Hanabi Blackmoor, the Culture Section Editor of The Tribe, leads us on an emotional journey, reflecting on the relationship between dejection and aesthetics in the creation of art. Trigger warning: this contains topics such as mental health issues.Read More
Art and Photography Editor Hanabi gives us an art history lesson by sharing how her two favourite paintings made big splashes in nineteenth century political spheres.
Ophelia by John Everett Millais and The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault have always been my two favourite paintings. I met Géricault’s masterpiece when visiting the Louvre with my parents when I was ten. I was struck with awe upon experiencing the strength of the waves beyond the fragmented ship, looking so destructive yet refraining from taking the spotlight away from the carved, stressed, lean muscles of the passengers of the wrecked. Ophelia has a completely different air. Completely envisioning Shakespeare’s famous description of her death, Ophelia looks limp and pale but retains her beauty as she sinks, without a fight, into the still and engulfing waters. Her dress is weighted around her hips by the water, and the viewer becomes a voyeur, watching her take her unhurried last breath. The slow and tranquil death in Ophelia seems not to know of the wreckage and chaos depicted by Géricault.
Making art allows me to depict political ideas visually, so naturally I am interested in the political context of art pieces. To me, an artist should take it upon themselves to be the reporters of current political turmoils. My fascination for The Raft of the Medusa grew when I was told by my dad of its controversy when hitting the public, and that such a dramatic, artful piece was in fact reportage.
It is well known that the political purpose of this piece was to expose the horrors unleashed upon the inhabitants of the ship at the hands of an incompetent captain and bring awareness to the subsequent mutinies against him due to the ship’s disintegration. Duroys, the captain, never cared to send a rescue vessel for his lost men. A further agenda is revealed in accordance with the visual guide. Through the angles and positioning of the other bodies, Géricault intends to draw attention to the black slave at the top. This sense of hope manifesting in the black crew member is a clear expression of the artist's abolitionist sympathies.
In all of this wreckage, we glimpse a glimmer of desperate hope as the bodies seem to twist to view what could possibly be another ship. The African crew member Jean Charles stands on an empty barrel, desperately signalling with his handkerchief. In the context of 1818, slavery was just formally abolished by a decree from Napoleon. Géricault may well have been depicting hope for emancipation, and for a pivotal moment in history when the stature of a black man is equal to anyone else. So, The Raft of The Medusa is a stunning example of a water painting used politically. By depicting such a tragedy, Gericault conveyed a scenario in which a hero could arise, enabling a black person to be depicted as a symbol of hope and thus generating much controversy from his contemporaries.
It would seem as though Ophelia, being a Pre-Raphaelite painting, would be the antithesis of a political work of art as the movement popularised the notion of 'art for art's sake'. However, I was surprised to learn that the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood held an ethos in defiant opposition to the contemporary utilitarianism movement. Their nostalgic revival of medieval styles, stories, and methods of production harked back to a more ideal time. Additionally, their preference for natural forms served as an antidote to the mechanical compositions in the age of industrialism. This is particularly significant in the Brotherhood’s handling of natural landscape, influenced by Romantic painters such as John Constable and J.M.W. Turner, shifting attention away from the ugly and monstrously un-emotional and unforgiving cityscapes to a nostalgic horizon of agricultural life that was slowly diminishing, espousing the power of nature in contrast to the human.
Ophelia takes on a new meaning in this context. She seems to be totally overwhelmed by the water as she beautifully, in passivity, passes away - conveying the insignificance of the human figure compared to the enormous natural strength.
My two favourite pieces of art, which I admired purely for their aesthetic awe at first glance, are actually incredibly political and both use the symbol of water. Water is fluid, it envelops and it drowns. Its capacity to be tranquil or destructive renders it one of the most powerful iconographies in art, which will continue to inform my own artistic practice for years to come.
