Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Apple symbolism; the Forbidden Fruit

Why fruit; Fruits and vegetables are often used purely for decoration. However when a specific fruit is part of a composition in Christian art, it may also have symbolic significance. Like flowers, fruits and vegetables, suggest the cycle of nature. Fruits contain the seeds for the new generation and are general symbols for the ascendance of the harvest, for fertility - and sometimes for earthly desires. Fruits can have the additional dimension of relating to the 12 fruits of the spirit in Christianity. Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, patience, modesty, temperance and chastity.

My endeavour is to create a bowl of fruit, of ideal beauty, desirable for a new generation. The epiphany of man is what he eats in the context of the of the 21st century. My aim is to embrace Umberto Echo's expressed views on defining beauty to ensure the product has universal appeal.
He states in his book tilted On Beauty "Our explorer from the future will no longer be able to identify the aesthetic ideal diffused by the mass media of the 20th century and beyond. He will have to surrender before the orgy of tolerance, the total syncretism and the absolute and unstoppable polytheism of beauty (2007)".

Offering an apple - is a declaration of love.
Like the orange, as fertility, the apple blossom is used for brides. Chinese peace and concord. apple blossom ; a symbol of peace and beauty, Celtic; It has magic and chthonic powers; the fruit of the Other world; fertility; marriage, Halloween, an apple festival, is associated with the death of the old year. as the Apple of Hesperides - health and immortality.JC Cooper An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional symbols - page 14.

Apple. Fertility; love; joyousness; knowledge; wisdom; divination; luxury; but also deceitfulness and death. The apple was the forbidden fruit of the Golden Age. As round it represents totality and unity, as opposed to the multiplicity of the pomegranate, and as the fruit of the Tree of Life given my Iduma to the gods. As the Apple of Hesperides, and the fruit of Freya's garden, it symbolizes immortality.
JC Cooper An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional symbols.

Apple in Still Life (detail), Caravaggio 1592.

Apple as forbidden fruit. The apple is mainly associated with Adam and Eve, and the Fall. Traditionally the forbidden fruit on the Tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden was an apple - a botanical impossibility, as apples were not known in the Holland. It may have been an apricot - apple of gold or a fig.The Latin word malum, means both apple and evil, which maybe the origin of the apple symbol. When Adam and Eve are shown with the apple, it is a symbol of disobedience and of original sin, of indulgence in earthly desires and sensual pleasures (see image below).

Adam and Eve with the Apple - their disobedience. (original sin) - of indulgence in earthly desires and sensual pleasures (see image below).

"The dream books of the time tell us the true meaning of their enjoyments; the cherries, strawberries, raspberries and grapes that are offered them, and which they eat with pleasure, are nothing but the godless symbols of sexual lust. Here Bosch paints a striking picture of repressed desires" (De Tolnay B, Hieronymus Bosch; 1966; 204).

H Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights (Detail). 1485 Museo del Prado

H Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights (Detail). 1485 Museo del Prado

"In speech and poetry the breasts of a woman are referred to as apples, e.g. By Fischarrt'.'This meaning is confirmed by psyhoanalysis. See Freud, op. cit. (Vorlesungen), p.168; the breasts... which like the larger hemispheres of the female body are represented by apples, peaches, fruit in general".

However, conversely, when near and or held by Mary of the Christ child, acceptance of man's sins and salvation. Mary is the second Eve and Christ the second Adam - take away original sin and restore man the promise of eternal life. The apple is therefore a symbol of immortality - of the soul. Song of Solomon 2:3 - As the apple tree amongst the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight and his fruit was sweet to my taste - an illusion to Christ.

H Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights (Detail). 1485 Museo del Prado

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Multiple meanings of Fruit; Strange & Forbidden.

Biscuit Porcelain washer in the form of a lychee fruit, Qing Dynasty, Kangxi period. Length 10.2 cm.

