The artwork titled “The Snake” by Aaron Hicks, is a two dimensional abstract artwork representing a snake. The materials used to create the artwork include niko pen, soft pastels in primary and secondary colours, charcoal and cardboard on white cardstock. The Snake has been assembled using different shapes including geometric squares, rectangles and triangles, and irregular shapes.The snake begins as a black circle in the lower middle of the cardstock with two eyes and a mouth drawn on using white soft pastel. The snake commences to twist its way around in an anticlockwise manner moving up the cardstock.The artist has used niko to draw the outline of each section of the snake and has used a combination of intense orange/purple, red/blue, yellow/black, light blue/purple, green/red, pink/navy, and orange/brown soft pastels and charcoal to block in areas of colour. The edges of the drawing are definite and sharply defined.
As the artwork is an abstract piece, it presents an apparent example of the principles and elements at work (Dinham, 2011) and therefore the artistic substance of this artwork will be analyzed in terms of line, colour, balance and shape. “The Snake” depicts a chain which begins at the top with each section of the snake representing a “different stage of life in the idea that life constantly changes and evolves “(A. Hicks, 2014).The element of line has been used to convey the shape and direction of the snakes’ body. These diverse lines created at different lengths, implies direction of how a snake would be slithering over the page. The colours used in the artwork are both from primary and secondary positions on the colour wheel and therefore complement each other, such as the analogous colours red, purple and blue. The intensity of the orange and yellow seem to divert your attention away from the rest though. Are these sections of the snake representing joy and happiness? And if so, do the tertiary colours of browns and dull shades of colours represent heartbreak and trouble? When considering the artworks visual balance, the composition of the artwork does not seem right, like it is too top heavy. Is this a deliberate act created to portray the early stages of life are more eventful and challenging then the later? Why did the artist complete the piece in the orientation of portrait instead of landscape where the natural position of the snake would be? Is this to make the snake seem less threatening?This simplistic designed piece of artwork was created using an uneven pattern of geometric squares, rectangles and triangles, and irregular shapes assembled to produce a pleasant completed picture.
3. Reflecting and Relating
The concern with critiquing an artwork is that some may assume that artwork (whether it is visual, dance, music, media or drama) has only one meaning. But art is very subjective to one’s own interpretations of its meaning, feeling and messages that it might convey.I feel the artwork “the snake” has a ‘childlike’ quality and therefore reminds me of my daughter and how she loves to draw different shapes and her love of bright colours. According to Piaget and Inhelder (1963) young children draw what they are familiar with about the world, rather than attempting to “capture a photographic mirror of reality.” Russian Symbolist painter, Leon Bakst, stated that “what delights and moves us [in children’s’ pictures] is candor/sincerity, movement and clear, clean color” ( Fineberg, 1997). I believe the artist has captured this honesty in his artwork.
The artist’s objective may have been just to produce an artwork for University; however I perceive this simplistic designed piece of artwork, consisting of shapes such as triangles, squares and rectangles as a visual metaphor for the different stages that one goes through in life. Be that joy, happiness, stress and heartbreak and how one’s life is constantly changing and evolving. A snake can be a symbol of evil, power and chaos as well as a symbol of life, fertility and healing depending on one’s views. My subjective interpretation is that the artist’s symbolic view is that the snake means ‘life’, a chain of events that is personal and unique.However, there is dissimilarity with the focal point being the Snake’s head and why black cardboard was used. Is this symbolic in some way? It is my impression that it is the head, and not the tail that leads life.The edges of the drawing are definite and sharply defined and the colours are inside the lines. This gives a sense that the artist has had a ‘straight and guided’ upbringing, where there has been no rule breaking and perhaps no opportunity for creative expression.
It is vital to give children opportunity to exhibit creative and flexible thinking and artistic energy through visual arts, music, dance, drama and media as they are fundamentally excellent qualities (Dinham, 2011). They allow us to discover fresh solutions to old problems. They allow us to observe things differently and to convey our inner thoughts in new and stimulating ways. The nurturing and support of the creative artist in each of us through contemporary arts education is necessary so that we can have true and expressive lives. In light of this, we as teachers need to support and nurture our young students to colour and think outside of the lines, to give them freedom to create their own perceptions and discover their surroundings in their own unique way and to help them develop their own aesthetic sensibilities. The 5Rs reflective Writing Scale is a significant teaching tool for making and understanding meaningful art in the classroom. Giving students the opportunity to appraise and express their views of artwork develops their aesthetic sensibilities and illustrates that there can be many interpretations of an artwork. By constructing a safe and encouraging environment for students to critique artwork made by themselves and others not only helps them develop reflective processes, it also helps them expand their strategies and methods for future success. Completing the 5Rs requires students vocalize their opinions and feelings that an artwork may convey to them. Critiquing also helps students evaluate and reflect on their own artwork, what they may do differently next time, what they may improve upon and what they viewed as their strengths by learning from experience (Dinham, 2011).
Dinham, J. (2011). Delivering Authentic Arts Education. South Melbourne, Victoria: Cengage Learning Australia.
Fineberg, J. (1997). The Innocent Eye: Children’s Art and the Modern Artist. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Piaget, J., & Inhelder, B. (1963). The child’s conception of space. London: Routledge.