Eating well, drinking good wine, shopping, Rodin and Andy Warhol; you live well when Mum’s in town. Living on your own is most definitely not miserable, but for me it entails splurging on boozy nights out, rather than a weekly wardrobe makeover courtesy of Urban Outfitters. It also means forgetting about any of the tourist traps of my city: Edinburgh.
To balance our spending this weekend, mum and I decided to go on a cultural escapade.
Stop one: Rodin’s The Kiss, on temporary display at the National Gallery.
Excited that we were about to view one of the most talked-about works of art ever created, we walked past the throngs of eager children on school-trips with high expectations. As a fine arts student and daughter of a passionate Michelangelo fan, I hear the phrase: “the artist’s treatment of the marble makes the figures come alive”, far too often from lecturers and my father. Despite my usual criticism of the above phrase, I have to reluctantly admit to changing my mind after scrutinising The Kiss.
The statue shows Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta, her brother-in-law, in a passionate embrace. The intertwining figures make it difficult to actually see the kiss – which in fact is inexistent. Confused at the discrepancy between the title and the piece, I turn to Wikipedia to provide the necessary background information in a moment of desperation: the pair’s lips actually never touch, Francesco and Paolo are discovered and killed by Giovanni, Francesca’s husband, before they get the chance to – definitely an ‘AHA!’ moment for me.
Stop two: the Pop, Power and Politics Warhol exhibition at the Scottish Parliament.
Simply put, I love Andy Warhol. I know it’s a cliché and studying History of Art means I should probably mention someone like Rembrandt instead, but Andy does it for me. To be honest, I admire his work since it’s…bright and colourful – even though I was always aware of his work’s political statements, I only understood them properly this weekend – until now, the art of bullshit helped me bluff my way through crits at university.
The highlights of this exhibition for me were: the Reigning Queens portrait series and his Self Portrait (Camouflage).
As unsophisticated as this makes me sound, the Reigning Queens tickled my fancy simply because they look nice. However, just as with his Self Portrait (Camouflage), Warhol uses Reigning Queens to make the persona of celebrity and power – that of three leading women of his day – more accessible to the public. Warhol demonstrates that subject in art no longer solely refers to heroes of the past, like Francesca and Paolo, but rather to faces of influential, modern leaders. Moreover, he need not represent them in a traditional manner. These revolutionary portraits do not place the subject on an intimidating pedestal, but on a lower level: one that seems silly or unimportant in comparison.
The Kiss and Andy Warhol’s prints couldn’t represent artistic trends further apart; Warhol’s green-faced subjects are a far cry from Rodin’s technical mastery. Therefore, connecting both and concluding on them is proving nearly impossible. However, seeing artistic masterpieces in the flesh rather than on shiny screens or glossy pages has been refreshing – it somehow makes some of the nonsense we’re told in class more tangible. Perhaps it justifies the passion lecturers have for a flat canvas surface and the spark in my dad’s eyes when talking about the movement of stone.
Holly Gavin is a fine art student at the Edinburgh College of Art. She grew up in Lebanon, although don’t ask her to speak Arabic – 18 years on and French is more her thing. Holly admits that she feels far too un-arty for to be an art student – although seeing as she obsesses over Doc Martens we think she has nothing to worry about.
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