Why is Art Important?

In this TEDed video, educator Amy E Herman explains the importance of visual communication.

I would like to posit another importance of art: empathy.

Up until WW1, a lot of art was about expressing a society’s ideals.  It can be very interesting and worthwhile to access what individuals in our society most desire. This knowledge can lead us to a better understanding of how of environment ticks, and how we can improve it.

What do you think? Why is art important to you?

Please let me know in the comments below!



How Colouring-In can give you a New Perspective on History

This photo taken in Louisville, Kentucky in 1937 is arguably one of the most potent of all historical photographs. Yet with new technologies that can colour this photograph, we ironically give it a fresh interpretation  by transporting ourselves back to the day it was taken.

It becomes increasingly clear why it was taken too, for not only does the billboard’s message juxtapose these peoples’ position, but the bold colours also appear to condescend them.


The addition of colour reminds us of the potential over-exaggeration and bias of propaganda; the technicoloured saturation of the poster is a colour scheme impossible to achieve by the everyday. The citizens, queuing for supplies following the Great Ohio River Flood, appear to be the unfortunate reality to this superficial ideal.  All of this, whilst made timeless, is lost in the greyscale print.

History is made almost tangible through ‘colouring in’, reminding us not only of key events in our time but also the advances of our technology which enable us to find parallels between the situation which inspired the photographer to shoot this photograph and the society which now admire it. Still, the notion of ideals is questioned and we sometimes become so fixed on them that we become indifferent to reality. A satirical shot like this can help to change this.

For more images like this, visit: http://twistedsifter.com/2013/08/historic-black-white-photos-colorized/

Sylvia Sleigh and the Rokesby Venus: Challenging the notion of the ‘Idealised Female’

On Tuesday 10th March 1914, the suffragette Mary Richardson attacked Velasquez’s The Rokeby Venus, slashing at the canvas seven times.



When asked about her motives she argued that this idealised female insulted her, being admired by men who were blissfully indifferent to women’s suffering in the patriarchal 20th century. Richardson clearly saw art as mirroring a society’s desires, and this idealisation in particular moved her enough to pursue her own form of iconoclasm. Is Sylvia Sleigh’s Philip Golub Reclining taking Richardson’s argument and using it to attack Verlasquez and the male perception of femininity?


The central figure appears to directly parody Velasquez’ original, however there are some notable differences:

Painting style –  Sleigh uses harsher brushstrokes than her predecessor, perhaps to target the ideal female figure. But can this new style, used to portray a male figure rather than a female’s, could also be seen to critique the general perception of men as rough, edgy and hard?

Concept of distance – An interesting concept of distance exists within the painting. The proximity between the central subject and the surveying figure, which here is Sleigh’s self portrait, is more distanced  than The Rokeby Venus and cupid. The mirror, fixed to a wall, provides a more relaxed tone than the cupid who, by holding the mirror to Venus, encourages self indulgence. This is heavily reminiscent of John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, by exploring the hypocrisy of a painter who lustfully portrays the female form but conceals it by painting a mirror in the female’s hand to emphasise her vanity. Perhaps Sleigh, by including herself in the painting, is admitting to lust and vanity whilst remaining at a safe distance away from the central subject. The viewer senses this admiration from afar and is compelled to emulate it. Whereas The Rokeby Venus is heavily intimate, Sleigh is able to present a nude in an openly critical way. By presenting herself as clothed in the presence of a nude male, she is able to question social attitudes to dominance.

Gender ambiguity – The male central figure, who without being named in the painting’s title, would remain sexually ambivalent. On the surface, he appears to be an ambiguous personality; his pose is similar to the Venus, but his muscle structure suggests there is more to this ‘female’ than meets the eye. As we are facing the back of the figure, his long hair at first deceives the viewer into assuming a female. Unlike many contemporary artists, who see little importance in a title, Sleigh uses her title to give the male an identity. She calls the audience on many levels, to go deeper than what is on the surface.

