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January 2024

Spirituality and contemporary art: the 'religious' experience between artist, artwork and audience 

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 In an era where religion has taken a backseat, particularly in Western culture, we can identify other fields such as art that provide gratifications in its place. The term ‘religious’ or a divine lexical field is continuously repeated when deliberating upon the profound reactions some have experienced when confronted by the works of artists including Marina Abramović and Agnes Martin, whose work I will explore in this essay. The comparison of art and religion is not specific to contemporary art, however an increase in spiritual conceptual thinking has highlighted the comparisons between art and religion more than in previous eras. This has facilitated a current discourse surrounding the critique of Western secularity and experiences with art. This essay will look specifically at The Artist Is Present and artworks by Agnes Martin produced after 1970. I will also draw on theories including affect and phenomenology, in addition to contexts relating to each artist, such as communism and Buddhism. My intention is to elaborate on the cyclical pattern of connectivity that can be seen between Abramović, Martin, their work, and audiences.

Enigma and Audience: Exploring Relationships as Consequence of Subjectivity and Intimacy

 June 2023

This essay examines the ways in which enigmatic portraits are able to engage with their audience, specifically looking at the work of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Jenny Saville and my own practice. Relationships between artworks and audiences have become a prominent discourse in contemporary art whilst the popularity of subjectivity has also increased over time. Portrait painting has moved beyond the objectivity of Renaissance artworks such as ‘The Ambassadors’ or the ‘Arnolfini Portrait’, with many artists rejecting representation theories. The dichotomy to this historical denotive subject matter is the polysemic and equivocal character of works that have no stable meaning. Enigma is a device commonly utilised in fiction to keep the audience engaged with the book or film. The same effect can be achieved when explicit meaning is omitted from a painting. This essay is rooted in the paradox of human nature to desire knowledge but also conceal truth and how contemporary artists play on this notion.  

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