The Madonna of Evolution (Simian Vanitas)

On May 8, 2013, in Paintings, by Icculus

Madonna of Evolution (Simian Vanitas) by Chris Shaw, 2013

The Madonna of Evo­lu­tion (Simian Van­i­tas)
60“w x 84“h
Acrylic on Can­vas
2013

Liv­ing in the mod­ern world means accept­ing that occa­sion­ally we need to evolve some of our con­cepts about how things work, we live in an age of great dis­cov­ery and inno­va­tion. Long ago when it was “dis­cov­ered” that the Earth is not a flat plane cen­tered in the mid­dle of the Uni­verse, after some con­tro­versy, the new model was accepted. Dis­cov­ery of grav­ity, the ele­ments, and rel­a­tiv­ity (among oth­ers) were piv­otal moments in the under­stand­ing of our world and brought about great change. While the rift between sci­ence and reli­gion isn’t as wide as it was, some widely accepted sci­en­tific facts con­tinue to be deeply controversial.

The Madonna of Evolution Layout

The sub­ject behind this paint­ing is Darwin’s Evo­lu­tion. For me, its a com­pelling fact of nature and one with­out any per­sonal spir­i­tual debate. I believe in fos­sils and don’t have a prob­lem with mon­keys. The the­ory is ele­gant and a great sub­ject for a mod­ern icon.

I bluntly appro­pri­ated the image from Ambro­gio de Pre­dis’, “Girl with Cher­ries”, a 15th c. Ital­ian paint­ing with a beau­ti­ful tri­an­gu­lar com­po­si­tion. The tri­an­gle now rep­re­sents evo­lu­tion in the sense that tri­an­gles are direc­tional and have an apex. To adapt the orig­i­nal, I replaced the cher­ries with a human skull and added an ape’s skull in the man­ner of a clas­sic van­i­tas por­trait. In a van­i­tas, the sub­ject often holds a skull as a sym­bol of con­tem­pla­tion of one’s exis­tence and the fleet­ing nature of life. As a large paint­ing and cen­ter of a loose trip­tych, the per­spec­tive was also adjusted so the sub­ject looks across to the Madonna of the Micro­scope and down to the viewer.

Within the image I included helixes as a ref­er­ence to DNA, some eas­ier to spot than oth­ers. The color DNA of the piece is cre­ated from 4 main color com­po­nents, made from car­bon, nickel, chrome, and tita­nium pig­ments. Lib­eral use of metal­lic golds, sil­vers and deep glaz­ing cre­ates deep, color chang­ing hues enhanced by a matte background.

Chris Shaw
April 2013

The Madonna of Evo­lu­tion and other work by Chris Shaw, cur­rently on exhibit at The San Fran­cisco Museum of Mod­ern Art — Caffe Museo, until June 2013. 151 Third St., San Fran­cisco, Ca. Open every­day except Wednes­days. Cafe exhibit is free.

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Chris Shaw
New paint­ings: The Madon­nas of Sci­ence, plus selected other work.

Cur­rently on exhibit at The San Fran­cisco Museum of Mod­ern Art — Caffè Museo
Until June.
This is a cafe exhibit, admis­sion is free!

SFMoMA
151 Third Street (between Mis­sion + Howard)
San Fran­cisco, California

Open daily (except Wednes­days): 10:00 a.m. — 6:00 p.m.
Open late on Thurs­days: until 9:00 p.m.

SFMOMA.org

Madonna of the Particle by Chris Shaw, 2013

Madonna of the Par­ti­cle
36″ x 48″
Acrylic on Can­vas
2013

 

Dark Matter by Chris Shaw, 2013

Madonna of Dark Mat­ter
36″ x 48″
Acrylic on Can­vas
2013

 

Madonna of the Squid by Chris Shaw, 2013

Madonna of the Squid
36″ x 48″
Acrylic on Can­vas
2013

 

Madonna Science 2 by Chris Shaw

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Madonna of the Magnet by Chris Shaw, 2013

Madonna of the Mag­net
60″ x 84″
Acrylic on Can­vas
2013

 

Madonna of Evolution (Simian Vanitas) by Chris Shaw, 2013

Madonna of Evo­lu­tion (Simian Van­i­tas)
60″ x 84″
Acrylic on Can­vas
2013

 

Madonna of the Microscope by Chris Shaw, 2013

Madonna of the Micro­scope
60″ x 84″
Acrylic on Can­vas
2013

 

