Last week we looked at reinterpretation and claiming of an existing image, this week we will be considering the wear and tear of an object and how time and damage creates a certain human empathy.
The Crawford Art Gallery is known for its collection of Classical and Neo-Classical sculptures - cast in plaster by Antonio Canova from ancient Greek and Roman originals in marble that were held at the Vatican up until the nineteenth century. The sculptures were originally created with veneration for the perfect human form, and represented Greek or Roman gods - Aphrodite (Venus), Artemis (Diana), Apollo, Hercules and Zeus (Jupiter) or Adonis a mortal of god-like beauty.
Image: CAG.3052 Janet Mullarney, Rishabadeva Again, 2010. Collection Crawford Art Gallery, Cork. © the artist's estate.
It is interesting that many classical sculptures that, like the armless and headless Venus de Milo,are now best loved for their imperfections, reflecting a very human story of mutilation and loss across time and history.
The Renaissance sculptor, painter, architect, and poet Michelangelo was an early champion of the limbless torso of the Belvedere Hercules that forms a central part of the Crawford Art Gallery’s cast collection.
We can see the influence of the truncated torso of Hercules in nineteenth-century works by the French sculptor, Rodin, and more recently in other works in the Crawford Art Gallery Collection such as Rishabadeva Again (2010) by Janet Mullarney and in Daphne Wright’s exhibition held earlier this year (A Quiet Mutiny).
In 2019, the Canova Castswere restored and are now on display in the beautifully refurbished, bright turquoise galleries. Contemporary trends in restoration have been leaning towards conserving the patina of a relic's history rather than attempting to restore it to its original state, and the Crawford Art Gallery casts preserve some of their patina from their years as models for generations of early Cork art Students.
There are deliberations around which parts of an object’s history to conserve and how. The sculptures arrived to Cork naked; fig leaves were added to preserve the modesty of the sculptures for their nineteenth-century audiences. In 2019, after years of work by conservator Eoghan Daltun, the sculptures were unveiled, restored to new version of nakedness. The removed fig leaves now have a museum case of their own, where they are named and laid out as objects in their own right - complete with a ha’penny, which may have been inserted by a student sometime during the 1970s. Stories build around the sculptures over time and deepen our imaginings, adding a patina of their own.
This week and next we will consider the beauty of imperfection and a life held in objects.
Please find links to works and articles here:
Crawford Gallery and the Canova Casts
On Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece
TASK Ancient Contemporary
Choose the oldest thing you can find in your home, or something you have the longest or strongest connection with. See how it has worn. How has the colour, texture, form changed over time? What was the cause of the wear? Has it been repaired? Imagine all of the interactions that caused it to become the way it is now. There may be very personal family stories that are carried in the object you have chosen, or it may carry a mystery which invites some myth-making of its own suggestion…
Make some drawings answering each of these questions.
Choose your media carefully and try out different approaches, experiment what works best for you and how it carries the sense of the wear and tear you are exploring.
Possible media and equipment:
As usual you will find my attempts at this exercise on Instagram tagged with #thurs_day_club where you can also upload your own using the same hashtag!
You can make comments, suggestions or observations directly to the Crawford education here:
N.B. Last entry is 15 minutes before closing
Thursday until 8.00pm
Sundays and Bank Holidays
© 2023 www.crawfordartgallery.ie