Cross the border of the established symbol ——Take the paintings of the Middle Ages to the early Renaissance and contemporary expressionism as example.


Yan Liang



The value and aesthetics of religion are inherently contradictory, and their reaction is in religious art. When the spirit plays an absolute role in aesthetic taste and religion in the aesthetics of reality, the energy of aesthetic taste can be magnified. Throughout the history of Western art, there are many examples of human art that have inspired the amazing spiritual and material powers of religious fanaticism. As Gombrich(2006)said, “Excessive moral seriousness may kill art”. On the other hand (the point of aesthetic value), if there is not enough moral seriousness, it may kill art. This is also the dialectical unity of religion and aesthetic contradiction; similarly, when the aesthetic taste of religion is magnified .At the same time it also exaggerated its criticality in the religious spirit.

From the 14th to the 16th century, it was roughly regarded as the Western Renaissance. The term "Renaissance" originated from Vasari's (2005) Italian Paintings, Sculptures and Famous Architectural Biography". Broadly speaking, it mainly refers to the resurrection or regeneration of ancient Greek and Roman classical scholarship. On the one hand, it revives classical academics. On the other hand, it is actually Togo's innovation, reflecting the cultural ideals of the emerging bourgeoisie.

Early Christians believed that if idols were used to represent God, it would undoubtedly introduce the believers into the astray of faith. In the 7th century, a large “destructive idol” movement took place in Byzantium. At the end of the 6th century, the Pope Gregory (1998)said: "What role can the characters play in literacy, and what role can literacy play in painting?" So the painting embarked on the development direction of serving religion. Fully affirm the status of painting in religious propaganda. In the development of medieval religious art, the latter part of the people finally defeated the former, and the art of painting was recognized. But the type of art recognized in this way is obviously a restricted art. They acknowledge the understanding and enlightenment of painting, but completely reject its artistry. "If you want to serve Gregory's purpose, you must make the story as concise as possible. Anything that might distract attention to this sacred subject should be omitted. At first, the artists still used Roman art. The development of successful narratives, but slowly more and more focus on the core essence of things." The complete program of the century, "Christ washes the feet for the apostles" (as shown in Figure 1), The painting is from a German Gospel written around 1000 AD, which depicts one of the things in Chapter 13 of the Gospel of John(2011). After the last supper, Christ is washing the feet of the disciples. Peter said, "You can never wash my feet!" Jesus said, "If I don't wash you, you will have no part with me." St. Peter said, "Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands." And the head should be washed." This is the most loved part of the whole New Testament, mainly showing the fraternity of Jesus and the teaching of the disciples' love. The overall picture of the painting is flat, the color is full and solemn, and the atmosphere is solemn. In order to prevent other things from distracting people's attention to the meaning of the event center, he puts the main characters in front of a flat and golden golden background. Out of the same plane is a towering church. The church in the soft background is like a city of heaven. The symbolic architectural structure is filled with golden colors, highlighting the image of Christ and the apostles. The postures of the first few speakers in the base are very prominent: St. Peter's pleading action, Christ's calm teaching posture, one disciple on the right is taking off his shoes, the other is coming to a water basin, others are surrounded by St. Peter. Behind him, his eyes bulged, showing the awe of apostles and passion. Everyone’s eyes are straight to the center of the picture, and what is happening seems to be vividly displayed. It is worth noting that there are many factors that are “unlike” and “unreasonable” in the picture. For example, all the basins in the picture are not round and not like the washbasin; St. Peter’s knees are raised and do not conform to the normal physiological structure. The character's hand and head ratios are not coordinated, and it seems that only one pair of eyes and one hand can be seen. He is not concerned with the true face of the world and pays more attention to expressing the sacred and modest meaning in the picture, but it does express it. . From this painting, we can fully understand the medieval Christian art, and the core is to clearly express the doctrine. It is not important that the shape is not allowed. For example, the basin is not round; it does not matter if the proportion of the characters is not accurate, for example, the hand is particularly large; because these are not important.

