Friday, 6 February 2009

Modern Art Review

London is renowned for its art culture and collection of work dating centuries back. There are many galleries operating all around the city, each with their own unique array of different types of paintings, sculptures, film and architectural design. Of those art galleries the most recent addition was the Tate Modern, home to international modern and contemporary art.

Last week I visited the Tate and was not surprised by the level of brilliance in the pieces of artwork on display. Two pieces of artwork in particular had caught my attention; Loa (2007) Albert Oehlen and Peg-Top (circa 1937-52) Hans Bellmer.

Loa (2007) Albert Oehlen
This collage painting was created using Acrylic and oil paint as well as silk-screening. At first glance it may seem that it is merely random paint smeared over magazine articles but everything in the image serves to add purpose as a whole. Silk-screened onto the painting is a page from a German black metal magazine. Also included in the painting are lyrics from the techno band, "Scooter". Oehlen stated this addition was to "evoke atmosphere rather than to offer a specific message". A bar code located at the bottom of the painting is included which might imply advertising imagery. The title comes from the word "loath" meaning "unwilling", which can be found at the top corners of the painting. I think Oehlen could be suggesting that these aspects of society is what he loathes and is a representation of how he feels about them. Or perhaps he may be suggesting that society in general is what he is "unwilling" to accept or be a part of. This could be shown as the blobs of paint painted on the surface. Oehlen's art as is related to the nuede wilde/junge wilde (wild youth) movement, whose work was used with reference to politics. The uses of colour used in the painting is subtle yet at the same time not. I think the contrast between the red of the title and the blue orbs located at the bottom of the painting works very well. Incorporating so many different elements to a painting whilst not complicating the image by having too much to see makes this a very successful and amazing piece of work.

Looking at the piece of work in terms of influentual references there are a few that stand out. There are elements of Dada or dadaism in its the use of magazine page and its typographic imagery. This also gives the painting a sort of early 1900, world war I-II poster feel to it. The piece can also be categorised as graphic art in this resepect. Neasden Control Centre is a graphic artist whos work shares similiar traits to Oehlen's and may very well be as a result of influence.

Peg-Top (circa 1937-52) Hans Bellmer
This piece of artwork was created using oil paints on canvas. At face value the painting is very abstract and surreal. The image appears to consists of several different parts of the human skeleton joined together to form this construction while balancing above a spinning top. The peg-top supposedly was intended to symbolise a womans ablitity to turn the heads and hearts of men. Bellmer is probably most well known for his life size female doll works of art. He was interested in fetish, and sexuality. This can be seen in the painting at the top of the structure is a reverse image of the inside of a females vagina. Also in the centre of the painting where the two large sections of the structure meet could symbolise breasts as just below them are small nipple-like shapes. The same shape can also be interpreted as female legs viewed from below. Bellmer's intentions definantly lie within the painting. The piece is painted in the style of surrealism. Surrealism was developed from the Dada movement which is where Bellmer probably used some of his influence from. Where the spinning top meets with the surface at the base of the structure the shadow cast, if in reality would not cast in that direction. We know this because of the shadows made on the structure. The perspective of the base is distored and incorrect realistically, althought it creates depth within the painting giving it that little bit extra. Artists who were influenced by Bellmer's work include Paul Wunderlich and Horst Jansen. Wunderlich's style is very similar to Bellmer's and his work also contains sybolisms of a sexual nature.

Paul Wunderlich

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