Project 5 Context – initial notes

This is a project I am immediately interested in due  to my art history studies – how the context of a piece of art may change how we view it.  My course notes make reference to how we traditionally feel that a piece of art should be viewed in a gallery and more importantly within the confines of a frame and then in contrasts artists such as Howard Hodgkin painted the frame as part of the canvas or the sculpture Anthony Caro constructed his works to flow off the plinth.

Michael Postiletto – Venus of the Rags

Context for me is everything and I personally make note of the conceptual artists of the Post-World War II period who not only challenged the fact that art could be viewed or displayed anywhere and thereby throwing away the traditional conventions of the gallery setting but also that art could be made of anything – the Arte Povera ‘group’ or style for want of better descriptions made use of cheap and freely available materials which in time I suspect influences our own contemporary artists such as Tracey Emin with her use of her bed to express her emotions.  The Arte Povera artists (literally poor or impoverished art) rallied against the constraints and traditions of the art world – I find this particular style or scene almost a protest against the art establishment and although it is personally ‘not my thing’ I am also find myself fascinated by it because if you take the piece titled ‘Venus of the Rags’ by Michael Postiletto you could place it in different sites and yet it would potentially have the same or different meanings.  Many people would see this work of art as a pile of rags next to a classical statue but in doing so Postiletto challenged the normal traditional aspects and the accepted ideas of high art – without the addition of the classical statue this piece would loose its impact and I question if seen on the street how the spectator would view it again.

Boxer of Terme

I have visited Greece several times and have seen some of the classical statues in the museums such as at Olympia and  at the Parthenon and understand the course notes which state how some were meant to be seen from below or at eye level – some of the pieces have been carved and worked with distorted figures so that when they are viewed from the correct perspective they appear perfectly proportioned.  I have seen some statues seen in their location in the open air in both locations and they have a very different feel to those in the preserving air of a museum – yes they are a bit more weathered but they are displayed where they are meant to be seen.

One of my favourite statues of my art history studies is the Boxer of Terme or Boxer at Rest – I took this photograph a couple of years ago of a replica at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.  The original statue was discovered in Quirinal in Italy and I question how this boxer was designed to be seen – clearly not in a modern gallery but maybe in a villa or arena and I question how differently I would view him?  it is clear this statue is at eye level as there are no distortions to his proportions other than the fact he is slightly larger than life and as the course material states about the Rodin sculpture of The Burghers of Calais there is a play of light and shade on this figure too which emphasizes is muscular figure and expressions …. in this case by the use of inlaid copper which picks up on scars from previous fights.  I am now looking at this figure not in terms of art history but in terms of the context in which it was designed to be seen and the context of how artistic works are meant to be seen and how that different locations can change how we perceive and view those art works.

I feel this first introductory paragraph of the course notes has reignited my knowledge gained through my art history studies and is also making me consider the influence of the artists of the past particularly from the turn of the 20th century as they sought to explore and really stretch boundaries in terms of how their art was displayed or they wanted it to be viewed.  I choose the piece by Pistoletto very intentionally as that piece was done the year I was born – it is fascinating to see or think now as an art student how the artists of my late Mum’s generation were working and it makes me wonder how I want my own work to be viewed or considered which is what this whole project is about.


Tate.  Michael Pistoletto Venus of the Rags 1967, 1974 [online].  [Date accessed:  June 2017].  Available from:


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