Madonna Science 1 by Chris Shaw

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Madonna of the 40oz. by Chris Shaw, 2010

Madonna of the 40oz.
36″ x 48″
Acrylic & Cur­rency on Can­vas
2010

 

Madonna Kalashnikov by Chris Shaw, 2012

Madonna Kalash­nikov
30“x40“
Acrylic on Can­vas
2012

 

Madonna of the Suicide Vest by Chris Shaw, 2012

Madonna of the Sui­cide Vest
36″ x 48″
Acrylic on Can­vas
2012

Madonna of the Particle

Madonna of the Particle sketches - Chris Shaw, 2013

This paint­ing is inspired by the recent sci­en­tific con­fir­ma­tion of the Higgs-Boson “GOD” par­ti­cle, the sup­posed sub-atomic build­ing block that gives all mat­ter mass. The name itself is enough to war­rant the cre­ation of a Mod­ern Icon. In this piece, I cre­ated a geo­met­ric foun­da­tion using shapes, curves, and ratios found in nature, and fit the fig­ure into it. The icon is also based on the types of geom­e­try found in sub atomic par­ti­cle col­li­sions, it will fit snugly into the actual image of a par­ti­cle col­li­sion which cre­ated a “God” par­ti­cle. While the paint­ing is not intended as a black-light piece, it does take full advan­tage of the flu­o­res­cent spec­trum, metal­lic col­ors, and unveils phos­pho­res­cent effects in total darkness.

 

Artist State­ment

I’m not sure exactly where my fas­ci­na­tion with Madon­nas was born, but I’ve loved Icons of all kinds for a very long time.

As an artist I’m intrigued with the the way icons present their ideas — an eas­ily under­stood, blunt cen­tral image jux­ta­posed with deep sym­bol­ism and cryp­tic geo­met­ric foun­da­tions. Icons also have a rea­son for exist­ing, they are con­vey­ers of information.

The mod­ern icons I cre­ate also con­vey infor­ma­tion, it could be a sci­en­tific con­cept, a polit­i­cal state­ment, or a pop-culture ref­er­ence. Regard­less, each icon has a story and a rea­son for existing.

In this body of work I use the Madonna as the vehi­cle to lit­er­ally carry the ideas I’ve cho­sen to por­tray. The titles are straight for­ward. How­ever, under­ly­ing and obfus­cated by the image is a rigid geo­met­ric base, over which the Madonna icon is con­structed. The geom­e­try within this base is a rid­dle to deci­pher as are many of the sym­bols within.

I’ve mainly learned about hid­den geom­e­try and sym­bol­ism in art by decon­struct­ing an art­works com­po­si­tion, then research­ing what I find, some­thing I like to do for fun. Golden ratios, spi­rals, and fibonacci sequences are eas­ily found in many types of art, but espe­cially deeply woven into icons. How and why this geo­met­ric lan­guage was used fas­ci­nates me, it ulti­mately led to cre­at­ing my own icons with their own meanings.

Ortho­dox icons are a favorite style to appro­pri­ate. Real ones can often be quite abstract as the image becomes sub­servient to the geom­e­try used in the com­po­si­tion, I try to emu­late this ideal. The “Madonna of the Par­ti­cle” and the “Madonna of Dark Mat­ter” both con­cern the recently dis­cov­ered Higgs-Boson par­ti­cle. The geo­met­ric base used within each image con­tains nat­ural ratios and curves that ref­er­ence the sub-atomic par­ti­cle col­li­sions which led to the “God Particle’s” discovery.

West­ern icons, in par­tic­u­lar Ital­ian Madon­nas, are another deep influ­ence in my work. In the large trip­tych pan­els I’ve ref­er­enced and riffed on the art­work of Bellini, Bot­ti­celli and Ambro­gio de Pre­dis as base foun­da­tions for the images. Pre­dis’ “Girl with Cher­ries” (1495) has trans­formed into the “Madonna of Evo­lu­tion” now incor­po­rat­ing a both human and ape skull with repeat­ing helix motifs as both a “van­i­tas” por­trait and an icon. The “Madonna of the Mag­net” recon­fig­ures Bellini’s “Madonna and Child” (1480) into an icon devoted to my love of mag­nets. It is painted with iron and cop­per based pig­ments and com­posed using the sweep­ing curves found in mag­netic flux.

Each paint­ing com­mu­ni­cates its secrets in var­i­ous ways.

Chris Shaw
April, 2013

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