A series of articles explaining contemporary artworks to the little ones.
Thomas Stimson effortlessly shows that contemporary art does not have to be elitist and inaccessible. Even a 5-year-old can get it!
The Capitoline Venus by Jago
Venus is a sculpture of an old woman. It’s by an Italian artist called Jago.
Can you believe this sculpture was once just a huge piece of rock? Jago made it out of a special kind of rock called marble. Artists like using marble because it’s softer than a lot of other types of rocks and this makes it easier to carve and shape.
If you look closely, you’ll see very small details like wrinkly skin and fingernails — the old woman almost looks alive! Jago did this by very carefully chipping away bits of the marble with a hammer and another tool called a chisel and then polishing its surface. He even made a video of how he did this, which gives an idea of just how long it took to finish (many, many hours).
Using marble is difficult. It’s expensive to buy and tricky to move around — can you imagine trying to lift a heavy piece? And because it’s so difficult to use, artists like Jago always spend a lot of time thinking about what they want to make before starting. The shapes they decide to make are very important to them.
Jago wanted his sculpture to look like a realistic old woman, so he first made lots of drawings and took photos of an actual woman to help him do this.
This wasn’t the only reason he made his sculpture look like it does though. Jago also wanted his sculpture to remind us of the kind of art made thousands of years ago by artists in ancient Greece and Rome. Just like him, artists in the past also made sculptures of things very important to them.
Venus was especially important to these ancient artists because she was the goddess of love — and who doesn’t like love? They made sculptures of Venus and other powerful gods to celebrate them, and to ask for favours — maybe they wanted to fall in love!
It might be that Jago is celebrating the old woman in the same way that an ancient artist celebrated a goddess like Venus. But what’s really interesting is that his sculpture is different: his woman is old and most ancient sculptures of Venus and other gods look like younger people. Why do you think this is?
The gods of ancient Greece and Rome didn’t get old. So it might be that Jago is saying the gods — and what we believe in — are not exactly what we think. It might also be that he thinks love — what Venus represents — is not exactly what we think. Maybe love does not last forever. Or maybe he thinks that the traditional way of making sculptures with marble, or making any kind of art, has changed.
Jago is doing what many of today’s artists do: he is using an old idea and changing it to say something new. This is what makes his Venus sculpture so exciting. And this is what makes art so exciting!
By Thomas Stimson