The image is reproduced again below but in higher definition.
Fig. 1. Babcock, R. F. “Join the Navy the Service for Fighting Men” 1917
Fig. 2. Ruther, P. “Chet Johnson on Lipstick & Whiskey” (2011)
The distinctive feature of Babcock’s image is the sailor’s pose. He is in effect, riding the torpedo. The image reminds me of a rodeo rider. Figure 2, above, illustrates such a rider (Chet Johnson). The similarity of the poses are clear to see.
I suspect that for most British people of my age, the first meaning assigned to an apple is the christian one of temptation and sin. This is beautifully illustrated by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel; please refer to figure 1 below.
Fig. 1, Michelangelo “The Downfall of Adam and eve and their expulsion from The Garden of Eden” (1509)
This is not, however, the only christian symbolism assigned to the apple. In figure 2 below, the infant Christ holds an apple as a symbol that he will not be tempted by sin; a sign that Jesus has come to conquer evil.
This apple ambiguity can be seen in other forms of symbolism. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”, but when snow white succumbed to the offer of an apple she fell into a long sleep.
What questions are you going to ask in order to make sense of the piece?
What type of work do you think this is? How would you define it?
What do you think the text is about?
My first response to this is to focus on the meaning of the illuminated text, given its position next to a christian church.
A church is the centre of worship for christians. They have faith, which is sometimes referred to as belief. Arguably faith is beyond simple belief. A person may believe in the existence of God but a person of faith may feel that their belief defines many aspects of their life, their decision-making, etc. In that respect the church represents something beyond belief.
Churches have, however, have been at the centre of many scandals in recent times. In that sense the expression can be seen as pejorative. The church and its actions were ‘beyond belief’.
Unfortunately, another initial response was to be puzzled about how it could be categorised! I would describe as an installation.
“How would you define this piece in terms of media?”
Fig 1. Paterson, K. Vatnajökull glacier (2007-08)
I decided to start with Vatnajökull (the sound of) and then look at her work more generally.
Vatnajökull (the sound of)
I undertook the exercise quite literally initially and so listened to, and researched a little about, Vatnajökull (the sound of) (2007-08). The idea is truly brilliant. We are given a mobile telephone number to call, which would allow us to hear the Vatnajökull glacier melting. In effect we are being asked to listen to what global warming sounds like. There are however, so many layers of thought behind the work. (Sadly, the number no longer works.)
The melting of glaciers is something that doesn’t happen close to many of the world’s inhabitants. Given the very fixed position of Vatnajökull , Patterson brings the melting glacier to us. This in turn changes the nature of the ‘place’ of the glacier. We are connected to something that was distant, but is now close and so fits within our realm of experience and comprehension.
The effects of global warming work on a much slower timescale than human timescales. Another effect of this work, therefore, is to shrink time. We can hear global warming happening now, within a 30 second telephone call rather than watch time-lapse images and/or diagrams illustrating the effects.
Paterson’s choice of this glacier for her work is also interesting. According to the Glacier Guides website (2017), Vatnajökull is “…by far the largest glacier in Iceland and the largest glacier mass in all of Europe…” It goes on to say, “Like so many other glaciers around the world, rising temperatures and reduced snowfall mean that this ancient icecap is melting. In one of the most recent reports from the Icelandic government’s Committee on Climate Change, it warns that by the next century, Iceland’s glaciers will no longer exist.” So Paterson has chosen the largest glacier in Iceland to allow us to experience climate change with a sense of immediacy and proximity; in our place at this time.
Whilst visiting Chester Cathedral recently, I happened upon an installation by Richard Sweeney, accompanied by an exhibition of his smaller works. He was unknown to me before this visit.
Sweeney’s website describes him as seeking to maintain “…an experimental, hand-on (sic) approach, utilising the unique properties of often mundane materials to discover unique sculptural forms. He has lectured at universities internationally and regularly holds workshops to share his knowledge of paper folding and construction techniques.”
Reflecting upon his work raised various questions about art. A subsequent visit to the Towner Gallery (in Eastbourne) to see A Certain Kind of Light raised similar questions. I have therefore, linked the two blogs together. At the foot of this one there is a link to A Certain Kind of Light, where these questions are considered.
The next section of this blog looks at Sweeney’s work, whilst the subsequent considers my responses to his work