TOK summer assignment - Art Questions. Experiencing art, artists reputations and "what is good art?"

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Summer 2011 Art Assignment

  1. As you approach the art gallery, you will see a large, spindly sculpture outside the main doors. It is of a spider with a sac of eggs under its abdomen.

  1. What is your initial reaction upon seeing this piece?

While walking towards the National Art Gallery, the large sculpture of the black spider became more and more visible with each step. At a distance, I immediately noticed its superiority and thought of myself as a smaller being. It was standing on its long legs sitting at the front entrance of the gallery. As I was sitting on a bench a few minutes from the spider, I realized that it was compelling me to proceed forward. Its long legs, black colour, and its vast structure seemed very appealing to me and it looked as if it were protecting the gallery and the objects inside of it.  

  1. Do you think the initial reaction is a very important quality in art?

Yes, I believe that the initial reaction is a very important quality in art. In general, first impressions are known to be important in any aspect of life. In art, the initial reaction can determine whether or not one would want to proceed further into analyzing the piece of art. If the initial reaction is one of appeal, then one would want to see the art more closely rather than just pass by it. This may have been the case of the spider; it was possibly there to attract people to the gallery, giving a strong initial reaction.

  1. Be sure to walk around the work, under the work and to touch the work. Has your reaction to this work changed?

After walking underneath the spider and touching the spider, my reaction did not change. In fact, my feelings towards the spider were reinforced after being nearer to it. Under the spider, I felt that I was being protected by its dominant size and structure. After touching the piece of work, it became more appealing as it was very sturdy and instantly told me to read further into the artwork.

  1. Louise Bourgeoise is the artist of this piece. Look beside one of the main doors to find out what it is called. Do you believe the piece is appropriately titled? Why or why not?

I came to know that the piece is titled, “Maman”. I certainly think that the piece is appropriately titled by the artist, Louise Bourgeoisie. From the initial reaction I had to the time I felt the artwork, I became aware of its obvious greater being and its protective powers. Being named, “Maman”, which is a direct translation of mother in English, confirms the feelings people would attain from seeing it from a distance as well as from near. The spider’s appropriate title supports what the artist may have been trying to get across to the public.

  1. Do you believe that having possible varied responses to this work is a weakness or strength?

Having possible different responses to this work would definitely be a strength. Because people have different viewpoints on everything and especially in art, it can be considered a positive aspect in terms of viewing the structure of the spider. With varied responses, the spider becomes a special piece of work with a meaning for different people’s views, if any. With this being a strength, it becomes a piece of art not just illustrating the author’s intended meaning, but also it is home to various responses the public may acquire from observing the sculpture.

  1. What if the work inspires an emotional response completely different from the intentions of the artist? Does this make the artwork more or less successful? Explain your answer.

If the work created by the artist inspires a completely different emotional response from what the artist had originally intended, the artwork would be considered less successful. The artist created the piece for at least one universal meaning. The piece of art, along with the inner significance it holds was most probably intended to be worthy of having the majority of the public’s response as similar as possible. One person who observes any piece of work, such as the spider, should have achieved a similar range of emotional depth as another would. Before creating the artwork, the artist would undoubtedly be thinking of a common predicted response people would get from the piece. If the artist receives these related emotional responses from the people viewing it, he or she has been successful in what they were aiming for with their piece of art. However, it is very unlikely that one will achieve the same level of feelings as another as humans almost always have different thought processes of various aspects of the world. But it would not make the art more successful if people had completely different views, as the artist’s first intended reason to make the piece of art was for an emotional reaction accepted thoroughly by the audience.

Art through the Years

  1. As you move from A102 to A112, the nature of these Canadian works of art changes.

Paying special attention to EACH of the following aspects: a) subject (what the painting is about), b) style, c) use of colour, d) use of materials, e) brushstrokes, and f) size (how large it is). For each aspect describe how you notice Canadian art has changed through history.

While having completed the journey from room A102 to A112, it became evident that the art in Canada has changed thoroughly, from the early 1800s to present day. Walking through the rooms in the Canadian Art section allows oneself to intently consider various aspects of the multitude of paintings created by many different artists. Aspects of art that play a huge role in classifying it in its time period were noted and acutely analyzed while continuing through the rooms.

  1. The subject of the rooms from A102 to A112 clearly changed with time. In the early rooms, the subjects of the majority of the paintings in the rooms were about the aboriginals and the scenes of early settlers in Canada. Room 102, the first room, largely was comprised of portraits and landscapes. The row of portraits in this room was of the European (most likely the French) people; it was visible that these people were of very high class and they were probably of landowners or of important men and women. In contrast, the other side of the room contained many scenes of the aboriginals. There were also a few on the early settlers coming into Canada for the first time. The following room had paintings which illustrated the interactions between the Early Europeans and the aboriginals. The paintings gave a clear view on their culture and society with various scenes of landscapes. As I moved further along the Canadian rooms, I noticed a change in the subject. Before it was mainly comprised of the culture of the Native Americans who were shown in the paintings along with the earliest European settlers. Room 105 inaugurated a new era of focus on the paintings. It was in this room where I found that the subjects of these paintings were of hard work, farming life, religion and of the common people of the time. I believed it to be the early turning of the century; where people were beginning to settle down and start to do hard work in the farms and in the homes. It was a major transition from the aboriginal life, but one thing remained in common – the evident determination in the work the people were doing. The settlers had shown their hard work through the means of farming and settling their homes and families, whereas the aboriginals showed this through hunting and surviving the nature of Canada.  The rooms after 105 began to exemplify more on the order and urbanization side. The paintings in rooms 106 were no more of those common people settling in; they were showing the order and power of civilization through various impressionistic paintings, which will be discussed more in the style section. I found that the paintings in room and the sub-room contained many stills showing people thinking in various situations. This would perhaps be the turn from hard work to the growing of civilization with important thinkers and showing the progress in human urbanization. Room 108 turned out to be much different than the previous two rooms. It was a room filled with various pieces of art by the famous Group of Seven. The main message of the room was showing the beauty of Canadian nature. The Group of Seven artists managed to illustrate Canada’s beautiful nature to the public showing forestry, landscapes, and various scenes of nature. Room 109 contained paintings of landscapes and portraits again, but this time they were not very realistic. These showed more of a surrealistic nature to them, being quite odd compared to the previous rooms. This possibly shows the change of the meaning of art; from that time, art not only meant the real interpretations of what people viewed, but also how people think and different ways of showing landscapes and portraits. As soon as I entered room 110, I felt a feeling of grief and sadness. The paintings were flooding with memories of the WW2 time with many paintings describing the life during the war and the great depression. Many of the paintings were abstract too, showing the more thought-provoking side of art. Rooms 111 and 112 showed a completely different perspective than the previous room. The Canadian history changed, illustrating new feelings and viewpoints given by the expressive views of the artist, after WW2. The final room gave an obvious representation of the change of the modern change in Canadian art. The paintings made it understandable that the 60s and the 70s were a time of change in artistic elements with more exciting variations in paintings.
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  1. Style was also one of the artistic elements that changed through Canadian history. In the earlier rooms, the main style that dominated the rooms was of realism. Rooms 102, 104 and 105 all comprised of paintings with very realistic style. The pieces of art depicted scenes which were shown as if it were real life. Nothing in the first few rooms showed that artists showed their own expressionistic views or showing anything out of the ordinary. This was most probably because the artists wanted to show the realistic view of the hard work the aboriginals and the early ...

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