Spotlight Art – Garden – Painting of the Day by Sonya Chueva

The image depicts a painting titled Garden by the artist Sonya Chueva. The work is a realistic meditative  figurative painting of a woman seated on a bench resting in a garden. The work captures the sleeping colourless figure with her arms folded This painting is portrayed in beautiful shades of green, brown and grey tones. The work is an exploration of a limited palette of colour and patten.

Painting Attribution © Sonya Chueva, Garden, 2021

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Art Plus – Untitled (Figures with Heart) – 1982 – A painting by Keith Haring

Love’s Forbidden Songs

Loves forbidden songs
Breakers crash against the shore
Summer’s music plays

About the Painting

The radiant heart-love motif would be repeated in many of Haring’s paintings and drawings throughout his career.

This innocent yet apparently controversial image of two men in love is mild in comparison with Haring’s later sexually explicit images. The bravery and boldness of representing homosexual love at this point in time was already a significant statement and a marked achievement in the larger cultural realm.

In this painting, two people are depicted in love, with Haring’s often-used lines of energy emphasizing this euphoric state as much as the kinetic movement of these figures’ bodies in space.

The image distills the artist’s optimistic attitude. Haring was, at heart, in many ways a Romantic, believing in humanity and the power of love.

Visually, the image is classic Haring with its flat, two-dimensional surface, cartoon-like simplicity and the use of vibrant, saturated colours.

Haring often outlined his characters and scenes with thick black lines reminiscent of many earlier modern artists (such as Picasso), as well as from the Pop art movement (Warhol), in addition to Haring’s contemporaries the 1980s New York City graffiti artists.

Haring’s use of vibrant lines in and around his subjects conveys a sense of energetic dynamism, both positive and negative. Some attribute his adoption of this visual sign to the influence of Hip Hop music, where the visual imagery of dark lines was used to represent the impact of sound on listeners.

Haring’s artistic paintings called for radical new cultural possibilities and greatly expanded social understanding of prevailing contemporary social issues of the day.

Painting Attribution © Keith Haring, Untitled (Figures with Heart), 1982

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Poem Attribution © Goff James, Love’s Forbidden Songs

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Art Plus – Deutschlands Geisteshelden (German Spiritual Heroes) – A painting by Anselm Kiefer

© Anselm Kiefer, Deutschlands Geisteshelden (German Spiritual Heroes), 1973

Horror’s Shadows Burn

Horror’s shadows burn
The hunting lodge stands empty
History questioned

About the Painting

Deutschlands Geisteshelden (German Spiritual Heroes) is painted in extreme perspective. The viewer is positioned at the mouth of a great hall, an amalgam of Kiefer’s former studio and Carinhall, a German hunting lodge used to store looted art during the Nazi era.

Burning torches line the walls of the space, which is empty except for the names of inspirational artists and writers scrawled above the receding floor: Joseph Beuys, Arnold Böcklin, Adalbert Stifter, Caspar David Friedrich, Theodor Storm, and many others.

This is hardly a triumphal place; the lodge keeps vigil, housing names that have become embroiled in a painful history.

Exhibited at the German Pavilion at the 1980 Venice Biennale, this monumental painting created controversy and was met with widely conflicting opinions.

This motif of the interior was a recurring subject throughout Kiefer’s work of the 1970s, as in his series of Attic Paintings. Much like Vincent van Gogh’s portraits of his bedroom, these interiors reflect the psyche of the artist and the nation, imbuing the spectator with a distinct emotional response.

Through the ominous depiction of the empty room, the painting engenders an unsettling feeling in the viewer, suggesting that something is amiss.

The painting reflects upon and critiques the myths and chauvinism that propelled the German Third Reich to power. With immense scale and ambition, Keifer’s paintings depict his generation’s ambivalence toward the grandiose impulse of German nationalism and its impact on history.

The image is both tantalisingly and deliberately provocative. The viewer through looking explores ones own perceptions and emotions related to the horrors of history.

Painting Attribution © Anselm Kiefer, Deutschlands Geisteshelden (German Spiritual Heroes), 1973

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Poem Attribution © Goff James, Horror’s Shadows Burn

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Art Plus – Maman – A sculpture by Louise Bourgeois

© Louise Bourgeois, Maman, 1999

Maman Sits Weaving

Childhood memories
Maman sits weaving her love
Shadows carve their scars

About the sculpture

Maman (1999) is a bronze, stainless steel, and marble sculpture. The sculpture, which depicts a spider, is among the world’s largest, measuring over 30 ft high and over 33 ft wide (927 x 891 x 1024 cm). It includes a sac containing 32 marble eggs and its abdomen and thorax are made of ribbed bronze.

The title is the familiar French word for Mother. The sculpture was created in 1999 by Bourgeois as a part of her inaugural commission of The Unilever Series (2000), in the Turbine Hall at London’s Tate Modern. This original was created in steel, with an edition of six subsequent castings in bronze.

Like a creature escaped from a dream, or a larger-than-life embodiment of a secret childhood fear, the giant spider Maman casts a powerful physical and psychological shadow.

Bourgeois work plunges one into the depths of human emotion further and more passionately than perhaps any other artist of her time. In its evocation of the psyche, her work is both universal and deeply personal, with frequent, explicit reference to painful childhood memories of an unfaithful father and a loving but complicit mother.

Maman is associated with the artist’s own mother. The spider, who protects her precious eggs in a steel cage-like body, provokes awe and fear, but her massive height, improbably balanced on slender legs, conveys an almost poignant vulnerability.

In Bourgeois own words,

“The Spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver…Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences that eat mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes spread diseases and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother.”

