the knight and the dragon. Not only does it serve as a backdrop, it’s almost like a screen or a wall, refusing the onlooker access to the world outside this scene. The brush, tree trunks, branches and foliage form a “wall”, only letting the outside world in through a rather small opening showing some mountains in a distant landscape. This potential exit is blocked, however, by the dragon. In the space above, no sky is visible above the tree tops since the trees seem to go on forever upwards. There’s just dense vegetation. The view to the outside world, then, is heavily fragmented. The onlooker is trapped together with St George inside this confined part of the forest.
The painting is in itself rather small – 28.5 cm x 22.5 cm, which only adds to the confinement of the picture. This, along with how the figures of the painting are presented in regards to placement also hinders the viewer from engaging in the event that is being presented. The two antagonists are remarkably disengaged in the “fight”, and they are completely overshadowed by the surrounding vegetation. The dragon itself is almost not visible, as it is close to the ground and of same colours as the trees and vegetation. It blends in with the environment, becoming “one” with the forest in which it resides. As actors of this scene, the two of them should be performing in front of us. But they don’t seem to be acting or performing a scene; this is more like a scene behind-the-scenes. A private matter, that is being dealt with behind closed curtains.
The lack of pointers to other contexts, and that the moment that the artist has chosen to portray seems to take place before the fight has started even, makes the outcome of this confrontation seem uncertain. Even though the legend of St George is well known, and it should be established beforehand that he conquers the dragon, there is an uncertainty in this painting. Perhaps it is due to the knight’s apparent lack of engagement (giving the impression of lacking force), or the feeling of being closed in, overshadowed by the forest. On the other hand, the dragon does not seem to be so much of a threat, and the forest isn’t a dark or menacing place either. Instead the forest is green and golden. A golden luminosity indicating, perhaps, a presence of holiness. This forest is more like a place for contemplation and devout piousness rather than violent conflict. Christopher Wood, in his book Albrecht Altdorfer and the Origin of Landscape, points out that the technique that was used for this painting is that of miniature painting – which might mean that this painting was meant for private use. Perhaps it was meant to be looked at for private contemplation and meditation.
The forest is the story
As stated before, the forest dominates the painting’s space. This makes the “background” take over from the supposed subject matter: St George and his fight with the dragon. It makes one wonder if perhaps, the forest is the main actor of this scene; that the forest itself contains the story. (This is something that is in agreement with what Simon Schama argues in Landscape and Memory, p. 140-141).
October 19, 2010 § Leave a comment
Nicolas Poussin: Landscape With A Man Killed By A Snake (1648)
Landscape with a Man Killed by a Snake is by some described as “a study of fear”. In fact, another title that has been used for this painting is The Effects of Fear. Poussin has created a scene where theatrical gesturing, poses and facial expressions creates a drama taking place in this otherwise serene landscape. The way the figures have been placed, and how the landscape have been constructed creates a diagonal movement in the painting, showing the workings of fear.
There is another way to look at how space is constructed here. The drama that has been described is connected to a diagonal movement on a horizontal axis: From the corpse and the snake in the foreground, via the terrified man and frightened woman, to the oblivious or indifferent fishermen in the background.
Looking at the vertical axis, however, we could regard the water surface as a divider between above/below. The mirroring water surface becomes a divider between the visible world above the surface, and the invisible below. The serpent, a harbinger of death, crawling over the corpse, could be seen as coming from the realm below the surface, from the underworld. The dead man is already on his way down to the underworld; lying next to the water he is “in between”, his body is still above ground, but his arm and his leg are partly submerged in the water, crossing the boundary between the world above and the realm below.
The reflecting water surface, both hiding what’s below and creating an inverted world through mirroring, becomes a reminder of that which is hidden or invisible, yet always present.