Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Research - Dino Valls Modern Symbolist painter

For research I wanted to look into more modern symbolist artists as well as older ones to get examples of the old and the new of this movement.
I have been aware of Dino Valls work for a few years now and he's an artist that is difficult to forget in skill and subject matter. I thought his paintings were the work of digital age but his work has introduced me to the technique of egg tempra which I would like to try in the future. He's been picked for research because of the effect his work has on me and how he portrays the human body and psyche in a beautifully disturbing manner. How he is able to explore the symbolism and world he creates for his figures and show us places we thought were only in our deepest thoughts

├Źncubo 1992

Dino Valls (Spanish, figurative, symbolism, 1959-) His painting, elaborating and expanding the methods of past masters, centers on the human psyche by using figurative techniques only as a formal support in which to project a conceptual content laden with profound psychic weight, where the most obscure pulsations develop in a symbolic process of intellectualism.

Having previously obtained a degree in medicine, he is now one of the Spanish representatives of the vanguard of figurative art. His painting, elaborating and expanding the methods of past masters, centers on the human psyche by using figurative techniques only as a formal support in which to project a conceptual content laden with profound psychic weight, where the most obscure pulsations develop in a symbolic process of intellectualism. He has participated in important international exhibitions of contemporary art, and has held numerous showings in Europe and the United States.
He is a self-taught artist with an early involvement in drawing. He began painting oil in 1975.  During his medical studies at the University of Zaragoza, he continued his painting and submitted his work to various art competitions in Spain and France, where he receive several awards.

His first one-man exhibition was received in Zaragoza in 1981. The following year he was awarded the San Jorge First Place Award in Painting, after receiving his degree in medicine and surgery in 1982, he decided to devote himself exclusively to painting; the kind of painting which would be influenced by the humanistic perspective that brought  about the study of man. This kind of attitude is reminiscent of the creative climate of the Renaissance.
In 1987 he was select by the Ministry of foreign affairs to participate in the exhibition of Contemporary Spanish Art in Germany and had a one-man exhibition in the Heller Gallery in Madrid, a city where he has lived since 1988.
His passion for ancient painting moved him to study seriously the techniques of the great masters in the major European museums. In the mean time, he continued to participate in one-man and group exhibitions. 


In 1991 Valls studied the art of egg tempera and the technique of the Italian and Flemish masters of the 16th and 17th centuries. Egg tempera remains his favorite technique for painting.  In 1993 Valls began participating in various U.S. art fairs in Miami, New York,  South America and Australia.
Art is the only medium which allows man to unite his logical thought and his magical thought, redeeming him from the profound dichotomy which exists between both. Curiosity incites us to step out into the field of logic, raising our gaze beyond what may be recognized. This may be the point of inflection which leads us unreality in Dino Valls' painting.

One of the privileges by those dedicated to art is that related to a special form of possession. Although a person's desire to grasp another may never be completely fulfilled, being able to create an image the possession of which begins and ends strictly in the actual creation, is an eminently artistic prerogative, that in addition to being much more satisfactory, accompanies another aspect which is not of less importance: he concept of endopathy, according to which, in order to paint a figure, one has to become it. Just as all paintings are self-portraits, only mirrors hang on the walls, which means an extension of the relation between participation and effect upon each other by the work of art, the author and the spectator.

Mysterium Coniuncationis

On the other hand, the relation between the person who looks and what is being contemplated causes archetypes to appear and ends up by establishing an active communication between the work and the receiver, as it is based on the power of projection which the unconscious causes to arise in the person looking.
The gaze discovers the painting and this reveals what we only know intuitively: the irrational. It is during our attempt to rationalize it that the conflicts arises, originating in our collective cultural unconsciousness, which scientific research continues to try to unmask.