New concept, new product.
In my quest to produce a new ceramic product, I was drawn to the idea to manufacture a ceramic product based on the expressed view, that man is what he eats. What came to mind was a basket of fruit with ambivalent and multiple meanings; based on an investigation into its varied symbolism from a religious and sexual perspective. There are many references to the symbolic meanings of fruit and its use in creative production. This investigation lays the foundation to produce an innovative and creative ceramic product (contemporary) that will function on a number of levels (decorative, utilitarian and ornamental - design based), especially the expressive, as is the nature of all my latest works.

    Mind Map. Painting by Giuseppe Archimbaldo, Summer, 1585, Paris Musee du Louvre.

    What follows is a breakdown of the preliminary research process;
    Mind maps
    Relevant Books
    Ceramic Products.
    Mind map including Visual Documentation and or stimulus.
    I have adopted a mind map approach in formulating the initial research investigation. This allows for an organised, yet broad based creative approach (all inclusive approach) to the topic at hand. I therefore have a record of the diverse issues (thinking) that will play a part in the conceptual development phase of the investigation. It mainly helps me structure the concept and narrow the research investigation within the parameters of the said topic to be explored.

    Mind map with images of Caravaggio's Still Life, Milan, Ambrosiana. 1598? and a detail of Bachus, Florence, Uffizi.c 1595-96.

    Why a Basket of Fruit and Why "Caravaggio", his name was actually Micelangelo Merisi (1571-1610). In my quest for an example of a basket of fruit (visual stimulus) the above image came to mind. I have always been fascinated by this particular work and although I initially had a very clear recollection of the image, I typically, could not attribute the painting to anyone artist in particular. A trip to the FADA library and a scan of a general art history book, confirmed the reasons for my fascination and its creator. The painting titled Still Life, was the work of none other, than the controversial painter Caravaggio (this kind of paining was not particularly fashionable in Rome at the time). Nicholas Poussin stated in 1660 that Caravaggio "came into the world to destroy painting", De Sade referred to his works as "beautiful horror", John Ruskin in 1850 called it "Horror and ugliness and filthiness" whilst Robert Hughes in 1985 termed it "Saturnine, coarse and queer".

    A study of the following inspiring works of art explain the significance and relevance of his work in the context of this investigation, and possibly shaped the expressed views of his critics above. The following extracts from the book Caravaggio, written by Howard Hibbard, provides insight the artists works such as The boy with a basket of Fruit stands as a prop for a still life -pictured below).
    "The luxuriant produce, vaguely autumnal with three kinds of grapes, is not precisely a seasonal display as it includes fruits that mature earlier. There is a soliciting aspect to this painting, writes Hibbard, and since some of Caravaggio's other paintings of 1590's are apparently homosexual in implication, we may read at least unconsciously elements of this kind into The boy with a basket, whose fruits have various potentially symbolic meanings.
    The gender of the figure in the following painting (image on the left) titled The Lute player is more ambiguous than his previous works. During the renaissance androgyny was equated with homosexuality. Hibbard states (1983;35) "That the musician now plays, and again (as in the painting the Concert of Youths) a violin, bow, and music are waiting, as if someone, perhaps the viewer, to take up and join in. Lutes were associated with particularly erotic music, and many amorous songs for the lute survive from this period. The erotic message is expressed in the languid imagery of the Del Montean Caravaggio, but the mock solicitation of the viewer is far more blatant than it was in the Concert, reinforced as it is by figs and cucumbers on the table.The vegetables seem overtly sexual, but they are only a gross footnote to the flowers, which have always been symbols of messengers of love'.

    Hibbard states (1983:37) that "the androgynous lutenist is an attractive mixture of the sexes -again a kind of discordia concors - and, just as flowers produce fruit, so to the lutenist, the musical scores and the violin on the table are sources of harmonious music. This picture could have read in this way as well as the other. It could also be taken as a illustration of the five senses, since flowers imply the sense of smell, the vegetables taste and touch, and the music touch and hearing. The whole painting is of course an appeal to our sense of sight and exists only because of it".

