A painting's "aura": repost


This was originally posted in October 2008. With over 600 posts on The Flying Trilobite now, I've been re-posting a few from time to time. Incidentally, the artwork featured here is available for purchase in a variety of card and print formats.

Reprinting today because originals versus prints has been on my mind again lately. Make sure to check the original post for the insightful comments there. 
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Today, I'd like to touch on how the artist feels about their own work, and its "aura", and how that differs for the Fine Artist versus the Illustrator. And no, I haven't lost my skeptical, rational mind.


The idea of a painting's aura is one I remember being presented without judgment by the prof in university. The concept has stayed with me.It's the notion that original paintings have an "aura" that emanates off the paint & canvas surface. Almost as though the original painting has a soul, or a living presence you sense when looking at it. It adds to their specialness. You have not truly experienced the painting until you've seen it in person. Our teachers tried to impart that this is mainly a macho, modernist idea.





In Fine Art, the modernist period was something fairly specific. To sum it up all too briefly, modernism in 
painting was "paintings with the subject matter of paint". You weren't painting a still-life of an apple: you were painting red paint. As an example, think of something by Rothko, or Pollock. Giant humongous canvases, covered usually in a couple of dominating colours. There was a lot of baggage that went along with this type of work, including that they should not ideally be viewed as reproductions.
Post-modernism in the fine art world, was (again, gross oversimplification) about deconstructing those modernist ideals of pure paint and pure sculpture, and of overthrowing the unique. A post-modern piece of art could contain both a painting and sculpture adjacent asone piece. Take that, modernist!
To look at one example, modernist Charles Demuth created the painting Figure Five in Gold, (1928). Classic Modernism, interplay of colour over a familiar, somewhat random symbol (5) we all know. It's distinct, and certainly was in '28.

Post-modern painter Robert Indiana created this painting,The Figure Five, (1963) as a way of overthrowing the originality of Demuth's Five. He disrupted the original by Demuth's claim to importance by making it one of many instead of unique. I see it as kind of a fine art world version of "screw you".


So paintings may have an aura you can only feel in the presence of the actual artwork, not a reproduction? Not likely. This smacks of vague New Age-y feelings-as-fact. I wondered about this idea for a long time. An exhibit, entitled 7 Florentine Heads came to the Art Gallery of Ontario, and I remember there was to be a Da Vinci drawing included. When I saw it, I anticipated the moment. I frickin' love Da Vinci, and his interest in science as well as hissfumato technique. I looked at each drawing in turn. Looked at one, read the placard, and saw it was his. I got an involuntary shiver down my back. Was it the aura?

Even back then in my proto-skeptical days, I knew there wasn't. I only felt it's "specialness" after reading who it was by. Looking only at the drawing, I saw another example of excellent work by a Renaissance artist. Context mattered to the aura, it seemed.
Which brings me to addressing the photos of posters peppered throughout this post. Is one of the differences between an illustrator and a fine artist -at least, a modernist one- how they feel about a painting's uniqueness and supremacy of being the original? 

Recently, the artist (and good friend of mine) Christopher Zenga took his artwork online for the first time. And when discussing how the first couple of posts about his Zombears looked glowing off of the computer screen, Chris remarked to me, that he just sat back and stared at them; he was entranced by his own artwork reproduced in a different medium. 

Chris is right. I was elated for months looking at my paintings and drawings online, and knowing others might see something of value there. Do I have a fondness for the originals? Of course. Some are hanging in my living room. And yet there is an undeniable thrill to walk down the streets of Toronto and see a poster up with artwork I laboured over.
Starting with a discussion on the nature of art over at Laelaps, author of Renaissance Oaf Sean Craven has had a lot of excellent points about whether how to judge if a piece of artwork can be deemed "art".

I would put forth there is a difference between art created for the purpose of Illustration, and Fine Art, and a small part of that difference is in how the artist feels toward reproductions. The tingly feeling is enhanced when the image leaps forth to new media and many eyeballs.

The photos throughout this post were taken downtown at the University of Toronto campus, and are of my posterfor the October 2008 lecture by PZ Myers presented by the Centre for Inquiry Ontario


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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

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Religion in Science Education

© Glendon Mellow - glendonmellow.com. Under CCL.


Available as a card, print, framed print or poster in my online store.

Originally done for a PZ Myers - CFI event here in Toronto a few years back.

- - - - - - - -

Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

Portfolio
Blog
Print Shop

Featured on CultureLab

CultureLab: Where books, arts and science collide, one of the blogs by New Scientist magazine has a feature about some guy who paint trilobites incorrectly - get this - with wings.

After my panel talk at the Centre for Inquiry a few weeks ago, science writer Dan Falk and I found a hallway and I answered some questions.

The article is titled: Trilobites: Glendon Mellow's Muse.

Thanks Dan!



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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.


Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

Art & Science at the Centre for Inquiry

Recently, Pam Walls of the Centre for Inquiry Ontario invited me to join in a group art show with the theme of art & science. I put three pieces in the show, and attempted to sell three others. Admittedly. turnout was slim, and most of the other artists were not there. This could have been because the gallery show was part of a larger conference with a big attending fee, and it wasn't clear anyone could attend the free gallery show - I couldn't figure it out from the website, and asked someone the day-of. Not to grumble overmuch - the people in attendance were interesting and we had a nice evening.

