Archive for the Art Category

The Art of Jupiter

Posted in Art, The Universe and Stuff with tags , on May 25, 2017 by telescoper

This amazing closeup image is of the North polar region of Jupiter. It was taken by NASA’s Juno spacecraft. Here’s a wider view:


I think it will take scientists quite some time to figure out what is going on in all those complex vortex structures.
In the meantime, though, I think these picture and the others that have been released can be enjoyed as a work of art! As a matter of fact reminds me of van Gogh’s Starry Night...

Lamentation over the Dead Christ – Sebastiano del Piombo 

Posted in Art with tags , , , on April 14, 2017 by telescoper

I came across this picture in this week’s Times Literary Supplement as part of an article describing an exhibition currently showing at the National Gallery in London. I thought I’d share it here because it’s such an extraordinarily powerful and mysterious image.

It was painted sometime around 1512-16 by Sebastiano del Piombo, a contemporary of Michelangelo. 

The Pietà (an image of the distraught Virgin Mary lamenting the death of her son, usually cradling his lifeless body) is a familiar subject in religious art, but this particular version is strikingly different.

For one thing, the Virgin Mary is not holding, or even looking at, the body of Christ. She seems instead  to be lost in prayer. 

For another, the figure of Mary towers over the corpse at her feet. Is it just me, or does she look rather masculine too? Assuming this is deliberate, are we seeing her somehow growing in stature, perhaps becoming divine herself?

It’s as if we catch her in the moment in which she is undergoing some form of transformation. In any case she’s not simply overcome with grief as in many depictions of this scene. What she is experiencing remains an enigma. This is not unusual for Renaissance art: paintings in particular often seem to contain secret messages.

The body of her son – brown and apparently without wounds – looks grotesquely stiff, incapable of being embraced. The background is a bleak landscape of ruined buildings and stunted trees, feebly lit by the distant moon.

It’s a stark, comfortless description of the dead Christ, but Mary embodies a sense of determination and hope. Above all, though, it’s a very dramatic painting. 

Isle of the Dead

Posted in Art with tags , on January 19, 2017 by telescoper

Isle of the Dead (above) is the best-known painting of Swiss Symbolist artist Arnold Böcklin (1827–1901). Prints of this work were very popular in central Europe in the early 20th century—Vladimir Nabokov observed in his novel Despair that they could be “found in every Berlin home”. Several versions were made – the one shown above is the original (Basel) version, painted in  May 1880 – Oil on canvas; 111 x 155 cm.

Breaking Free

Posted in Art, Music with tags , , , , , , on January 6, 2017 by telescoper

I’ve been enjoy a series of fascinating programmes about music from the Second Viennese School (chiefly Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern) on BBC Radio 3 this week gathered under the umbrella title of Breaking Free. In the period from roughly 1903 to 1925 these composers finally abandoned the traditional forms of tonality that late Romantic composers such as Gustav Mahler had struggled with in their later work. Aside from its obvious emotional intensity, one of the reasons I find music from this period absolutely absorbing because it was written in a period of highly turbulent transition; you get such a strong sense of new possibilities being opened up when you listen to some of the pioneering works. Some of them are also extremely beautiful. I often hear people say that they they think atonal music sounds ugly, but I disagree. The same people would probably agree that birdsong is beautiful, and most of that is entirely atonal..

The only problem is that I’ve now got a very long list of recordings to buy, as I don’t have any CDs or downloads of some very important pieces. I’m going to be a but poorer financially as a consequence of this educational experience, but hopefully enriched in a cultural sense.

The “breaking free” in this period wasn’t confined to music – revolutionary change was underway in other artistic fields, including painting. Last night I was listening to one of the programmes in the Breaking Free series and it inspired me to have a look in some of my art books for something appropriate to post from the time (if not the location) of the 2nd Viennese School. I decided on this, wan abstract painting by Wassily Kandinsky called Composition VII which was painted in 1913.

composition-vii-1913

Infinite LIGO Dreams

Posted in Art, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , on November 28, 2016 by telescoper

There was a special event in the School of Physics & Astronomy here at Cardiff University on Friday afternoon – the unveiling of a new work of art in our coffee area. The work, a large oil painting, called Infinite LIGO Dreams by local artist Penelope Rose Cowley was inspired by the detection of gravitational waves earlier this year:

 

gravitational-wave-artwork-copyright-penelope-cowley-16x9

You can read more about this work, and the circumstances behind its creation, at the Cardiff University website and via the Physics World blog. If you like the piece you can order a poster-sized print from Penelope Cowleys’s own website here.

The unveiling of this artwork was preceded by a drinks reception, which probably accounts for the errors that crept into the blog post I wrote on Friday after the party!

 

Dunes on Mars

Posted in Art, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on November 21, 2016 by telescoper

dunes

This isn’t a new picture, but I hadn’t seen it before a friend put in on their Facebook page at the weekend. It isn’t what I first thought it was – a wonderful piece of abstract art – but is, in fact, an equally wonderful photograph of the inside of the Bunge crater on Mars, where a complex pattern of dunes has formed through wind action. The area covered by the image is about 14 kilometers wide.

According to the official NASA webpage: “This image was taken in January 2006 by the Thermal Emission Imaging System instrument on NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter and posted in a special December 2010 set marking the occasion of Odyssey becoming the longest-working Mars spacecraft in history.”

La Gravitation Universelle

Posted in Art with tags , on November 12, 2016 by telescoper

image

(René Magritte, 1943; oil on canvas)