Bridget Riley began painting figure subject in a semi-impressionist manner, which quickly led her to pointillism. This spurred her on to look at producing disorientating effects to the eye, and drew slowly away from pointillism, to where she is today. Each piece of work is individually crafted for the disorientation, confusion and slight bewilderment. “Although she investigated many areas of perception, her work, with its emphasis on optical effects was never intended to be an end in itself. It was instinctive, not based on theory but guided by what she saw with her own eyes” (Op).
Riley did not always work in colour, as it was a slow introduction to her black and white work. When it was introduced however, it was a welcome difference and a “music of colour”, which is what she wanted (Op.
When viewing her works at Tate Modern, London, you can see the disorientating effects of the paintings on the eye almost immediately. From afar, you can see all the details, as each colour is presented in large blocks. After moving closer, especially to the finer black and white paintings, you can see the extreme detail that goes into each one. Even when close-up to the painting, it is still disorientating due to the tightness and lack of space between the individual lines and colour. I wish to bring a part of this disorientation into my work, to confuse but bewilder the viewer.
Berenice Sydney inscribes her work with her passion for music and dance as she studied classical ballet, guitar and flamenco. She also throws in the sense of liberation and freedom of expression which prevailed Britain in the 1960s. The Cubist and fauvist eras was essential to her work, informing and inspiring her of new narratives through her work.
Sydney travelled widely throughout her life, gaining inspirations from every corner of the world. Some of the most influential to her were Greece, the Aegean Islands and Egypt, where the history and mythology provided subject matter for many of her paintings.
The movement and freedom is what caught my eye in her current exhibition Dancing With Colour at Saatchi, London. Each piece was different, but they all contained the same fluency of language between artist, paint and canvas. Individual movement seemed calculated, as if there was a routine behind the creation of the painting, and improvised, like a dancer listening to the music and letting their limbs move. There are some elements pointing toward that of the Greek and Egyptian inspiration, but my eyes saw the movement of dance and freedom of speech through art.
Maurizio Anzeri turns photographs into a form of photo-sculpture. He uses found vintage photographs, sewing directly on top of them to create garnished features, including that of the psychological aura, of photographs and subjects, stand out. There is a juxtaposition between the antique appearance of the photographs against the sharp lines and shimmer of the threads that cover it. “The combined media gives the effect of a dimension where history and future converge” (Saatchi).
Anzeri has previously talked about his work in a very personal sense, taking inspiration from his own experience and observation of how, in other cultures, bodies themselves are treated as living graphic symbols.
One thing that particularly surprised me when visiting his recent exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery, London, was the scale of these images. I understood that they would not be large, taking up whole walls, but online, you cannot grasp that they are around A4 size. This size had a greater impact on the viewer than initially thought, and showed to me that small can have impact. The psychological auras and garnished features in each were unique, thought of and powerful.
Carrie Mae Weems in an American artist who has investigated the topics of family relationship, cultural identity, sexism, class, political systems and the consequences of power. She aims to enter the picture, both literally and metaphorically, in an on-going dialogue of contemporary discourse. Through these thirty years, she has developed a complex body of art employing photographs, text, fabric, audio, digital images, as well as installation and video.
In her Tate Modern, London exhibition of From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried 1995-6, I witnessed this personal history that she embodies into her work. The images were chosen from archives that included daguerrotypes of slaves taken in the 1850s to the 1950s. The exhibition sequence ends with the same photograph taken from these archives; an image of the wife of a Mangbetu chief in the Belgian Congo.
The images themselves are enlarged and overlaid with a red tint, mounting them in black frames behind glass. The text that is etched onto each pane of glass forms a powerful, poetic commentary that reaches both ends of the display. Both image and text show African Americans being forced into servile roles and presented as evidence to prove dubious scientific theories, and stereotypical characters in novels.
Weems does not shy away from the violence of where these people came from; one image shows a whipped mans back. Displaying this image alongside other, more gentle ones, confronts the complex and brutal history of these people, and of those that she came from. She encourages the viewer to recognise each face as individual when addressing them as ‘you’.
I was intrigued by the red overlay on the images, as it makes the violence behind each one more pronounced. This, along with the text addressing the viewer, draws you into the piece, and almost leaves you wanting to feel guilty for perhaps being a cause, or a part of the reason why these people were made to do, what they were made to do. The power behind each image alone was staggering, but displayed together was like a smack round the face – from here, you saw what happened, and you couldn’t do anything to change what the people in the images had for a life.
Flowers have often been associated with eroticism, especially that of the female sex. It has been found that there has been a long and enduring link between the two. In the more classical age, women, more so the virgins, were compared to flowers. In text, Sappho made the analogy between a woman and ‘a hyacinth in the mountains that the shepherds trample with their feet’ (BBC). Shakespeare also made note between woman and flower, resorting to botanical metaphors and often named his female characters after flowers.
Different flowers can be traced towards different women and characters. The carnation was a symbol of those who were betrothed or engaged, whereas the poppy is a symbol of death (thoughtco). The Virgin Mary was singly associated with the lily flower, which is a symbol of purity, chastity and innocence.
When things start getting really sexy is the 18th Century, when the botanist Carl Linneaus classified the world’s organisms according, in part, to their means of reproduction. Leanneaus’s Species Plantarum of 1753 did not just pin down all the known world’s vegetation with Latin name. It established that plants reproduced sexually – and offered a scientific, rational basis for the analogy of humans (usually women) to flowers. – BBC
It was quickly after this, in the 19th Century that floral metaphors for women’s genitals started to bloom. Manet painted Olympia, whereupon she covers her genitals with her left hand but has positioned a pink camellia in her hair in place of her covered sex.
A bunch of flowers that are presented to the subject of a painting, who is often a woman led in a suggestive manner, indicates that this woman is on the market. It is the placing, or the handing of the flowers by another, subservient woman, that suggest this. The analogy is seen across the world in different ways, as in China brothels were referred to as the ‘flower market’ and in Japan, geishas worked in hanamachi, or ‘flower towns’.
Georgia O’Keeffe strongly showed that the woman can paint about the woman and the erotic through the metaphors of flowers. Her abstract depictions of blossoms and buds transforming into flower often remind the spectator of the female genitals. O’Keeffe “resisted the overdetermined reading of her flowers as stand-ins for the female sex organs” in her 2016 exhibition at Tate Modern, London. She exclaims that her paintings extend past the botanical depictions to a modernist engagement with form and colour. There are still large implications that the formal experiments of abstract shapes are that of the female sex organs.
Other artists found that through capturing the close detail of flowers in photography, it can be likened to that of the female genitals. Mapplethorpe explained that his early homoerotic and sadomasochistic photography had overwhelmed the interpretation of his flower images – the work he did, affected the work he wanted to create. “Sometimes a flower signifies a more lascivious thing, and sometimes a flower is just a flower” (BBC).
Men have been shown to have sexual availability through the use of flowers, however this has not been as prominent throughout the history of art. There is a hermaphroditism of flowers with the pistils and stamens having a particular symbolic appeal for gay artists.