Michelle joined me, and we had a great time, met some interesting people including artist Karyn Wong and her boyfriend Jacob. Karyn's work is pretty fantastic stuff (digital fairies!) so make sure to check it out.

I was also invited to take part in a panel discussion on art and science. This was a packed room, and the participants asked excellent questions of the presenters. Each of us on the panel had about 20 minutes, and I briefly touched on questions like;
How does art give back to science?

Has art been the stimulus of research?
How can anthropomorphizing areas of research help - as in thinking about organelles or particles?

Mostly a few questions from the ScienceOnline09 and ScienceOnline2010, while using a few of my paintings as a springboard to get the audience involved. I managed to generate a few laughs, so I think it went well.

The other two presenters on our panel were pretty amazing. I wish it could have gone longer. Here's the blurb from the CFI site:

11:00 am - 12:30 pm - Panel 2: Science and Art
Can art be turned into a science? Can science be turned into an art? How do science and art influence each other? Plus, we'll explore the intersection of art and design with science and technology.
* Paula Gardner, The Portage Project: Material meets Digital in Mobile Experience
* Roshelle Filart, Selling Science to the Public
* CFI Conference Art Exhibitors, featuring Glendon Mellow, "Art in Awe of Science"


Thanks to Pam Walls and Justin Trottier for a great day!


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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

Art in Awe of Science at the Centre for Inquiry

Tomorrow, Saturday 6 March, I'll be taking part in a panel discussion at the Centre for Inquiry Ontario at the annual meeting. The theme is the intersection of art and science, and I'll be on the panel with Paula Gardner of the Ontario College of Art & Design and Roshelle Filart of the Ontario Science Centre.

Should be great fun. In the next couple of days, I'll report on the discussion and the CFI gallery show, where I met artist Karyn Wong.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.


Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

Original paintings for sale at Centre for Inquiry

Delighted! I have been invited by the Centre for Inquiry Ontario to participate in a panel discussion about art & science, and display and sell some of my work.

I'm still deciding which 3 paintings to display, choosing from Religion in Science Education, Darwin Took Steps, Haldane's Precambrian Puzzle and Science-Chess Accommodating Religion will be on display, though not for sale. The gallery show begins Thursday night, mainly from 6pm to 9pm. The panel discussion will be on Saturday from 11 am to 12pm.

Here are the oil paintings I will have for sale.


...
...


Selling original work is a rare thing for me to do, though it's part of my plan to branch out this year. Should be a fun and interesting day.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

2010 Calendar - atheism months?

Here's a look at two of the more controversial months in The Flying Trilobite 2010 Calendar. Perhaps not controversial to some of the regular readers of TFT. Atheism can still be a charged subject in a crowded room.

May: Science-Chess Accommodating Religion is a painting I did this year inspired by the writing of many atheist bloggers, from Jerry Coyne and Ophelia Benson, to Mike Haubrich and Jason Thibeault. The whole thing actually started out as a tweet of mine, which Mike at Tangled Up In Blue Guy liked. You can read about that here.

October: October has an image called Education: Science Vs. Religion that was created as a poster for a Centre for Inquiry lecture in Toronto by PZ Myers of Pharyngula, in Octtober 2008. It had some interesting disagreements about symbolism at Pharyngula in the comments. You can see a bit more about it from me here, a making of here, and shots of the final poster here.

Both of my calendar collections, dated for 2010, can be found in my RedBubble reproduction shop.

Collection 1: Collection 2:


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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.
Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

Artwork Mondays: a painting's "aura"

Today, I'd like to touch on how the artist feels about their own work, and its "aura", and how that differs for the Fine Artist versus the Illustrator. And no, I haven't lost my skeptical, rational mind.

The idea of a painting's aura is one I remember being presented without judgment by the prof in university. The concept has stayed with me.

It's the notion that original paintings have an "aura" that emanates off the paint & canvas surface. Almost as though the original painting has a soul, or a living presence you sense when looking at it. It adds to their specialness. You have not truly experienced the painting until you've seen it in person. Our teachers tried to impart that this is mainly a macho, modernist idea.

In Fine Art, the modernist period was something fairly specific. To sum it up all too briefly, modernism in painting was "paintings with the subject matter of paint". You weren't painting a still-life of an apple: you were painting red paint. As an example, think of something by Rothko, or Pollock. Giant humongous canvases, covered usually in a couple of dominating colours. There was a lot of baggage that went along with this type of work, including that they should not ideally be viewed as reproductions.

Post-modernism in the fine art world, was (again, gross oversimplification) about deconstructing those modernist ideals of pure paint and pure sculpture, and of overthrowing the unique. A post-modern piece of art could contain both a painting and sculpture adjacent as one piece. Take that, modernist!

To look at one example, modernist Charles Demuth created the painting Figure Five in Gold, (1928). Classic Modernism, interplay of colour over a familiar, somewhat random symbol (5) we all know. It's distinct, and certainly was in '28.