    Caravaggio, Still Life, Milan, Ambrosiana. 1598.
    Hibbard states that Caravaggio was credited for turning still life painting into art, and his creative skills in this genre is notable in the following works, Supper at Emmaus and his only independent painting of a basket of fruit titled, Still life featured above. Hibbard states that 'the fruits in Caravaggio's Still Life are basically those of late summer; four kinds of grapes, two of figs, an apple, pear, and peach. Everything verges on decay - which may simply be a function of elapsed painting time, Caravaggio's realism. There are also overtones in any display of maturing fruits that make them paradigmatic of the endless cycle itself. Such pictures can symbolize the vanity of earthly things, not merely by showing the inevitable maturation and decay of all life but also, as Ernst Gombrich put it, because every painted still life has the vanitas motif "built in" as it were, for those who want to look for it'(1983:82).

    Relevant Books, documents and essays.

    Cooper,JC.1978. An illustrated encyclopaedia of traditional symbols. Thames and Hudson Ltd. London.
    Ferguson, G. Signs and symbols in Christian Art. Cassell. London.
    Hibbard, H. 1983. Caravaggio, Thames and Hudson Ltd. London.
    Higonnet, A. 1998. Pictures of innocence, Thames and Hudson Ltd. London.
    Regnerus, M. Forbidden fruit; Sex and Religion in the lives of American teenagers. Image enclosed above.
    Robb, P.1998. M, Bloomsbury. London, 2000.
    Sill, G. A handbook of symbols in Christian Art, Oxford University Press 1961.

    Strange Fruit; Comparing the struggles of African -Americans for Civil Rights with the Struggles of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Peoples, by Miss Poppy Dixon, 06.01. Dixon states, "The word 'fruit' has, in the context of the article, three meanings.

    Billy Holidays haunting 1939 rendition of the song (below), 'Strange Fruit' gave voice to a nation's anquish over the lynching of African -Americans (1).

    Strange Fruit, a song by Billy Holiday (1939).
    Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
    Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
    Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
    Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees,
    Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
    The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
    Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
    And the sudden smell of burning flesh!
    Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,
    For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
    For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop'
    Here is a strange and bitter crop.

    Dixon also refers to the word 'fruit' as derogartorily to homosexuals in relation to hate crimes, a violation of both race and gender issues (2). To claim their deaths were caused by one prejudice, and not the other, would be presumptuous. In the essay she also outlines the meaning of the word fruit in relation to other related categories including (3), the law, marriage definition, the body and finally a conclusion.

    Friday, August 14, 2009

    Best films from an artist's perspective

    Querelle Poster.
    The poster shows Brad Davis, the main actor in the film Querelle, that inspired the ceramic sculpture featured below. The image below is one of the horses in the Ceramic Sculpture titled, The panoramic view of the end of the Age (see blog tile image above), the centaur like creature that runs off with human brides (the pale horse representing death, hell and destruction - one of the Four horses of the Apocalypse,described in Revelations in the Christian Bible). An apocalyptic ceramic statement inspired by the movies Querelle and Apocalypse Now; both films feature in my top twenty films listed below.

    The Pale horse and the Bride (Detail of the Four horses of the Apocalypse (Earthen ware ceramic sculpture featured - as the title image for the blog).

    My top twenty Films.
    This blog entry features 20 of the most significant and influential films of my sculpting career to date. As mentioned in a previous blog entry, films, especially the screenplay, characters, costumes and props helped shape the creative manifestation of my ceramic concepts and ideas. The translation of meaningful text into forms and shapes (during the ballpoint pen drawing phase) were often spurned on by analogous material from the media, especially the visually enticing role of the cinema.

    Many art classified films (banned for public and personal consumption) were granted limited and or special screenings at selected cinemas (under conservative apartheid rule) including the conveniently located Labia Cinema, straight across the road from the Michaelis School of Fine Art (UCT) in Cape Town, South Africa, where I enrolled as a Fine Art student from 1979 - 1985. These films were often very explicit and thought provoking and helped shape my creative worldview in sharp contrast to my Conservative upbringing. At the time there was no Internet and or DSTV. I am a very visual person, and films therefore, including documentaries and animation helped shape my expressive concepts. What follows is a carefully edited version of my top twenty films - selected in terms of the impact it had on my creative career.