Sculpture Attribution © Louise Bourgeois, Maman, 1999

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Poem Attribution © Goff James, Maman Sits Weaving

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Art Plus – #1572, 1972 – A painting by Abe Ajay

Abstract Construction

Abstract Construction
Colours shapes and forms combine
Patterns of movement

About the painting

#1572, 1972 – (Acrylic on canvas, polyester) by Abe Ajay The artist’s dialogue with imagery is rooted in an “Alphabet” of shapes and forms. Those shapes and forms initially derived from found objects, but have developed into three dimensional objects designed and organized to construct his creative artistic imaginings.

Ajay’s background in graphic design and commercial art distill an interplay of control, intuition, and accident. The work is filled with patterns of movement through the artistic alphabet which he employs, a conversation with his own thoughts and a consideration of the infinite possibilities hidden within finite variables.

The work is an evolving experiment in expressing perfect interrelationships of shape, colour and form.

Ajay’s use of carefully designed forms and colour arrangements create a composition filled with dynamic intensity that draws the viewer in and encourages questioning of that which is perceived.

Painting Attribution © Abe Ajay, 1572, 1972

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Poem Attribution © Goff James, Abstract Construction

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Art Plus – The School of Athens – A painting by Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino)

© Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino), The School of Athens (1509 – 1511)

Splendorous Fresco

Splendorous fresco
The School of Athens’ voice speaks
Raphael’s masterpiece

The School of Athens (1509 – 1511), Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino)

About the Painting

This fresco, painted by Raphael is one of four found in the Stanza della Segnatura, in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. Each painting depicts separately: philosophy, poetry, theology and law.

The title refers to philosophers from the classical world rather than any particular school of philosophy.

The individual gestures of the philosophers depicted in the fresco have been subject to considerable academic interpretation and debate, however it is not clear how much of their philosophy Raphael would have been familiar with.

That which is important, for the viewer, is the way in which Raphael has gathered all the most famous of the classical philosophers within a marvellous Renaissance architecturally designed building.

Many of the philosophers are recognizable through their iconography, which would have been widely understood at the time and are drawn from busts recovered from archaeological excavations.

Present within the fresco are Plato (said to be a portrait of Leonardo painted in homage) and Aristotle in the centre carrying their well-known works Timeus and Ethics respectively.

Also identifiable are Pythagoras in the foreground, Euclid on the right, Zoroaster holding the heavenly sphere, Ptolemy holding the earthly sphere, and Diogenes on the stairs holding a dish.

The scholar leaning over Pythagoras is said to be that of the Arab philosopher Averroes who is credited with bringing the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle to the West.

Legend has it that Raphael poked an artistic dig at his great rival Michelangelo by painting his portrait as the face of the Philosopher Heraclitus, leaning against a block of marble.

Heraclitus is often called the weeping philosopher due to the sad nature of his philosophical doctrine and appears to echo Michelangelo’s said personality.

Also included in the painting is a self-portrait of Raphael wearing a black beret in the right corner of the fresco standing next to fellow-artist and friend Il Sodoma who was one of the artists whose work Raphael was ordered to paint over.

The work utilizes many techniques of the Renaissance artists, including the way it invites viewers to enter the space in an almost theatrical manner; as, if one is fully engulfed in the scene.

The perspective leads one into the throng of its occupants as if one, too, were engaged in the debate or contemplation.

The light from the window in the background of the piece fills the scene, enhancing its three-dimensional solidity. The high vaulted ceiling with a view of the sky gives the feeling that we are entering into the realm of super human thought and activity and increases the sense of awe of being in the company of people so instrumental in shaping our understanding of the world.

The colour palette which Raphael used is muted. It reflects the artist’s great skill in his use of colour. This allowed avoiding any one point of focus. Instead, one views the whole composition as being one complete world, which exists in a plane of time beyond that which one calls ones own.

The narrative aspects of each of the four frescos are perfectly arranged to engage in dialogue with each other and conducive to the intended use of the room as a library.

The School of Athens received both critical and popular attention immediately upon completion and was instrumental in elevating Raphael’s public acclaim.

This vindicated Pope Julius II’s decision to award him the commission, and also laid the foundation for his trust in Raphael in conferring on him the artistic responsibilities that followed.

Poem Attribution Goff James, Splendorous Fresco

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Painting Attribution © Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino), The School of Athens (1509 – 1511)

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Art Plus – Still Life with Fruit (1675) – A painting by Jacob van Walscapelle

Elegant Grandeur

Elegant Grandeur
O’erflowing with pained ripeness
Harvest’s sacrifice

Still Life with Fruit (1675) Jacob van Walscapelle (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)

Though modest in size and compass, this still-life painting by Jacob van Walscapelle has a remarkable sense of grandeur. Assembling only a few objects on a plain stone ledge, the artist has conveyed a monumentality of presence usually found in much larger and more complex still life works. The painting possess compositional restraint and an elegant simplicity.

Bathed in soft light, every figural element quietly asserts its essential properties. The Venetian-style glass filled with wine sparkles against the sombre dark background. The pomegranate bursting with seeds invites the viewer to imagine its ripe taste, as do the grapes spilling over the edge. In addition to their simple beauty, these items are also part of a long iconographic tradition within still-life painting.

The grapes and wine evoke the Christian Eucharist, while pomegranates have complex associations with Christ’s suffering and the Resurrection. In this sense, Van Walscapelle’s painting encourages the viewer to contemplate Christ’s sacrifice and eventual rebirth.

Poem Attribution Goff James, Elegant Grandeur

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Painting Attribution © Jacob van Walscspelle, Still Life with Fruit

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