Light is the prerequisite of art. Without light no colors, shadows and shapes, and by extension no audience who can view the finished work. Light also enables the most fundamental processes of organic life through photosynthesis. The plants take their nourishment from the air, water and soil. The green color of the leaves contains chlorophyll. The chlorophyll absorbs light and converts carbon dioxide from the air and water into nutrients. This chemical process is called photosynthesis and is itself the prerequisite for all life on earth.
Based on this theme, we at Wetterling Gallery have curated a summer show with artworks from our represted artstist. It can be viewed on site at the gallery's project room in Stockholm as well as in this expanded online viewing room. The exhibition runs during June, July and August and the gallery will be open Tuesday - Saturday, 12 - 5 pm.
THE COLOR GREEN
In nature, chlorophyll is what gives plant life their green colors and people have been fascinated with it for centuries. On the visible spectrum, green sits between blue and yellow and in color theory, it is a secondary color made out of mixing its two neighbor colors.
Commonly, green is a color of the natural world, foremost springtime as well as a color of health, youth, life, hope and renewal. It is the color we best absorb with our eyes and is known for calming us. The backside of green is that it is also commonly used as a poisonous color describing envy, greed, jealousy, toxicity, and sickness. As good as it captures the wonders of nature around us it is also used to portrait fantasy worlds and mystical creatures.
Although some ancient Mesopotamian ceramic figures features costumes in vibrant green, it is a mystery to scientists as to how the original artists produced the colors because the first hues of green made by prehistoric men were made out of birch branches and the result was rather dull and brown instead of green.
It was not until the 19th century that synthetic green pigments and dyes came upon the scene. Before that, in 1775 the Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele invented a deadly hue, Scheele’s Green. It was a bright green pigment laced with toxic, chemical arsenic. As it was cheap to produce, the color became a sensation in the Victorian era although many suspected that it could be dangerous. It was featured in Napoleon Bonaparte’s bedroom wallpaper and it is believed that the pigment caused the revolutionary’s death in 1821. By the end of the 19th century a similar mixture of copper and arsenic called Paris Green was launched. Unfortunately, this green was also quite poisonous and may have been responsible for Cezanne’s diabetes and Monet’s blindness. In the 1960’s it was fortunately banned, and now green shades are made in a completely safe way.
The appreciation of nature for its own sake, and its choice as a specific subject for art, trace back to the 4th century in China. However, in Western art it is a relatively recent phenomenon. Although elements of landscapes often appear in paintings produced by various cultures, before the 17th century, they were only peripheral as background of portraits and paintings dealing principally with religious, mythological, and historical subjects.
During the 17th century, the French Academy classified the genres of art and placed landscape fourth in order of importance out of five genres and many artists began portraying landscapes. French artists draw inspiration from history and tried to evoke classical Greek and roman environments, known as classical landscapes, whereas Dutch artists developed a more naturalistic form, based on what they saw around them.
During the 18th century, landscape painting became increasingly popular, although the classical idea predominated, and it was not until the 19th century that the naturalistic landscape painting exploded in popularity. It seems artists were then driven by the notion that nature is a direct manifestation of God and thus tried to caption this, such as the British artists J.M.W. Turner is known for. After this, it was France turn again, where impressionists such as Claude Monet created such creative works that it became a revolution of what we today call modern art and the earlier mentioned hierarchical genres collapsed.
In the second half of the 20th century, the definition of landscapes expanded and included urban and industrial landscapes and artists began to use less traditional media and techniques to create landscape works. Today, landscape continue to be a major theme in art, where all kinds of medium, such as photography, video, and performance, explore the way we portrait our surroundings.
FLOWERS IN ART HISTORY
There are countless flowers that fill their own chapters in art history. Claude Monet’s famous water lily pond with weeping willows reflected in the water in his Giverny garden. Vincent van Gogh’s smouldering sunflowers and his somewhat lesser-known yellow irises, blossoming almond trees and oleanders. Georgia O’Keefe’s sensual floral creations, unmoored from their natural habitat, like a boat drifting from its berth... The list is endless. Innocent flowers can thrive on the minefield of art. Emil Nolde’s paintings were once classified as “degenerate art”. His watercolors of flowers, created in solitude during the war years in Sebüll, were dubbed “unpainted pictures”, as though they had never existed.
Flowers have figured in art since time immemorial. They were particularly favoured in the still-life tradition, which flourished in the 17th century. The still life was the most specialised genre in Dutch painting. Compositions of beautiful plates, jugs, wine glasses and precious porcelain bowls reminded viewers of the sumptuous pleasures of dining and looked good in wealthy homes. In those days, a tulip bulb could cost as much as a diamond. The fervour with which flowers were immortalised on canvas was simply a logical consequence. Flower-painting, in all its symbolically-charged complexity, could also signify status. That sort of art therefore practically sold itself. But still-life painting was also an experimental field for artists. It gave them opportunities to study reflections and refractions in full and empty glasses, to try their skills in depicting a clear drop of water on a petal, and to develop their color palette.
17th-century still lifes almost always contain some symbol of life’s transience, often cleverly hidden, as a cautionary memento mori – a reminder of our own mortality. Vanitas vanitatum – Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. Those words in Latin from Ecclesiastes 1,2 in the Old Testament provided the name for a particularly subtle subcategory: the vanitas still life, where death and transience were the overall theme, with details such as skulls, bones, an extinguished candle, a broken blade of grass, a musical instrument, a bubble, or – yes – a wilted flower. Flowers were an obvious choice in this context. In their prime, they represent life itself. But life is short. And thus, the blossom also warns us of life’s fragility. Beauty is fleeting, soon all that remains is darkness. That a drooping flower is more symbolically poignant than one that is already beyond hope is easy to explain. The greatest threat is always that which might happen, not the inevitable. If it is already over, then we have nothing to lose. The worst agony arises when we are about to lose what we hold dear.
Text by Joanna Persman for Marjolein Rothman's exhibition False Color, 2019. Read the entire text HERE.
The road which lead up to photography, is believed to be very heavily influenced by landscape artists. As the movements for landscape paintings went from classical landscapes to romantic landscape and onwards to capture reality, photography is driven by the same notion – to capture a fleeting moment in time as precise as possible. However, it was quite a long process for the invention of photography, originally driven by scientists, to achieve the status of fine art.
The first imaging device is called camera obscura and can be traced back to antiquity. The camera did not actually record images, only projected objects upside down onto another surface. The technique was used by artists such as Da Vinci and Caravaggio to capture light and shadows in a more accurate way. Camera Obscura uses the same technique as a pinhole camera and the first record of an image that did not fade quickly through a camera dates back to the 1830’s. From there, it led to daguerreotypes to calotypes onwards to the foundation of Kodak in 1880 who revolutionized the photographic development and made cameras accessible, not only to professional and what we today know as disposable cameras.
During the world wars, 35mm film and polaroid’s saw the light of day and in the 1950’s changeable lenses and other accessories was introduced. The first digital camera was introduced 1991, and before that different type of automatic cameras came to the market and made photography even more accessible for the public. In the year 2000 photography changed forever, when everyone could have a camera in their pocket via their phone.
Generally speaking, analog photograpghy uses pshysical, non-electronic recoding medium such as a photographic film or a plate, where light is captured by sensitive silver particles and the image will reamind printed when processed chemically. The process or photography are much alike photosynthesis, not only by name, but that the process's can't work without light.
For more detailed information about analogue techniques, we recommend this article from Artsy!