It is Christmas time. Are there any good images on Christmas? An image search on “Art Christmas” yields many results. Of course there are some Santa Claus and reindeers, but not as many as I would expect. Many artists who engage in Christmas, it seems, try to make something else and with an artistic touch.
I was first attracted to this “warm” picture by a certain Lucy Pittaway. Having a closer look I found the houses ok, but the sheep’s heads, no the sheep, “kitchy”. Then it struck me, that there was no coldness in the picture. Normally you would find warmth indoor and cold outdoor; the contrast making both stronger.
I wonder if the absence of coldness in this picture reflects something taking place in our culture. You are no longer interested in contrast and variation, only in “goodness pure”.
Just a decoration?
Safer as regards kitsch (a difficult term, by the way) is this slightly abstract Christmas tree print, by Pui Pui. It could hang over the sofa as well as in your hall. Would you say that this picture was made by a designer rather than by an artist? (Like the lamps.) I guess the difference would be: If it is design, it is meant to be decoration (aesthetic only). Art would be about something more. The walls of the room are basically functional, but in themselves they look somewhat “naked” and cold. You add decoration to get rid of the cold.
By this third picture you definitely step out of the Christian tradition. I mean, as long as you depict a house in snow or a Christmas tree, there is a slight connection to the mother and child with an aura of light in the dark stable at night. But this cone of Christmas ornaments topping the head of a cartoon woman with naked shoulders tells you that the woman and the drawer have conquered Christmas and she triumphantly carries it like a crown. But is it art? What is the difference between art and a (good) cartoon? The cartoon lacks anything subtle? I guess you don’t need many seconds to take in this picture fully and next year you will not miss it. Art, on the other hand, does not exhaust that quickly and, like a good poem, can touch you again (and again).
I should have liked to give you a good image made in this century as “the artwork of the fortnight” (see below). Searching for “serious, painting, Christmas” etc. did not yield much, however. Only when entering “abstract” could I escape mostly kitschy works of houses in snow and Christmas trees and irrelevant ones. So this abstract painting will have to do as an example of 21st century Christmas art.
Not obviously Christmas? The image came up on my search thanks to keywords probably added by the gallery selling it. I find it not too bad – or is the task of making it too simple? Creating a feeling of warmth just by using warm colours? How shall we understand the title? You can choose whatever you want this image to be as long as it is warm? The dripping lines to the left were probably added to convince you this is real art. However, they can also be seen as a reminder of the gloomy future of the infant Jesus – if you accept this being an image on Christmas.
Artwork of the fortnight
I gave in on 21st century and proceeded to classical art. When comparing classical images I was struck by the seriousness of the many artworks showing Mary and child. No wonder (but depicting a wonder?) as we are now at the core of Christianity’s Christmas.
Interestingly (I looked it up) the word “serious” derives from the Indo-European word “swer” meaning heavy (also German: schwer). Serious meaning heavy does make sense, but on the other hand: seeing the image shown here, and others just as serene, was to me no burden. Actually, I felt I could breathe freer looking at an image like this.