Ana Mendieta’s Untitled Self portrait with blood is a photograph printed on coloured paper. Starting with formal analysis, the colours in the portrait are tinted with a yellow hue from the synthetic lighting. The rest of the colour palette is fairly bland allowing the red of the blood to stand out. The shadows in the portrait cause the angles of the face to be sharper. The shadow reflected on the wall behind blends into the main subjects hair and draws more focus and attention to the face. The darkest points of the photograph are the hair, eyes and nostrils. But, the highlights within the eyes and left nostril draws the viewers eye to fixate on those areas whilst also emphasising the darkness around it. The size of the piece is 398 × 310 × 32 mm which is similar to B3 sized paper although, being a photograph the work can be easily scaled up or down to any desired size. The shape of the photograph seems to follow standard portrait formatting. As the piece is titled as a self portrait it hints the fact the piece may be autobiographical and the use of the fake blood hints at a narrative nature.
Untitled Self-Portrait with blood is part of an experimental series that Mendieta has done previously and also has a similar motif to another photograph published the same year called ‘Untitled (Rape Scene)’ which also features a lot of fake blood. The use of the fake blood automatically links the piece with themes of violence. From just looking at the photograph it has an underlying narrative of suffering. It is difficult to tell if Mendieta is meant to be a victim or the instigator. From where the camera is positioned it is almost like Mendieta is looking down at the audience putting her in a position of power.
Mendieta’s work falls under Contemporary art and Feminist art and reminds me of works by Francesca Woodman and Tracy Emin.
Piss Christ – 1987
Piss Christ by Andres Serrano is a photograph that depicts a small statue of Jesus Christ on a crucifix submerged in Serrano’s own urine. The piece won the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Arts “Awards in the Visual Arts” competition. The piece created a lot of controversies as many claimed it to be blasphemous and offensive but, Serrano who grew up a Catholic claims that that was never his intention and stresses its political ambiguity.
Its deeply saturated colors with its high contrast draws the audience in and almost makes it impossible to look away.
Although Serrano claims that this piece has no deeper meaning and is not meant to be a commentary on Christianity or religion it is difficult not to draw those conclusions. The photograph was displayed standing at 1.52m x 1.02m meaning that seeing it in person would truly allow the audience to observe and study the image. My first reaction was to find the image humorous and I instinctively saw the image as a critique of religion and even as going as far as to disrespect Christianity and the symbol of the crucifix. Analyzing this image from the lens of 2021 leaves me with the opposite meaning that Serrano intended. With the coronavirus pandemic, natural disasters, and the continuing fight for social change, for me Piss Christ is a commentary on how life is still very unfair for large groups of the population. And if someone believes in the story of Jesus Christ dying for our sins it could call into question if his death was worth it.
“a darkly beautiful photographic image… the small wood and plastic crucifix becomes virtually monumental as it floats, photographically enlarged, in a deep rosy glow that is both ominous and glorious.”
Lucy Rowland Lippard “The Spirit and the Letter”. Art in America. 80: 238–245.
Whitewall galleries are a chain that is Britain’s leading high street galleries featuring many contemporary artworks featuring a portfolio of fine artists. Owned by Helen Swaby Whitewall galleries has won an award for best customer service and nominated for best relator in 2016, the gallery itself is more of a shop to display artworks. The Whitewall Galleries website offers home and virtual appointments and talks with a Fine Art consultant allowing their customers to pick the right artwork for their homes. Although the gallery is small it showed a range of different styles that had an aura of sophistication that mirrored the elitist side of the art world.
Inside the gallery there were lots of different pieces on sale by a number of different smaller artists that ranged from paintings, photography and sculpture. The artwork was displayed against a white wall and beside the artwork would have the name of the piece, the artists name and the price of the piece. Seeing the price next to the artwork felt very strange as this is something I had never seen before. It almost stopped me from connecting with the artwork because I felt it hard to feel the artists emotion behind the piece as it felt more commercialized.
The CEO Helen Swaby owns over 50 galleries including two other galleries alongside Whitewall Galleries. Originally Swaby knew nothing about art and was simply shopping for artwork for her own cottage. I found it very interesting that Swaby struggled against elitism as I found the atmosphere within the gallery highly pretentious.