    As a Fine Art student at UCT from 1978 -1985.
    • A Clockwork Orange (1971), Stanley Kubrik, Crime &Thriller.
    • Caberet (1977), Bob Fosse, Drama, Music & Romance.
    • Midnight Express (1978), Alan Parker, Biography, crime, Drama & Thriller.
    • Apocalypse Now (1979), Francis Ford Coppola, Action, Drama & War.
    • Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum), Volker Sclondorff. (see images and poster below)
    • Hokusai-manga (Edo Porn) (1981), Kaneto ShBoldindo, Biography, Drama & History.
    • Querelle (1982), Rainer Werner Fassbinder (also Screenplay) Crime, Thriller & Drama


    A scene from the film Qurelle (detail). Photography, Roger Fritz, Filmbuch 1982.

    The attention to detail Fassbinder brings to the screenplay is just remarkable, each frame is an artwork, only truly visible in these images by the photographer on set, Roger Fritz. Fassbinder's voyeuristic approach, his sets often a labyrinth (scenes within scenes), is his unique contribution to cinematography. Closely observe the character staring though the symbolic sandblasted window (above), the layered image evokes deep emotions within the viewer.

    The Commander, Film Querelle, Photographer Roger Fritz, Qurelle Filmbuch, 1982.
    The image above is layered with symbolic meaning, the gun embodies phallic connotations of power, malice and domination.

    Bar scene from the film Querelle. Photographer Roger Fritz, Qurelle Filmbuch, 1982.

    Brad Davis, typically clad in a vest, does a Nazi salute before his sexual encounter with the barmen. He also starred in the Alan Parker directed film Midnight Express. He was one of the first actors to die of aids.

    The Swine (detail) handbuilt Porcelain sketch.
    This particular image was inspired by the characters (costumes and props) in the film including the poster by Andy Warhol (featured below).

    Poster for the Film Querelle, Andy Warhol.
    Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
    This is the last film to be directed by Fassbinder, he also did the screenplay. The detail of which can only be appreciated on the big screen on as revealed on close examination in catalogues of the film.

    As a lecturer at the Ceramic Department at the Technikon Wiwatersrand (Johannesburg) 1986 - 1991.
    • De Vierde Man (Fourth Man) (1983), Paul Verhoeven, Drama, Mystery & Thriller.
    • The Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985), Hector Babenco, Drama.
    • Mishima, A life in Four Capters (1985) Paul Schrader, Biography.
    • Blue Velvet (1986) David Lynch, Crime, Mystery & Thriller.
    • Drugstore Cowboy (1989) Gus Van Sant, Crime & Drama
    • The Cook, the Thief, his Wife & her Lover, (1989) Peter Greenaway. Comedy, Crime & Romance.

    St George and the Dragon (Detail) (1989) Press-moulded Ceramic Earthenware Sculpture.
    The liberating Saint's form and shape, including expression, was inspired by the main character, a boy, that featured in the film, The Tin Drum, the poster below.

    The Tin Drum 1979. (Poster)
    Director: Volker Sclondorff.

    Films during 1991 -1996.
    • Delicatessen (1991), Marc Caro & Jean-Piere Jeunet, Comedy, Drama & Fantasy.
    • Jamon Jamon (1992), Bigas Luna, Comedy, Drama & Romance.
    • The Piano (1993), Jane Campion, Drama & Romance.
    • Underground (1995) Emir Kusturica, Drama & Comedy.
    • Less Feluettes (Lilies) John Greyson, Drama, Fantasy & Romance.
    Films during 1996 - 2007.
    • Boogie Nights (1997), Paul Thomas Anderson. Drama.
    • American History X (1989), Crime & Drama.
    • Dancer in the Dark (2000), Lars Von Tier, Drama & Music.
    • Cidade de Deus (City of God) 2002, Fernabdo Meirelles & Katia Lund, Action, Crime, Dramma & Thriller
    • Sa som I Himmelen (As it is in Heaven) 2004, Kay Pollak, Music & Romance.