Just as dreams disguise themselves as reality to make themselves recognizable for the consciousness, Dino Valls` painting conceives his artistic ideas based on the artist's interior unreality. Neither realism as naturalism, nor a fleeting personal view of the real world concern him. It is not the exterior and its objective reality that attract him, but rather the contrary. This is a search inside oneself, plunging into the warehouse of what underlies everyday experience. In his work, the painter reveals these profound conflicts, and the spectator recognized them as part of his internal struggle, as they belong to the same human essence.

Alicia Guixa, Catalogue, "Dino Valls", Madrid (December 1993)


The sample below taken from his website could explain his work better than I could.

Fernando Castro Florez
(Professor of Aesthetics and Art Theory at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, art critic and curator

(...) We could understand the whole aesthetic of Valls as a kind of speculation about the condition of the contemporary subject. His paintings are mirrors in which anxiety is settled and the painful process of split personality. The darker monster is actually inside us. The most beautiful bodies and even "angelic" are wounded and since especio of representation, challenge us. Images in apostrophe in the faces impose abysmal dimension or better, medusea of ​​gaze. We can not escape the gaze shocked or disturbed painting figures Dino Valls, those eyes are on the verge of something we do not understand, as if waiting for something that we can not do. His symbols allegorize the unconscious drives appoint tangentially allude to transformation processes, retake a thought that goes beyond the crosslinking exerted by the rational. (...)
(...) Experts often revel in his technique and especially with what he describes as "immaculate brushwork", to which the artist replies that it is just the opposite: "My painting serves to bring darkness, anxiety, torment. What I do as an artist is to delve into the darkest and most unknown of man. My painting would come to be a way to spot the white ". He wants to enter a dark, disturbing represent what (in the Freudian sense something strange has become familiar because of the repression) and, ultimately, reflect the unconscious. This painting is crossed by the anguish has paradoxically extreme beauty. Conflicts of existence are not or are used literalized rhetoric typical of the "culture of complaint" but our condition is allegorized painful but at the same time, there arises a kind of vast power of the symbolic as if art still have the ability to offer redemption or at least an old guard "promise of happiness." Active imagination, to use Jungian terms, deployed by Dino Valls offers an impressive and multiple (self) portrait in which plunges this tradition both in terms of projects up to the fantastic, the unreality of the friction seen entering with the enigmatic presence of looks that seem to have more life to all those with whom we come across daily. Dissection of the unconscious through naked bodies, ie fur that may be too deep, a figuration that (we) transforms and trapped in an oscillation of the mythological to the dream. Dino Valls is very right when he says that "a work of art weighs as much as the volume it displaces unconscious."

Test "The weight of the Unconscious. An approach to symbolism transformer
Dino Valls " , for the catalog of the retrospective exhibition "Dino Valls" Frissiras Museum, Athens, November 2011.

                                                                    Dies Irae 2012

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Research/Development - Mood board and body language

To get a better feel of the type of color palette and inspiration I searched on the net for different types of expressive images to create a mood board. It will help with the kind of mood and figures that I would like to express in my pieces. How color and body language can play an important part in setting the key areas of a piece. Also I liked that I found some images that played with black and white and lighting with simple props.

Decided to do some body language test shots of myself that I could study and help with planning out different ideas through my sketchbook. I focused on holding my head and hiding my face which portrays different moods purely through the body instead of expression. This is just my personal representation of I see someone who is struggling or going through negative emotions.

I must confess I struggle with a lot of anxiety and depressive periods in my life. But through this project I hope to understand these emotions myself and how I cope with them. In a way it might be a type of therapy for myself and why I feel this project will be a strong reflection of that. I took this image when I was going through a difficult phase and it felt appropriate to take the snap shot and capture the emotion. It might be a reference for drawing as well since eyes can be so expressive and reflect the type of emotions I want to recreate.

These are some reference sketches of the photographs their also practice for me drawing. I've not drawn much for most of 2012 so easing back into it for this project. I will be doing traditional media and digital media experiments in the sketchbook with these drawings.

