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Joseph Beuyes 'How To Explain Pictures To A Dead Hare'

Decent Essays
For many artists, subject takes precedent over medium. Therefore they use materials which best enable them to approach their subject in the manner they see fit. For example, an artist such as Shani Rhys James would use oil paint to facilitate her raw, gestural and emotional approach to portraiture ‘…which [is] read for [its] content, [its] colour and [its] abstract elements’ (Rhys James, no date: online). The versatility of the material allows her to build up coarse layers of paint and rework the same canvas over a period of time. In this instance, Rhys James’ medium is facilitating her work, the use of oil paint has no meaning in itself, and while she clearly considers the materiality of her work, it is in the sense of how the medium can be…show more content…
In his performance, Beuys covered his head with honey as a symbolic reference to ‘…his own efforts to expand the human potential for thought and expression beyond the rational…’ (Phaidon, no date: online), believing that through this ritualistic performance he could “…communicate…” with the hare. Here Beuys establishes a dialogue between honey as the material and the hare as the object. Both play a crucial role in his performance and are independently rich in their symbolic potential, but have a symbiotic quality as the honey is needed to communicate with the hare, but without the hare the honey loses its purpose. Beuys explained that “in mythology, honey was regarded as a spiritual substance…” (Rekow, no date: online), and therefore the honey takes on mystical qualities, evoking a sense of transcendence, its nutritional connotations suggesting spiritual nourishment. Honey can be read as a multi-faceted metaphor, as Beuys ‘…viewed the organisation of bees as very similar to socialism…’ (Rekow, no date: online). Therefore his use of this specific material could allude to his broader political beliefs such as that of ‘free democratic socialism’ (Beuys, 1977 cited in Atisma, no date: online ). Of course object symbolism is also important in Beuys’ work, with the hare signalling, among any other things, our ‘…tendencies to burrow […] into the…show more content…
Seeing such acclaimed galleries acknowledging how artists have worked symbolically with materials is a positive reflection on how this method of working has been utilised by artist, and highlights that an artwork’s medium can be just as important as its
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