1 April 2011

Contextual Studies Assessment Task 3; MAJOR ESSAY

Just been reminded i should post this by today.. well two months ago. eeeeeeeeeee!!

Louise Richardson - Foundation
Contextual Studies Assessment Task 3; MAJOR ESSAY
Tutor: Malcolm Moseley
Words: 976

I have chosen two artists whose work addresses identity. In this essay, I will discuss a single work by each artist and explain the ideas each artist is trying to represent, and how they are expressed.
I have chosen Tracy Emin as my first artist and Henri Matisse and my second. My chosen Tracey Emin piece is ‘My Bed’ – 1998, a famous installation piece of which she is famous for exhibiting for the 1999 Turner Prize shortlist as one of the favourites and then not winning. My chosen Henri Matisse piece is ‘The Red Studio’ –1911, a painting.
Tracey Emin is famously an autobiographic artist. Her works are about herself, about her own identity and how she portrays herself to the people around her, the people who view her work. She represents herself as a piece to be exhibited in a gallery. This suggests she is saying I am my work; this is my life, accept me for who I am. She exposes things about her identity that normal people, or even artists, would not share with too many other people. My Bed is an installation piece presenting literally, her bed, and its surrounding items after she had not got up from it for a few days following a suicidal depressive state of mind. The installation features her unmade bed, pillows, stained sheets, stained underwear, used condoms and empty alcohol bottles. It openly exhibits over-indulgence and self pity. It shows messiness, and an unhealthy, unorganised state of mind. She has used white sheets and pillows only to enhance the stains that she has left there. There is no colour in her work, apart from the bright blue rug on the floor, just next to the bed. Emin may be trying to represent something through this colour, through the contrasting white and then bright blue. Blue is often associated with tranquillity and calmness, referring to the sea and air. This could be a deliberate placement by the artist to say, actually this blue means nothing emotionally and here is my messy lifestyle to prove it. As an artist, Emin does have a habit in breaking the rules in quite an offensive manner, so this is a likely reason for this colour choice.
I personally think Tracey Emin is lazy with her work. Her ideas are sprung up from everyday scenarios that most people go through at some point in their life, instead of something conceptual and designed. She is no different from the rest of us and people pay so much money to see things they are feeling themselves inside. However, I still think some concepts of her work are interesting. She is unashamed to show her disturbing side, which makes us as an audience question our own identity. Why do we hide these things away? Is it because we want to be portrayed as someone else, as the perfect person? It is also interesting to see how other people live at times, it lets us be nosy, and as there is no person present in her work, it makes us feel like we are not allowed to be there, as you wouldn’t often see someone’s living space like this with them knowing about it.
Henri Matisse’s painting, The Red Studio, invites us into his working life as an artist. A Studio is one of the most important places for any practising artist, so this alone is quite a personal invitation inside. The first thing that hits you about this room is the colour Red. Matisse says himself “Where I got the colour red – to be sure, I just don’t know. I find things only become what they are to me when I see them with the colour red”. This is interesting because to most other people the red could represent something as a colour, a vehicle for emotion, for anger or perhaps love. These are two emotions he could be portraying, unconsciously, in his studio, as he may feel both of these in certain times of his working life.
Matisse’s technique in the painting is quite clever in that, the items that are just outlines in yellow like the chair and chest of drawers are actually not line drawings in yellow but red paints that have been scratched through to show yellow. This is a technique that is commonly achieved using oil paints, a very traditional medium in the early 20th century.  He has made certain items in his studio more prominent by actually colouring in detail for example in his paintings on the wall, and the decorative items all around the room. Perhaps this is because it shows which items he valued more, which items gave him more inspiration. There also features a grandfather clock in the centre back of the room which bears no hands. I would say that this represents a frozen time frame, or maybe even that the time flies when he is in his studio and therefore he does not value time. Many of items in this room could be found objects so the grandfather clock could actually be handless in real life.
The room is full of saturated colour, and also slightly out of perspective. If we can accept the fact that the room is not shown realistically, we must also assume that it is an illusion. He is trying to portray something as it may not actually be in real life, and therefore hiding his identity or is even unsure of his own identity.
To conclude, I feel both artist have represented a sense of their identity and have shared something you would be interested to see about a person or practising artist. Indentity involves a heavy load of emotions and both artists have shown strong emotions through colour. Tracy emin kept it blank so the impurities are expressed more intensely and Henri Matisse bombards you will full colour.


Words: 976

Tracey Emins 'My Bed' 1998

Henri Matisse's 'The Red Studio' 1911

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