Sunday, July 5, 2009

Ancient Art

Well...I seem to have misplaced the memory stick that has all my work on it!! I'm hoping it's in the computer lab. It's ok, I have backups. I just couldn't work on much this weekend! Bummer. Instead, I've put together this long post that will probably bore everyone but me. I had fun doing it, though!

In a loosely structur
ed art class that I took maybe 10 years ago, the instructor had a stack of magazines and asked that I go through them and tear out any images that struck me or that I liked on a gut level. We then spread out the 25 or so images to get a more holistic idea of my natural visual style. We noticed that I lean toward more organic shapes (curves rather than hard lines), abstract rather than highly representational, and that I like things within things within things. I like to think the latter is because I'm such a complex, "layered" person but it may just be that I remember playing with dolls in toy houses and with a little toy kitchen when I was a kid. I also love the miniature rooms at The Art Institute.

Anyway, one of the ways my t
endency to like big things made out of little things shows up is that I'm really fascinated with mosaics. As I explored this form, I found Byzantine art. There's a lot of complicated history of the time period (wars, emperors, etc., etc.) which I won't even pretend to know much about. I've also never been to Italy or Turkey where these pieces were made.

I'll just s
hare some images here that I think are beautiful. They're all from a book called Early Christian & Byzantine Art by John Lowden. This book is published by Phaidon. I could drool all day over the books this publishing company puts out. I will be honest and say with the Byzantine Art book, I just got it for the pictures. I don't look at the articles. I'm not ashamed to say it, either. I'll bring the book to class in case anyone wants to look more! If you just want to see my little sketch, it straggles in after all these stunning Byzantine mosaics. Click on any of the images for a closer look.

I scanned this one because it shows the detail of the l
ittle mosaic tiles.

Oooooooooo, shiny. Most of this art was made to glorify Christ or other Christian religious figures or to do so and also recognize some rich and/or powerful men. While I take issue with the ways these powerful men often used their power and religion to oppress others, I can really appreciate the imagery and technical expertise it must have taken to put these together and can understand how they would have inspired faith and belief in the common person.

I included the image below because of the color; the detail; the little scenes in different parts of the mosaic!

he next two images struck me as interesting because of how the folds of cloth were represented. I like how geometric they are. They're almost abstract. Neat. I especially like the way Mary's cloak was done (this one is a painting on panel rather than a mosaic).

Finally, for some unknown reason, I fell in love with this reliquary:

Reliquaries were designed to hold a sacred remnant (or relic) from a saint or some other holy person or place. I think they mostly tended to be body parts (e.g., the knuckle of a saint). How they were able to get the knuckle away from the rest of the body and determine who got which part is a mystery to me. From what I can gather (the text doesn't really explain a lot of the history of the specific piece), the cross in this reliquary was believed to contain slivers of the "true cross" -- the cross on which Christ was crucified.

Because I don't identify as Christian, the reason this reliquary was made doesn't particularly move me. It just dre
w me in with the precious jewels, the little pictures of different people, angels, etc. The use of various materials. I suppose that the artist's passion for his god infused the piece with particular reverence and I might be responding to that. It just occurred to me that these pieces had a very similar purpose as that of modern graphic designers -- persuade, convince, create interest in the focus of the piece.

In congruence with my much more secular beliefs, I created something that represents what I find precious, my beliefs and values. It was kind of hard to just pick 9 and even harder to figure out an image to represent each belief/value without being hokey (I didn't always succeed!). If you have ideas of other images for these things, let me know! Here's a sketch of what I came up with:

1 comment:

  1. When you come visit, we'll have to go to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (whew!). It's a ginormous Catholic church here in DC with all sorts of Byzantine mosaics and such. It's beautiful!