This striking work is one amongst many in Cindy’s portfolio. Stay tuned for our article on her experience as a fresher in St Andrews’ art scene!Editor’s
Hey, this is Terry, your neighborhood friendly photographer who from this point onward will be working for The Tribe. By trade I am what many would call a freelancer, wandering around from organization to organization wherever my adequate skills as a photographer are needed. It was decided fairly recently that I would like to make a nest with The Tribe, having realized that it was an absolute joy to work with in my assignments with St. Andrews’ premier online magazine.I see myself above all as a recorder, a teller of tales that transpire, yet due to misfortune never find the pen to be written down, a mouth to tell the tale, or even a photo to leave a visual queue. Thus I find my camera to always be a tool that I can depend upon. After all, what tool in the world allows me to better frame the perfect moment, whether it be mundane or unique in its circumstance? The camera, at least in certain schools of thought of the 20th century was often lauded for its objectivity, its finality and, as Bazin once said, through film (and to a lesser extent the photograph) forcing the metaphorical toreador to die every afternoon (Death Every Afternoon). As a photographer however, the certain demand that photography is a tool for objectivity is a strange one, if not a hypocritical one to make: Is it not true that the very nature of the display of film and photography forces upon the audience a very specific and limited perception of the scene which the screen represents? Does not the photographer edit photos to enhance the sense of realism at the moment in which the lens clicked? Even if the hand is subtle in such changes, isn’t it too to a degree an act of manipulation? Has not every photographer thrown away thousands of photographs that he or she has perceived to be sub par, shelving these pictures in his/her hard drive, if not outright deleting them? Isn’t the very art of telling stories subjective? Is photography, writing or any act of forming a narrative constituted of men and women demanding that their realities are the ones filled with most clarity and holding the most significance? On that confusing note I think it may be for the best to rest my case regarding my simple (and probably quite flawed) perception of photography. Perhaps I can conclude, as a certain costumed hero once said, “great powers come great responsibilities.” Whether or not the reality that I present on The Tribe through my works are worth the audience's time to read, or whether my works are truly objective in their portrayal what I witness I shall leave entirely to my audience.On a side note, though my primary occupation on The Tribe is to contribute as a photographer, I am looking to expand upon my credentials as a writer as well. If things go well, it is to my hopes that readers of The Tribe will find my perspective of the world worthy of a good read. At the very least, this entry is my first step for this secondary goal as well, and would like to promise that I will say things with clarity (which admittedly I failed earlier in my self-introduction) and to be as honest with myself with both the pen and the lens. If any more needs to be said of me, I believe that too, will be shown in my works in the future.Until next time, I bid my readers good bye, probably for a little while! Terry Lee
Izzy Hoskins shares
What did you use to create these and what's your favorite medium?In these pieces I used watercolors, pens, pencils and a Wacom tablet. I’m happy to use anything that's convenient and cheap. Drawing started as something I would do in-between schoolwork so I could hardly bring an easel with me. Now I’m just in the habit of using portable/easy media.Who or what are the drawings of and what are you trying to capture? One of those is an old self portrait and some of them are life drawing models. A lot of times I’ll use a reference and then superimpose something I find interesting on top, like the vertebrae on the life drawing piece. I very seldom try to capture any particular message. I find that if I think about what I’m trying to do too much I cease to enjoy the actual process.Where does the inspiration for the text come from?The text is just phrases I get stuck in my head. The one about black holes might be a bastardized quote of something I’ve heard. The one about uncertainty was an interpretation of a lesson we had in biology first year and I was listening to a lot of Welcome To Night Vale at the time.
Legal note: all included photographs are used solely for the purpose of criticism and review as outlined via the fair dealing exception of UK Copyright Law and the fair use clause of US Copyright Law. This work was previously made available to the public, the source of the material is acknowledged, and the material itself is accompanied by discussion and assessment in line with fair dealing/use standards. Additionally, no more material is used than is absolutely necessary for the purpose of the intended criticism and review.