“I went to a gallery in London but found it pretentious and elitist,”
In comparison to other galleries I had been to I struggled to connect to any pieces within Whitewall Galleries and I prefer galleries that are not focused on selling artwork like The Tate.
In the second week of drawing, we focused on tone. Overall I was very disappointed with the outcomes I created within this session. I found it very difficult to achieve a wide depth of tone and translate the figure onto my page without using line. Near the end of the session, I started to understand the process more although, I still found it difficult to see what process where I needed to place the charcoal and how to make accurate proportions without mapping out the outline first. Practicing tone is definitely a skill I need a lot of practice on to improve my skills.
In Painting week two we looked at creating paintings using white. To start with we experimented using complementary colours to create grey.
Mixing black and grey together created a very flat grey, while using complementary colours allowed the greys to feel more vibrant. Adding different hues to the grey allowed me to reflect the colours within the white object I was trying to paint.
Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese contemporary artist whose focus on dots made her infamous and her work easily recognisable. As well as her iconic pieces of work including a dot motif she has created multiple “Infinity Rooms”, one of which is currently on display at the Tate Modern where tickets are sold out until 31 March 2022. Being very interested in Kusama’s work I was very curious in seeing what her studio looked like and how she would make use of the space.
Kusama’s studio is located in the Shinjuku district in Tokyo. The studio which is said to be incredibly organised is in a three-story building. Her studio is decorated with a collection of her own personal belongings including her own collection of books and magazines to childhood photographs. Kusama also keeps photocopies of her auction sales within her studio as well. Stacks of her large-scale brightly coloured paints are organised around her studio. The majority of images from Kusama working in a studio shows her sitting in front of a large table with her canvas laid flat in front of her. Kusama now needs to sit while she creates her art because of her age but using a chair with wheels she’s able to quickly move and continue to work on her art from all angles. From photographs, large windows can be seen allowing large amounts of natural light to flood her studio. The feeling Kusama’s studio gives me is that it is very personal to her and is able to reflect her own personality to anyone walking through.
In 2017 Vice’s Dexter Thomas was banned from entering Kusama’s studio(1). Thomas was banned as Kusama had problems understanding his questions and reached the conclusion “[Thomas] did not understand her work”. It is also hinted within the article that Thomas was not allowed to come into contact with Kusama because of her unstable mental state and that she might have felt too uncomfortable to even finish the interview. This was very interesting to me as it made me consider if an artist’s studio could be considered their “safe space”. The more comfortable an artist feels in their studio the more venerable they are able to be with their work.
“My art is an expression of my life, particularly my mental illness.”
Being a fan of Kusama’s art for many years I found it very inspiring to look at her studio space. It was very interesting to see that even an artist I have idolised so much still has to start with a blank canvas in an ’empty’ room. It motivated me to fully take advance of the studio space I have been given and I would like to fill that space with my own pieces of work much like Kusama has done in her own studio.
In drawing week one we drew from a real life model. With each drawing we had certain adjustments we needed to make that gave us a new drawing experience. The adjustments would also help us to try and forget all the bad habits we might have picked up. For example, trying to draw with out non-dominant hand whilst not looking at the paper. I found these exercises very helpful as I find it very hard not to overthink and I get frustrated when I can’t get everything perfect. I personally think the drawings I did with my non dominant hand while not looking at the paper turned out to be the some of the best outcomes I have had from drawing in awhile – I liked their fluidity and how they captured the essence of the life model. After this experience I started my own personal sketchbook where I have started to work on and develop on the areas of drawing where I feel my skills are weaker. I try to work for at least 30 minutes every day in the sketchbook with quick drawing exercises and figure drawings.
Using the brief of the word “Prond” we were asked to create sculptures using cardboard. To me the word ‘prond’ made me think of; isolation, water and fluidity. I tried to capture this with my cardboard model. I found it difficult to work with the rigidity of the cardboard and it took a while to find the best way to stick the cardboard together. In the end hot glue worked the best to hold the sculpture together.
In week one we created paintings using unsaturated primary colours. For each painting, we had 20 minutes and were not allowed to use brushes. I struggled to create depth within the objects and get an accurate colour match