Sigmar Polke was a German Painter and Photographer. I find his work to be instantly recognisable by the large pixelated dots used in the photographic element of the pieces. It feels reminiscent of Roy Lichtenstein and the Pop Art movement, only without the bright and bold colours and stylised illustration. The Tate website describes his style as:
His paintings combine found printed images with more organically-made painterly marks. He uses half-tone photography from newspapers and magazines, enlarging and reproducing it on canvas, often corrupting the original beyond recognition.
When Polke returned to painting later in his career, he became interested in combining materials and elements within his paintings. I mostly know of his figurative work, and so was really intrigued by the ambiguity of the piece ‘Untitled (Triptych) 2002’. The marks could be interpreted differently by different people. I find myself more drawn to the aggressive, vertical black painted lines over the circular shapes. There are different areas of the photograph on resin background which jump out at me the longer I stare at each piece. I see there to be a progression in movement across the triptych, with the circles appearing to move across from the left to the right, and almost off the plane completely. The colour palette is not terribly wide in this piece, whereas some of his work has been highly colourful. However, I do think that the simpler colour palette works for highlighting and emphasising his mark making, which is the focus of this particular piece.
Although he doesn’t have his own website, more information can be found about him and his work here.
Damien Hirst is a controversial artist associated with the Young British Artists group. YBA was a group who exhibited together in 1988 and onwards after graduating, and were supported by Charles Saatchi. The group became renowned for their shock tactics, something which I consider Hirst to have held onto throughout the continuation of his career. He is greatly known for his works involving and exploring the theme of death, using preserved animal corpses and creating and ending the lifespan of flies, all of which are shown on his website.
Hirst’s work tends to push the boundary on art and science, using techniques which are not readily available to the everyday working artist. He also has a team of technicians which assist him in the physical creation of his pieces. ‘St Bartholomew, Exquisite Pain 2006’, being a bronze sculpture seems like a very traditional method of Hirst to have chosen. Perhaps he wanted to mirror the traditions of his Catholic upbringing, where he heard the story and saw images of the skinned apostle originally. I saw this piece in person at the Crucible Exhibition in Gloucester Cathedral back in 2010, and wouldn’t have known that it was by the famous Damien Hirst if I hadn’t read the information.
The image of the skinned apostle is not new. There are other visual representations of the story painted and sculpted throughout history. It may well be that Hirst’s exploration of the subject matter is more anatomically correct and perhaps gruesome. There seems to be a pride in the way he holds up the cutting instruments, with his skin still hanging onto his arm, like a strange and gorey call to war.
‘Saint Bartholomew, Exquisite Pain’ acts as a reminder that the strict demarcation between art, religion and science is a relatively recent development. Hirst explains that historically, depictions of Saint Bartholomew (the patron saint of doctors and surgeons) were often used by medics to aid their anatomy studies. In Hirst’s interpretation, the serene saint stands on a table littered with the tools used to make the original sculpture. He holds a scalpel, as according to traditional depictions, but also a pair of scissors. Inspired by Tim Burton’s film ‘Edward Scissorhands’ (1990), this addition implies that “his exposure and pain is seemingly self- inflicted. It’s kind of beautiful yet tragic.”
His own interpretation of his work gives a lot of food for thought. It makes me wonder how Hirst feels about his own mortality, especially seeing as it is such a prominent theme throughout his practice.
Artist Will Cotton currently lives and works in New York, USA. His hyper-realistic paintings often depicting an interesting combination of women and confectionery. Not only does he paint, but as shown on his website he has also explored printmaking, drawing and sculpture.
In the case of ‘Ice Cream Cavern 2003’, the female figure is reclined in a relax and classic pose which is reminiscent of paintings from centuries earlier. Although she is nude, she is not naked, and her lower half is doused in what appears to be half melted ice cream. Her surroundings, which we assume she is inspecting even though her back is turned to us, consists of a strange, sweet filled world much like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. It’s sickeningly sweet even to look at, and the light glistens on the melting mountains of ice cream which surround her and fall back into the distance.
This painting, and many others of his, seem to be painted for our Id. The Id is one of three parts of Sigmund Freud’s structural model of the pysche. It combines two of our most basic human instincts: to consume and to reproduce. Although it is aesthetically pleasing as well, being undeniably ‘well-painted, it also has pornographic implications. Please excuse me for being crude, but that can be assumed by the white, thick liquid that the female figure is covered in. I’ll just leave that there.
Overall, I consider to his work to be a snapshot at the fantasy at work in his mind. I wonder why he chose to combine these two themes, but it appears to have been ongoing throughout his art career. I look forward to where he takes it next.
Tracey Emin is well known for her controversial contemporary art through a variety of art mediums. Now that her well known installation piece, ‘My Bed’ has been on display in the Tate Britain, she has become even more accessible as an artist.
The first time that I really experienced Emin’s work, was during my studies at A Level back in 2010/2011. I was working on a project on figurative art, and stumbled across some of Emin’s photographic work. I was initially drawn in by her vulnerability, her nudity paralleled with the derelict appearance of the floorboards and panelled walls.
I enjoyed the pieces simply for their aesthetic; the delicate nature of her posture; the fact that the artist was herself posing as the subject; it was all still quite new to me. It wasn’t until I took the time to read up about her life that I really began to understand the power of Emin’s art, or indeed all conceptual art. It made me literally weep.
Reading, only briefly, about her life whilst looking at these artworks made me realise the element of confession and personal connection that I had not truly felt and experienced before.
It was a real turning moment for me and my understanding of conceptual art.
I’ve since become a huge fan of Tracey Emin, and will always pipe up to defend those who don’t understand how someone can call “their unmade bed a piece of art”. I have written more on my thoughts on her work on my university blog from a few years ago.