Thursday 31 May 2012

me and Velasquez

In the last few days I returned to working on a concept that has kept tantalising and eluding me for many months. It will be called "Aussie Infanta" and loosely relates to 2 other works I did last year called Aussie Icon 1 and 2.

Aussie icon 2

Aussie Icon 1

I've been trying to create an image that references the art of the very famous Spanish Baroque painter Rodrigo Velasquez (1599-1660). During his career he painted many pictures of children from noble families which I find enigmatic and intriguing. Particularly the girls, dressed in extraordinary costumes covered with embellishments and jewellery, these little girls were being prepared for the important roles they would perform in cementing family alliances. By mid teens these young women would be promised into marriages that maximised their families political aspirations and wealth.

 In an era hundreds of years before photography only the most wealthy and powerful elites in society could afford to have their pictures painted. Pictures of real girls/women (as differentiated from the religious and mythic representations) contained lots of significant information, beyond just a record of their physical self. They showed their status in society by illustrating how fashionably and luxuriously they were attired - the furs, velvets, silks, embroideries, laces, jewels, hairstyling - all indicated the wealth and social position of the person, and vis-a-vis the females family (in the mid 16th century several european economies were almost bankrupted by the amount of money the wealthy classes spent on buying luxury handmade lace. Some expert lacemakers were executed or imprisoned, and laws were passed to prevent them emigrating or sharing their expertise)

Pictures of unmarried girls were all about attracting suitable suitors from beyond their immediate vicinity. It was very common for kings and queens and members of the nobility to enter into marriages and not to have literally seen their spouse until the day of the ceremony except from a painting (often only a miniature, as it was challenging to transport a large canvas) So these representations were very important and there was potentially a lot depending on them showing the subject in the most attractive and appealing way.

In our contemporary world we still instinctively understand the importance of a picture showing us at our most attractive angle and well groomed and dressed. Rodney and I meet through RSVP, an internet dating site. So the first views we saw of each other were photos we selected to put up for public viewing. I think any women who have ever done this would understand the agony of choosing the "right" image!

Our photographs and representations from modernity are just as loaded with sociological information destined to intrigue our descendents in no less a way than I find the pictures of Velasquez fascinating...

I wanted to make a picture full of colour and pattern which somewhat overwhelms the female figure.

I stencilled these pieces of canvas then collaged them along with some embroidered fragments onto a large canvas

Stencilled canvas pieces

Aussie Infanta, unfinished