Critical Analysis of Art




Critical Analysis of Art

Christopher Wool

Denotative Analysis

Maggie’s Brain by Christopher Wool is an abstract black and white painting. Wool has used a spray gun to achieve the desired effect. He has painted over a silkscreened surface which he has then painted over with white and then silkscreened again. The white backdrop consists of floral stencils. Some of the background sections are painted over with white rectangular shapes. The repeated patters are carelessly applied in different circular shapes and lines and it resembles street graffiti. The work lacks any form of structured composition and the patterns contained therein seem to have no meaning. The use of shapes with different line strengths and the different shape sizes creates depths in the painting. The lines are deeper and stronger on the surface and the objects that are further from the eye are smaller.

The texture seems rough and smudged. The center of the painting is darker than the rest. The artwork seems to get lighter in appearance, as the viewer moves his eyes to the outer edges of the frame. The repetition of different shapes also helps to create movement in the painting. The painting combines floral shapes, dots, and lines of various depths, thereby creating variety. At the same time, the artist has managed to create unity in the painting by placing the objects with different shapes together. Everything in the painting seems to be connected, as there is no space between the different objects and shapes in the painting. The circular shaped lines are continuous and it is not possible to determine where one line begins and where the other one ends. Some of the black painting is present at the extreme edge of the frame. Wool has created value in his work by having darkness and light in the painting. The painting has different tonal shades. The black largely contrasts with the different shades of white in the backdrop.

Connotative Analysis

The painting makes me think of disorganized chaos. There is an element of confusion yet at the same time, they seem to converge at some point and flow within specified directions. It is like the paradox of the human mind. A person thinks of many diverse issues at the same time yet there are some central areas of concern. The dark areas in the painting represent these main elements of concern. The other areas of the painting represent the divergent issues, which seem to be more dispersed from the main element. The use of the flowers in the painting’s background seems to contradict with the main painting. Flowers are symbolic and their presence in the painting seems to suggest some form of gentleness within the chaos.

The composition, value, and texture of the painting affect the subject as they enable one to have a clearer understanding of the painting. Value is concerned with the color and shade of the painting. Dark colors are used in interior scenes and they suggest mystery and lack of light. Light colors suggest the presence of light. In the painting, the artist has used dark colors before the bright colors. A person looking at the painting first notices the darkness in the middle section of the painting. The composition enables one to gain more understanding of the painting in terms of how it creates variety while at the same time creating a sense of unity. By examining how the shapes and the lines relate to each other, one is able to determine how the image creates unity while it seems so chaotic. The artist has created value by incorporating different shades of black and white in the painting. He has done so in a deliberate manner as the center of the painting is darker than the outer edges. This forces the viewer to begin looking at the painting from the middle and he moves towards the outside edges. In addition, the use of value has ensured that there is movement in the painting. The shapes in the painting are of different shades and sizes and this creates an illusion of movement.

Otto Dix

Denotative Analysis

The painting by Otto Dix is of an old woman dressed in traditional gear. She is staring into the distance with an expressionless face. Her face is long and crooked downwards and her face is wrinkled. The shape of her mouth suggests that she is toothless. The texture of the painting is rough and tough. Dix achieves depth through Sfumato. This has enabled him to produce a soft transition in between tones without using lines. He has used this technique on the woman’s attire and headdress as well as on her physical features. He has painted using charcoal and pencil on a paper with brown shade. There is a blue shadow at the edge of the painting. Dix has managed to add value to his painting by contrasting dark against light. There are darker line shades, which separates from other light colored shapes on the woman’s attire. Although her face is generally the same shade, her eye section, inner ear and the beads falling over her face are darker. This creates a difference in her appearance. Her headgear is darker than the rest of the attire although it does have some light shade. On the other hand, the attire contains more light shade and some few dark lines.  Dix has portrayed an adorned old woman. She takes the effort to beautify herself although it is clear that she is toothless and she aged. This could represent women who deny the fact that they are getting old. They keep holding on to the past and they hope that they are beautiful despite their age.

The presence of light adds value to the painting as it helps in creating shadow. The light used will determine the shadow created. An indirect light will create a different form of shadow and contrast than that of a direct light. The direction of the light is important in determining where the shadow occurs. In this case, the shadow appears on the right side of the old woman. There are two shadows in the painting. The one closes to the figure is darker in color while the other is much brighter and it appears blue in color. The concentration on value is important as the painting lacks color. The painting is a half portrait of an aged woman. The formal elements of composition, value, and texture enable a person viewing the painting to understand more about it.

Connotative Analysis

The way that Dix has depicted the old woman’s nose in his painting makes her resemble a witch. Her nose is crooked in an unnatural manner although the other features remain realistic. The woman looks healthy and the fact that she is wearing a traditional costume may mean that she lives a conservative life. He has managed to achieve a realistic look by showing the signs of old age such as the wrinkles and the folded lips. Dix represented a class of society that not many artists consider. In many cases, the women portrayed in paintings are usually young and beautiful. The artwork makes me feel that old people are misrepresented in the society. The woman does not seem to fit in the society based on her expressionless look. She does not seem to care much about anything. Her crooked nose is curved downwards and her dress is traditional. This makes me feel that people in those days considered old people to be witches and conservative. She has a forlorn look in her eyes, as if she is reflecting on a world gone by.

The formal elements help in generating the subject matter as well as in understanding the subject. By examining the painting, one is able to see the roughness of the painting. This highlights the fact that the woman is old. Value is one of the strongest elements as it determines the way a person will view the painting. The use of the black and white painting instead of incorporating different colors enables the artist to focus on the form of the object rather than on the physical appearance, which is often emphasized by color. The painting suggests a presence of light because of the light shade and the presence of the shadows.

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