What artists care about is how to arrange the sacred objects in the picture, rather than focusing on the shape of nature. This brings liberation to the artist: the artist no longer imitates the actual tone level of nature, but arbitrarily chooses the color they like. The proportion of the characters, the treatment of the pleats, the spatial processing between the characters, the spatial relationship between the characters and the environment, and even the shadows projected on the ground are not the betrayal of the artist's origin - he is the Greek way. However, the painter deliberately simplified the extra things for the purpose of propaganda. For him, painting is not for the sake of his own beauty. It is not necessary to faithfully describe it. It is best not to draw things that are not related to propaganda and teaching. What he has to do is to make the narrative of the story as concise and clear as possible, and to make the devout believers feel the compassion and power of God.


figure 1. Christ washes the feet of the apostles

In addition to the original symbolicity of the image, there is also a stylized arrangement of characters. For example, the Manesegu Manuscript(as shown in figure 2)is a Gothic clay manuscript collected by the Roman aristocratic Marese family in the early 14th century. It collects 140 medieval highland German court lyrics, with portraits of the poet in front of each poem.In Manese's Manuscript, a set of symbolic language and gothic expressions of the knight's image, consisting of a symbolic object, a religious pattern, a flat decorative geometric linear painting language, and a knight's coat of arms that truly indicates the identity of the author. The characteristics of the man-made manuscript. figure 2.Queen Diodora and the attendant , Mosaic,Italy, 264*365cm,Saint Vital Lavina church


These Byzantine idols must be united between the gods and the kings. The emperor has the right to interfere with the church and prevent the church from using the idol to show its power excessively. The anti-idine movement of the 9th century is the result of this struggle. The struggle for the idol problem began in 726 AD, when the emperor issued an announcement prohibiting all religions from making idols, and the battle between idols and anti-ids continued for more than 100 years. The emperors and the people of the Eastern Province insisted on anti-idolism. They believed that idols would turn religion into superstition and advocate the transformation of religious art into an abstract symbol, symbolizing religious figures with plants or animals. Those who favor idolatry are the monks and the people of the Western provinces. This kind of controversy involves the dual relationship between Jesus, humanity and divinity. In politics and society, the fundamental problem of struggle lies in the struggle for power between the two churches. 

For the spiritual bondage, the artist begins to cross the boundary between stylized symbols and shaping techniques while retaining the subject. Berrenson(1991), a modern art historian, once said: "There is a passionate display of painting, a confession of life and a convert of the gods, starting with Joe." According to Gombrich's (1987)teaching, Giotto rediscovered the art of creating a deep illusion on the plane. He used short shortening, light and dark shapes, and shadows in the pleats to make the characters give us a sense of roundness and weight. This mourning of Christ dramatically expresses the scene. The eyes and movements of the characters and the diagonally low walls all lead the viewer's eyes to Christ. John moves forward and his arms are separated, so the passionate action breaks. Past painting Mourning Christ(shown as figure 3)The stylized expression in the painting; the movements and expressions of each character convincingly convey a kind of sorrow, even for those who are facing us; the picture has a distinct spatial layering. If combined with the art of the Middle Ages, we can see the importance of Giotto's treatment to the development of art. atter.


figure 3. Mourning Christ

"Judas Kiss"(shown as figure 4`)is a representative and famous mural of Giotto, known as the masterpiece of painting in the early Renaissance. It is based on the story of the Bible. We are very familiar with this story: For 13 silver coins, Judas sold its teachers to Jewish authorities and led the way for those who arrested Jesus. On the screen, Judah led a team of people, went straight to Jesus, surrounded him, and Judah went forward to kiss Jesus as a sign to capture Jesus. And Jesus had already seen his tricks and glared at him, and Judah looked terrified. Surrounded by people, the chaos is disorderly and full of nervous air. No matter what kind of theme is displayed, no matter how noisy the scene is, Giotto has an amazing ability to coordinate, organize and highlight the picture. The soldiers who captured Jesus took the torch and waved all kinds of weapons, but the center of the picture looked calm and solemn. The whole work uses light, color and composition to be very accurate and harmonious. It expresses the expressions of various characters, the inner world and the specific atmosphere of the scene at the moment of "Judas Kiss". Through the depiction of this biblical story, Giotto's love is on its way.