Any fourth year currently in the throes of a dissertation will be familiar with the following question, and the sensation of extreme dread it provokes. 'So, what is it you're doing your dissertation on, exactly?' A cold chill runs down the spine. Excuses begin piling up behind your tongue. The urge to dissemble, deprecate, avoid, is overpowering.Or is that just me? Sometimes, it's hard to justify 10,000 words spent on a microscopic analysis of queenship in Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur.After all, who's even heard of it? A late 15th century compilation of a variety of disparate Arthurian sources attempting to synthesise a complete retelling of the story of King Arthur is a tough sell. I'm aware of that. Going into the dissertation, I wasn't sure what I expected from Malory in the original Middle English – in the raw, as it were. Something tough, knotty as its language, obtuse, defying modern conceptions of narrative, characterisation, and morality. It'd be interesting, but if I did learn to love it, it'd be a result of many hard-fought hours in the library.So, I'm sure it'll come as much of a shock to you as it did to me that's it's completely and compellingly readable. Sure, you need some to have some interest in the Arthurian legend, and a reasonable tolerance to the blood and tears code of the Round Table. But really, stripped of the Cistercian mysticism of a lot of the French Romances and the dry, dodgy and painstaking attention to 'historical' detail of the English chronicles, what Malory has on his hands is a rollicking good story. A tale of an unremarkable boy who has a destiny, a wise and mysterious mentor, an unknown parentage, and a tragic fate lurking in the distant future. There's a reason it's a classic. All this combined with a genuinely moving tale of love in the face of betrayal, the timeless conflict between the temporal and the heavenly, countless damsels, wicked step-sisters, gallant albeit misguided knights, a chorus of monsters, and more allegory than you can shake a stick, or sword, at.It's a long work – my edition comes in at well over 600 pages – and you can be forgiven for becoming irritated at the lengthy digressions. Although Malory wisely reduces the incredibly anachronistic 'Arthur versus Rome' sequence from earlier chronicle accounts, the 200 pages spent on the largely tangential Tristram of Lyonesse sequence is harder to justify. Of course, it's thematically appropriate, and without Queen Isolde my dissertation would be looking a wee bit more famished, but really we're here for Arthur and Guinevere, the Lady of the Lake, Morgan, Lancelot, and Mordred. The escapades of the other knights are enjoyable, especially if you have a taste for allusion, allegory, and the numinous, but ultimately they are the side-dressing at the main feast.But if you have the time, and a bit of patience, Malory is a highly capable writer, who has a skillful and always intriguing grasp of prose and imagery. Combined with the real weight of tragedy he brings to bear on his material, and Malory's obvious command of his sources, Le Morte d'Arthur is something truly special. Allusive and elusive, human and unearthly, familiar, and yet with enough oddities and rarely dramatised episodes as to be always surprising, I can honestly recommend this 15th century Middle English Romance as both a great work of literature and an unexpected page turner. James Chew Photo credits: The Lady of Shalott, John William Waterhouse, Wikimedia Commons
Helen Miller is a third year art history student. I was lucky enough to work with her as the designer for my recent play, and she has fortunately given me permission to share some of her work with The
On The Rocks is, as I’m sure many of you are aware, a truly inspiring arts festival that showcases the very best in new Scottish and student talent and takes place across various locations in St Andrews from Saturday April 14 until Sunday April 19. With the first festival taking place in 2009, it has now become a permanent fixture on the thriving cultural calendar of our small town.From the many tantalising talks to the theatre productions in wondrous locations, there is sure to be something to take your interest. One such event will be ART WORKS, which looks to be a great exhibition showcasing the year’s creative spoils created by our very own student body. For the first time, Art Society and ST.ART Magazine are joining forces at On The Rocks for an evening of thoughtfully curated artworks, installations, live entertainment and the release of ST.ART’s fourth, and first printed, issue! For those of you who have always shied away from attending ArtsSoc’s weekly life drawing classes for fear of nervous giggles, or have never gotten round to venturing on one of their Walk and Draw trips, here is a chance to see some of the remarkable results conjured up by your fellow students and maybe even friends. Some work that has featured in previous issues of ST.ART Magazine, which started up at the beginning of this academic year, will be present at the exhibition plus even more submissions. As well as this, ST.ART Magazine will be releasing it’s first printed issue where the fantastic graphics of the online issues and a variety of new and inspiring work by students will finally be transferred to an actual tangible magazine to treasure! It’s a great chance to see some of the amazing talent to be found in this town in the flesh.There is no doubt there will be some great pieces to see, so make sure you venture to the wonderful exhibition space of the Barron Theatre (free of charge!) on Wednesday, April 18 from 20:00 to 23:00 to check out the possible Picasso’s of our town and take a break from your academic work for an evening of artistic amusement. For more information make sure to like Art Society and like ST.ART Magazine on Facebook! Nicole HorganImage credits - Toby Marsh