Unfortunately for Richardson, her active protest only diminished men’s respect for women, causing a protest for women to respect art in galleries. By presenting the controversy in a new way, through something as familiar to the art world as a nude, Sleigh asks us to question the concept of idealisation. 

For more: http://www.sylviasleigh.com/sylviasleigh/Sleigh.html

Get Sticking!

Get Sticking!

As part of my on going art project based on our nature of ‘reading’ images, I made this collage (of my brother, again) entirely from newspapers/ other ephemera in his room. (I asked first!)

We are using these clues of him to shape a whole new idea of his psyche, which is what I tried to portray here. Hope you like it!

Pssst! If you look really closely, you’ll find that the right hand side of his nose is made from Vietnam (that was from an old atlas image in the metro)

Elizabethans Undressed – Quite Literally!

Friday saw the National Portrait Gallery’s ‘Late Shift Extra’, a huge event for the gallery which occurs once every four months.

This time the Tudor’s had a chance to showcase their era with “The Elizabethans Undressed”, to coincide with the current exhibition “Elizabeth I and Her People”
Events Included:

– Authentic Elizabethan music performances (Thanks to Mediva)
– Arts and Crafts Activities (Calligraphy, make your own ruffle, drawing models in Tudor dress)
– Dressing by costume designer Jenny Tiramani and Elizabethan Catwalk
– Talks by curator Taryna Cooper, including Elizabethan Artists, interiors, rebellion and espionage
– A rather raunchy performance of John Donne’s poem “Elegy 19 To his Mistress Going to Bed”, (with a mini-lecture on the origins of Tudor aristocratic dress)

This was a completely new take on the gallery scene for me – the portraits were surrounded by a vibrant atmosphere of music, dance, drinks and quirky activities. The NPG is all about people – and by combining our society with Elizabethan tradition we are able to view how similar we actually are.



Three minute sketches of a model wearing an exact replica of a Tudor Romeo costume. The Workshop was held by Dennis Northdruft, Curator at the Fashion and Textile Muesum.


My initials  in Elizabethan Calligraphy, courtesy of Eva Driskell, scribe!  (the ‘x’ stands for Xuan, which is Vietnamese for spring, incase anyone was wondering)



30 Second sketches of my model before he was dressed

My friend and I were interviewed about our experience. I will post the video soon when it’s up!

For more: http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/elizabethi/exhibition.php

Piece of the Week: The Swing (After Fragonard)



Artist: Yinka Shonibare
Date: 2001  (contemporary art, but based on 18th Century Rococco)
Title: The Swing (After Fragonard)
Media: Mannequin, Cotton Costume, 2 Slippers, Swing Seat, 2 Ropes, Oak Twig and Artificial Foliage

A rather humourous reaction to the original (seen below), Shonibare reunites us with Fragonard’s The Swing but with a historic hindsight. The original Swing was painted in a Rococco style – a movement packed with light and airy symbolism, popular with the French Aristocrats in the mid 18th century. 

Shonibare takes this notion and completely spins it on it’s head – he represents the female subject in sculpture, changing the fabric of her cultural dress to African print, hinting at the cultural diversity in today’s world. It is instantly noticeable to us that the female lacks a head. This can be interpreted as a simultaneous criticism of the Rococco and French aristocracy; both lack personality and moral reasoning. The head could also be a symbol of the guillotine, which was introduced to Paris 25 years after Fragonard finished his painting. It reminds us of the Royalist’s fate and our misplaced importance on materialism.    

Although Shonibare intends for the piece to be seen front view, it’s 3-Dimensional medium means that we can assume position of the two male spectators and place ourselves at the back or beneath her skirt. Something familiar is made uncanny and brings the exposition of females to a whole new level. 


The Swing – 1767

For morehttp://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/shonibare-the-swing-after-fragonard-t07952/text-summary