Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Artists and Work to consider

The Concept of Mirror and Painting Incorporation:

Diego Velázquez, "Las Meninas"

"The control of Velázquez can perhaps be best seen in the effect of spontaneity and relative informality of the foreground group. The Infanta Margarita, the daughter of the King and Queen of Spain, is made the most central figure in the foreground group by placing her the closest to the center axis of the painting but very intentionally not on that axis. She is placed just to the left of center. At the same time the light streaming in from the window on the right falls on her more than the surrounding figures. The poses of the figures around her with their gestures call attention to their difference to her authority at the same time as acknowledging the presence of the viewer. Seven of the nine figures stare outward. The effect of this, rather than breaking the spell of spontaneity, implicates the viewer into the narrative of the painting. We are made to be as much a part of the composition as any of the other figures in the painting. We take on the role of both the observer and the observed. There is a reciprocity between our looking and that of the characters in the painting. Without our presence, their glances do not make sense. The role we play in this story is revealed by the mirror image just over the Infanta's right shoulder. Our role as the King or Queen of Spain explains the attention paid to our presence by the other figures. The relationship of the Infanta to the royal couple is visually asserted by Velázquez by positioning her closest to the mirror image on the picture plane." 

Diego Velázquez, "Las Meninas" (translated 'The Maids of Honour'), 1656

Personal Reaction: What is most pertinent about this painting towards what I wish to achieve through my concept of mirrored incorporation, is the engagement of the viewer into the narrative of the work. I feel this may be best achieved through naturalism of the main subject and perhaps I achieved this with my most recent exhibition, "Reflection of Self and Societal Image". However, Sean appears to the audience on one plane. They are not allowed to see the full dynamism present in the personality of the individual. Just in the way, Velazquez presents a clear, narrated portrait, I wish to present Sean as such. Perhaps through depiction of varied scenes from Sean's life may aid in this appropriation. This can be achieved in various ways, through a mural-style painting where certain scenes are woven together onto one canvas, a matrix of various photographs of Sean in different points in his life, as well as presentation of his artwork. The latter may come across as a museum like collection of a person's life, making the individual more well-rounded and open. 


Michelangelo Pistoletto, Mirror Paintings

"In 1961, after making a series of reflecting black-ground paintings significantly entitled The Present, Pistoletto conducted a series of experiments intended to achieve the highest degree of objectivity—the kind of objectivity shown in the early mirror paintings. To make the background more reflective he tried using aluminum sheets, which he applied to the canvas (Grey Man from Behind, 1961). Finally he identified mirror-finished steel as the best material. To give maximum objectivity to the figure, too, he decided to use photography. Several trials followed. He applied cutout photographic images or photographic gelatin directly to polished steel—a solution he discarded because the photograph continued to look like an inserted object that contrasted with the immateriality of the reflected image. He also tried to use a normal mirror—another solution rejected because of the problems posed by the thickness of the glass. At last, in 1962, he perfected the technique of his subsequent mirror paintings: a sheet of mirror-finished stainless steel fitted with an image obtained by tracing a photograph, enlarged to life size, with the tip of a brush, on tissue paper. After 1971 the painted tissue was replaced by a silkscreen of the photographic image.
The mirror paintings are the foundation of Pistoletto’s oeuvre—both of the artworks he makes and of his theoretical reflection in which he constantly returns to them to study their meaning in depth and to develop their implications. The essential characteristics the artist identifies in them, are: the dimension of time (not just represented, but presented in reality); the inclusion in the work of the viewer and his/her surroundings (which make “the self-portrait of the world”); the joining of couples of opposite polarity (static/dynamic, surface/depth, absolute/relative, etc.), constituted and activated by the interaction between the photographic image and what goes on in the virtual space generated by the reflecting surface; the placement of the mirror paintings no longer at window height, as paintings are traditionally hung, but on the floor (which creates a passage through which the space in which they are shown continues in the virtual space of the work, a door that opens between art and life).
The mirror paintings were first exhibited in Pistoletto’s one-person show at Galatea in April 1963. A few days after the opening Pistoletto went to Paris, where he met the American dealer Ileana Sonnabend, who later bought the entire show and took over Pistoletto’s contract with Galatea.

“I realized there wasn’t any sort of assent or interest around me: in fact there was a certain nervousness and rejection, mainly by the gallery owner himself. So I took a trip to Paris. There I met Beppe Romagnoni who told me about a gallery where strange and interesting paintings were being shown. So I dropped by the Sonnabend Gallery and asked to see these paintings. In this way I first saw Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Rosenquist and Lichtenstein’s paintings, and Segal and Chamberlain’s sculptures. They asked me if I was a critic and I said, no, I’m an artist. When asked what I did, I showed them the Galatea catalogue and a painting. They were struck by the work and came to Turin where they bought up the whole Galatea show. They took over the contract with Tazzoli and a situation developed that was extremely important for me: from my isolation in Turin, I was catapulted into an international dimension” (Michelangelo Pistoletto, interview with Germano Celant, cit., 26-29).
The mirror paintings quickly brought Pistoletto international acknowledgement and success, which in turn led to numerous one-person shows in Europe and in the United States (Paris, 1964; Brussels and Minneapolis, 1966; New York, 1967 and 1969; Rotterdam, 1969)."

Biennale '66, 1962-1966

Palais des Beaux-Arts, 
Bruxelles, 1967

Walker Art Center,
Minneapolis, 1966

Walker Art Center,
Minneapolis, 1966

Personal Response: Pistoletto creates an objective presentation to his audience, narratives which the audience is directed into through reflection. In my work, regarding the Bust of Sean facing the mirror, the audience would be forced to engage with the person gazing into the mirror. However, this cold slab of material, fixed in front of the mirror objectifies the person, the sculpture is depicting. He would appear to be a study for the audience as opposed to a real person with real emotions. Pistoletto's directly avoids any kind of objectification since his characters are "painted" directly onto the mirror with no other dimension to disturb the relationship between art and audience. I feel now, the idea of the mirror isn't a necessary object to achieve the concept of reflection and can be obtained in other ways, just like how Velasquez achieved the engagement of the audience through sheer eye contact. 



Yinka Shonibare
Ryan Gander
Frida Kahlo
Chuck Close
Damien Hirst

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