Research/planning - Notes and ideas on the project

A lot of my research started out as scribbles and notes in a note book based on my random sparks of inspiration. As at first I was not sure about what sort of theme or project I wanted to do but have stuck with the theme of human anxieties and symbolism. I first started out by planning what I wanted to include in the brief and how to explain the concept. A very broad range of key words and needed to do further research to be able to  narrow down what was the strongest parts for the project.

At first I got a lot of very expressive images in my head and were using them as a starting point on what I'm aiming for the final pieces. But this is purely experimental images and may not even be what the final outcome will be. Also media has been in consideration and it feels right that the final pieces should be a photography set with models and props. And if possible I feel positive to take it further by making it into a installation piece. This is stated in the brief but also because it ties in with the type of tutorial work this semester.

This was me starting to sketch out simple layouts of images imagined to represent what I wanted to achieve. This is based on if a photo shoot could be arranged with a model and to gather the props which is in a planning stage. Taking into consideration is the composition, the media, and the body language but I will be researching all of this in further stages. I also will be creating higher quality images in a sketchbook to storyboard out each photograph.

Have also started to research different types of anxiety that will help shape the type of body language and emotion that will be expressed in the photography. But this will be researched much further and into more depth. These were notes I made while watching a documentary on social anxiety disorder.

I found it very informative and it also the process of what people go through with this disorder and how they get help. If possible I want to show this process through symbolism and how people cope or what emotions they go through with these anxieties. How some feel helpless or even ashamed about seeking help or talking through it. That why should these issues be taboo and that my work could relate and explore these conditions.

To create these images I have been looking into symbolism and our unconscious and how it effects our thought processes. Especially on our fears and anxieties but I hope to create beautiful images using props to represent this. I have read through the dream book and took note of the symbolism I feel could be achievable in props or with medias. Also ones that are most relevant to my theme and how their meanings relate to the condition.

Need to further research more about anxieties theme and look into modern symbolist Artists. Also will be experimenting with my camera and watching tutorials and how to be expressive with body language. As well with media and sketching out more work in a sketchbook and see if I can get symbolist art books.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Research - George Federic Watts


"I paint ideas, not things. I paint primarily because I have something to say, and since the gift of eloquent language has been denied to me, I use painting; my intention is not so much to paint pictures which shall please the eye, as to suggest great thoughts which shall speak to the imagination and to the heart and arouse all that is best and noblest in humanity."

George Frederic Watts, (23 February 1817 – 1 July 1904) was a popular English Victorian painter and sculptor associated with the Symbolist movement. Watts became famous in his lifetime for his allegorical works, such as Hope and Love and Life. These paintings were intended to form part of an epic symbolic cycle called the "House of Life", in which the emotions and aspirations of life would all be represented in a universal symbolic language.

Watts was a modest, hard-working artist who twice refused a baronetcy and other honours, including an offer to become president of the Royal Academy, although he did accept the Order of Merit. His work as a sculptor exists in the Cecil Rhodes Memorial, Cape Town. His chief work as a sculptor is the heroic figure of a man on horseback known as Physical Energy, casts of which are on the Cecil Rhodes estate and in Kensington Gardens, London. 

A portrait painter and sculptor, George Frederick Watts was born in London, the son of a piano maker. Initially, he wanted to become a sculptor, and at the age of 10 was apprenticed to William Behnes. However, in 1835, at the age of 18, he went to the RA Schools, where he remained for only a short period, and thereafter was mainly self-taught. After he first exhibited The Wounded Heron at the Royal Academy, painting became his main preoccupation. When his picture Caractacus won a £300 prize, he used the money to finance a trip to Italy, where he stayed with friends in Florence. He did not return to England until 1847, when his painting Alfred won the first prize of £500 in a House of Lords competition.