Post-modern painter Robert Indiana created this painting,The Figure Five, (1963) as a way of overthrowing the originality of Demuth's Five. He disrupted the original by Demuth's claim to importance by making it one of many instead of unique. I see it as kind of a fine art world version of "screw you".


So paintings may have an aura you can only feel in the presence of the actual artwork, not a reproduction? Not likely. This smacks of vague New Age-y feelings-as-fact. I wondered about this idea for a long time. An exhibit, entitled 7 Florentine Heads came to the Art Gallery of Ontario, and I remember there was to be a Da Vinci drawing included. When I saw it, I anticipated the moment. I frickin' love Da Vinci, and his interest in science as well as his sfumato technique. I looked at each drawing in turn. Looked at one, read the placard, and saw it was his. I got an involuntary shiver down my back. Was it the aura?

Even back then in my proto-skeptical days, I knew there wasn't. I only felt it's "specialness" after reading who it was by. Looking only at the drawing, I saw another example of excellent work by a Renaissance artist. Context mattered to the aura, it seemed.
Which brings me to addressing the photos of posters peppered throughout this post. Is one of the differences between an illustrator and a fine artist -at least, a modernist one- how they feel about a painting's uniqueness and supremacy of being the original?

Recently, the artist (and good friend of mine) Christopher Zenga took his artwork online for the first time. And when discussing how the first couple of posts about his Zombears looked glowing off of the computer screen, Chris remarked to me, that he just sat back and stared at them; he was entranced by his own artwork reproduced in a different medium.

Chris is right. I was elated for months looking at my paintings and drawings online, and knowing others might see something of value there. Do I have a fondness for the originals? Of course. Some are hanging in my living room. And yet there is an undeniable thrill to walk down the streets of Toronto and see a poster up with artwork I laboured over.
Starting with a discussion on the nature of art over at Laelaps, author of Renaissance Oaf Sean Craven has had a lot of excellent points about whether how to judge if a piece of artwork can be deemed "art".

I would put forth there is a difference between art created for the purpose of Illustration, and Fine Art, and a small part of that difference is in how the artist feels toward reproductions. The tingly feeling is enhanced when the image leaps forth to new media and many eyeballs.

The photos throughout this post were taken downtown at the University of Toronto campus, and are of my poster for the upcoming lecture by PZ Myers presented by the Centre for Inquiry Ontario.


- -

All original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow. The contents of this blog are under a Creative Commons Licence. See sidebar for details.
Please visit my blog, gallery and reproduction store.

Artwork Mondays - CFI-Myers poster concept


After discussing with Justin Trottier and Katie Kish about doing a poster for PZ Myers' upcoming lecture here in Toronto, I knuckled down to think of some concepts.

PZ Myers is a big cephalopod in the atheist pond, and the C.F.I-sponsored lecture itself is scheduled for Hallowe'en. I played with some rough ideas of having PZ wearing a mask made out of zebrafish, perhaps with a halo of cephalopod arms behind his head.

PZ's personality and yes, celebrity is huge amongst science and atheist minded bloggers. It would be easy enough. I scribbled down some roughs.


But the focus of the lecture from its title is not a smug chuckle and a laugh at how
wrong creationists are when discussing biology (or history, or morals, or the universe, or transubstantiated baking). The focus is much more serious, it is about science education being under threat. Perhaps there is less of a young-Earth creationist view here in Ontario, and yet we are still under sway of separate Catholic and secular school systems. Some citizens would like more religious schools to be allowed by the provincial government.

I say no. One school system for all, with kids raised in multiple belief systems. It's how tolerance starts, it's how diversity and dialogue thrive. Besides, there's more room
for learning without being interrupted for prayers all day.

Canada is a cultural mosaic, and Toronto the capital of that ideal. Take the Dundas or College streetcar and pass through cultures from across the globe in 30 minutes. Besides, there's more room for learning without being interrupted for prayers all day.

So: PZ's poster. It needed to be serious and about the topic, not a poster about the foibles of this entertaining, important writer and scientist. Not a witty attempt at a portrait. Something about science under threat by religion. I hope there will be another day to show Myers the man through oil paint.

I started by thinking about that perennial symbol of school: the apple on a teacher's desk.

I had the sketch.

Then, painting it, not making the snake anything specific, but looking like it had coalesced out of a nightmare. A child's hand reaching up. A little double helix pattern on a tree branch.


We mucked around with the text. I wanted PZ's name and the title to be huge. It needs to catch the eye while posted on university and college bulletin boards and around town.

In my first presentation of this poster here on The Flying Trilobite, I wondered how people interpreted it. Artist-teacher Bond got it right. And Bora of A Blog Around the Clock had an interesting take in a recent email exchange: "
Michaelangelo's God from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and PZ's post on the evolution of segmentation in snakes!"

Does it do the C.F.I & PZ's topic justice? Is the religious/secular symbolism confusing? Are you craving a crisp macintosh right about now?
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All original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow. The contents of this blog are under a Creative Commons Licence. See sidebar for details. Please visit my blog, gallery and reproduction store.