Back in 2009, I wrote a four part article on the Venus of Urbino, trying to answer the question: “Who is the 20th century Venus of Urbino?”. In the concluding fourth part, I nominated Monica Bellucci for the title.
In the past I have written about painting of the human boby and flesh. I consider this article to lay the foundation for the aesthetic principles to be employed here in order to nominate the artist.
Time is of the essence! If I were to start from the origins of painting and sculpture, or even from the renaissance, I would find many candidates: Titian, Michelangelo, Velazquez, Rubens, Rembrandt, Degas, Rodin, and so many others.
But the artist who will immortalize of Monica must be alive today, so I need to limit my set of choices. Thankfully, there are so many, that I had to select five to be included in this article.
Cathy Wilkes, Irish, born 1966
“Cathy Wilkes’s installations of objects, readymades and paintings are formally precise and contemplative. Their essentially diaristic and self-reflective forms are composed using a complex and liberated visual language. Her work, whilst in many ways uncompromisingly introspective, is characterized by direct, almost diagrammatic invocations of daily human experience.” (Source: Tate Gallery, England)
In 2008 she was nominated for the Turner Prize, for her solo exhibition at Milton Keynes Gallery, which showed “her personal approach to figurative sculpture”. She uses everyday items such as widescreen TVs and modern pushchairs in her installations. The judges of the competition said: “Through rigorous, highly-charged arrangements of commonplace objects and materials, Wilkes has developed an articulate and eloquent vocabulary that touches on issues of femininity and sexuality.”
Ron Mueck, Australian, born 1958
Born in Australia in 1958, he has lived in the U.K. for the last 20 years but didn’t come up through the same channels as the other YBAs. Self-taught, he worked for two decades in children’s television, animatronics, and the movie industry before making his first work of art in 1996.
You’re face to … well, something, with one of the most superrealistic sculptures you will ever see, Ron Mueck’s Mother and Child — a perfectly painted, scaled-down rendition of a supine, naked woman who has just given birth. This silicon and fiberglass resin sculpture never gives up its illusion. Mother’s arms are limp at her side, a sheen of sweat glistens on her cheek, her face is flushed and splotchy. There are bags under her eyes, stray hairs stuck in her mouth. She raises her head just enough to peer at the crinkled, crimson-colored baby crouched on her puffy belly, and gives this child — whose umbilical cord still snakes into her vagina — a look of love and incredulity. As one woman said, while peering between the mother’s legs, “It doesn’t get any more real than that.” (Jerry Saltz in artnet.)
Jeff Koons, American, born 1955
Born in York, Pennsylvania, in 1955, Koons painted copies of the Old Masters and sold them in the furniture store owned by his father, an interior decorator.
On the evening of 10 May 2011, Sotheby’s will offer one of the most important works by Jeff Koons ever to have appeared at auction. Pink Panther from 1988 draws on many of the themes that have come to define Koons’ output and stands as one of the outstanding achievements of his illustrious career.
Tobias Meyer, Worldwide Head of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s, says that “together with ‘Balloon Dog’ and ‘Bunny’, ‘Pink Panther’ is a 20th-century masterpiece and one of the most iconic sculptures of Jeff Koons’s oeuvre”. In a press note, Sotheby’s describes the work as “a masterpiece not only of the artist’s historic canon, but also of the epoch of recent Contemporary Art”.
Pink Panther will appear on the front and back covers of the sale catalogue for the spring Contemporary Art Evening Auction in New York and is estimated to fetch $20/30 million.
Eric Fischl, American, born 1948
I encountered the work of Eric Fischl in the Brandhorst Museum, in Munich. The work that immediately impressed me was the “Japanese Bath”.
I then turned to another canvas, that was atmospheric and almost menacing. The Living Room Scene 3 of the Krefeld Project.
EF: “America has a hard time with the human body and the issues surrounding the body and certainly, mortality is one of those problems.”
IS: “So much of your work has been about sexuality.”
EF: “Yes, an exploration of sexuality. And the sensuality as the experience of paint and material.”
(from an interview to Ilka Sobie, in artnet.)
The travel of romance is a set of four paintings.
Lucian Freud, English, born 1922
Lucian Freud is the grandson of Sigmund Freud, and is quite possibly the greatest living painter. He was born in Berlin in 1922.
On the occasion of his 2010 exhibition at the Pombidou Center in Paris, Jonathan Jones of the Guardian commented: “The revelation is that, in spite of all the technocratic global homogenisations of our age, the human being remains a vast, irreducible mystery. Freud has said he wants to make his paint as real as flesh itself, so that you see a body before you.”
One of my favourite paintings of his is the “Naked Portrait with Reflection”. There is silent despair and abandonment which is exacerbated by the nakedness of the woman. And this precisely the mastery of the painter. To take the naked body in all of its mundane existence, and make it a tragic entity that oozes tension, despair, and the inevitability of death. Which in turn, makes the viewer even more moved by the body and more and more. It is a spiral that takes you to the depth of existence, inward, and more inward….
Feud has been quoted as follows: “The problem with painting a nude… is that it deepens the transaction. You can scrap a painting of someone’s face and it imperils the sitter’s self-esteem less than scrapping a painting of the whole naked body.”
Who is the artist who will immoprtalize monica Bellucci? When I started the article, I wanted to leave this question unanswered.
Now that I have reached the conclusion, I would suggest that it is Eric Fischl. By process of elimination I explain:
1. Cathy Wilkes is highly intellectual. She is creating powerful figures and installations, but inside it all, you have to interpret a lot.
2. Ron Mueck is a stylist who is almost perfect, therefore bordering on the artificial.
3. Jeff Koons is so much into deconstructing reality that Monica in his hands would be a caricature, albeit a beautiful one.
4. Lucian Freud is in the final analysis treating the flesh as a fetish. There will be no place in his painting of Monica for these glorious eyes.
On the other hand, Eric Fischl is strongly rooted in the realist tradition represented by Edward Hopper and quite clearly loves women and their bodies. Yes, there may be death lurking about, but what the hell, he will miss no opportunity to enjoy and glorify the woman. And for this reason I nominate him for Monica’s portrait.