In 1850 Watts visited the home of Valentine Prinsep's parents in Holland park, supposedly for a three-day visit, but instead he stayed for thirty years. The Prinseps seem to have borne the situation cheerfully, and it no doubt gave them a certain cachet in the Bohemian circles in which they moved, which included such writers and painters as Thackeray, Dickens, Rossetti and Burne-Jones. Fortunately, Watts was a man of frugal habits. Although he had been depressed and unhappy when he had moved in with the Prinseps, Watts blossomed in this strange household, where notable writers and painters were treated with reverence.
As a portrait artist, his gallery of eminent Victorians is unsurpassed: included among his sitters were the poets Tennyson, Swinburne and Browning, the artists Millais, Lord Leighton, Walter Crane and Burne-Jones; others were Sir Richard Burton, John Stuart Mill and Garibaldi, to mention only a few. He finally left the Prinseps' home in 1875 and moved to the Isle of Wight. In 1864 Watts married the actress Ellen Terry, who was only 16, although the marriage was short-lived, and he remarried in 1886 when he moved to Limnerslease, near Guildford. His new wife was Mary Fraser-Tytler, thirty-two year his junior. She was of Scottish descent, growing up in a castle on the shores of Loch Ness, and was an artist in her own right.

Some examples of his work

Death crowning innocence  1899

   Death, Time and Judgment 1870-1886

Eve Repentent  1875

Love and Death 1874-77

The critic G.K. Chesterton said of Watts: ".. more than any other modern man, and much more than politicians who thundered on platforms or financiers who captured continents, [Watts] has sought in the midst of his quiet and hidden life to mirror his age... In the whole range of Watts' symbolic art, there is scarcely a single example of the ordinary and arbitrary current symbol.... A primeval vagueness and archaism hangs over the all the canvases and cartoons, like frescoes from some prehistoric temple. There is nothing there but the eternal things, day and fire and the sea, and motherhood and the dead."
Another contemporary admirer, Hugh MacMillan, wrote that Watts "surrounds his ideal forms with a misty or cloudy atmosphere for the purpose of showing that they are visionary or ideal.... His colours, like the colour of the veils of the ancient tabernacle, like the hues of the jewelled walls of the New Jerusalem, are invested with a parabolic significance.... To the commonest hues he gives a tone beyond their ordinary power... Watts is essentially the seer. He thinks in pictures that come before the inward eye spontaneously and assume a definite form almost without any effort of consciousness."

Watts' declared aims were clear: to paint pictures that appealed 'to the intellect and refined emotions rather than the senses':
                                                           Hope 1885

Before this project I had not heard of Watts but I can not help but feel I have seen his images either in passing or by the subconscious. His paintings are so dramatic but soft and gentle in the way he paints his figures and their expressions. They have a dream like quality but are very realistic and incredibly clever. His paintings have very heavy symbolism in them portraying Watt's feelings and messages he felt towards issues in his life or the world around him. Especially being an artist in the Victorian era he would paint everyday things such as poverty but make it beautifully melchonlgic using symbolism and his own views.

One of his most famous paintings is that of Hope this painting is of a fragile and possibly blind female figure on top of the world holding a harp. In a sense it could be portraying Hope as a human form and how tragic the condition is of this human impulse. That hope is so fragile and seems to hold on in the human condition despite the state of the human or the world in question. That the girl still holds on strong to the harp with the single string even though she appears to be weak, blind and vulnerable. The palette of the piece is quite dark and sets a very dark mood that adds to the fragility of the figure. The dusty colours of the earth and the background suggest a dry, dusty, planet where life might be minimum or dying. But the lighter colours upon the figure seem to show further the single ray of light in amongst the dark and dust this is hope. 
The title suggests it self that it is truly optimistic piece showing the true perseverance of the human condition and psyche. Many people have been inspired by this painting especially those in crisis including Holocaust survivors. Hope is a universal ideal shared by the world which makes this image so powerful and haunting. Because of Watt's moving and clever imagery I felt greatly inspired and enlightened by learning about his work and the symbolism within it. This is why I have used his work as part of my research as I wish to create beauty from the negative and the anxieties.