figure 4,judas kiss



Giotto returned to nature and vividly imitated the reality of nature. He began to get rid of the rigid paradigm of Byzantine art and Gothic art. The paintings became vivid and lively people with flesh and blood. It also stems from his rediscovering the art of how to create deep illusions on the plane from ancient Greek and Roman architecture, sculptures (especially bas-reliefs) and paintings. He uses the rigorous shape, careful picture layout (composition, color, composition, etc.), rational perspective space and natural light color light to appeal to the visual characters of the picture. The combination of these factors brings the viewer into the moment when the event is happening, as if you are a bystander or witness to the event, witnessing or experiencing it.

 figure 5,Crucifixion,Wooden board Tampera,39*26,Strasbourg Gallery,France




figure 6.part of Baroncelli Polyptych, wooden board tampera,Santa Croce church,Italy

From Giotto's mural paintings to Tempera, you can see his unique way of dealing between stylization and absolute realism. This transgression of the secularization of religious subjects is a hidden challenge to authority or Said to carry out an image language conversion and reinterpretation. Sometimes I feel a bit humorous. However, the treatment of breaking the established symbol makes the character image more specific, and at the same time increases the value of the painting itself, and shows the resistance to authority by the way.


Caravaggio made a bolder attempt on the basis of Giotto. He is a more radical naturalist. Lavacho has created a series of religious works with violent struggles, bizarre daggers, torture and Death is characteristic. Usually, each new work has improved his reputation, but there are also several groups that have been ordered to reject it, and must redraw or find another buyer. The crux of the problem is that while Caravaggio's intense drama is appreciated, his realism style is regarded by some as unacceptable vulgarity. The first edition of St. Matthew and the Angels painted the saints as a bald peasant with dirty legs and an angel boy who was too close to his relatives to take care of him. The painting was rejected and Caravaggio had to redraw a picture of St. Matthew's Inspiration.(shown as figure7)Similarly, "Sao Paulo's Conversion" was also rejected, and another "Sang Paul's Conversion" of the same subject was accepted. The horseback in this painting is more prominent than the saint himself, which angered Santa Maria del Popolo. An official of the church: "Why do you draw the horse in the middle, but Sao Paulo is on the ground?" "I have my own reason!" "Is that horse God?" "No, but it stands under the light of God." !"



figure 7.St. Matthew and Angel

His approach to the Assumption of the Virgin in the Church of the Steps of the Virgin was more daring than before. In this common religious theme, most of the painters before or during the same period described the Virgin as a life-like depiction of the Virgin, and was escorted back to the heavenly home by angels. But in Caravaggio's pen, the whole scene was pulled back from the myths and legends to realize life, and it turned back to a true funeral. The Madonna also became a dead person. He also used a drowned prostitute as a model of the Virgin, with a gray-skinned body. The Magdalene and the saints of Magdalene were also very sad, making this funeral more real. So when I was delivered, I was really scared that the nuns shouted "My God!" and then I didn't dare to look at it again. After the death of the Madonna was rejected and taken out of the church, it was immediately bought by the Duke of Mantua.





figure 8 06 Death of the Virgin 1606

At some stage, an artist will voluntarily honor a long-formed norm, and then there will gradually emerge a classic, model, and authority. The so-called deviation from the normative fluid does not mean that the artist does not agree with it, but from time to time there will be geniuses emerging from the rules of the past. They tend to be strong and sensitive, and when they make it, they listen to themselves and even forget their own times. And often such works will be more fun. The deviation of ancient artists is unconscious or semi-conscious. For example, Caravaggio used the city butcher as a model, so that it was not beautified, and the image was put into the religious theme, and it slowly deviated from the long-established religious norms of Italy in the 15th century. In the 16th century, some painters slowly followed up and began to deviate from the norms created by Caravaggio. Some geniuses also deviate from their own norms: Rembrandt's deep self-portraits in his later years deviated from his early norms. The portrait of the gnome of Velasque has formed a huge contrast with the theme of his royal family. Draw a gnome by painting the emperor. Rembrandt's Jesus and King Solomon's paintings are classic, but they are very personal on self-portraits. Baroque paintings are boring if there is no such thing as a deviation. Picasso said "I don't create, I found that all deviations come from the sharp eyes of the painter, from the discovery." In the 19th century, more and more artists began to deviate from the norm. By the 20th century, deviation from norms became the norm, and even the best norms would be rigid and outdated.

In the current era, I find it difficult to find a person who uses the public symbol to cross the border, because most artists will be more self-expression in most cases to express their own experience. The so-called established symbol is probably a more personal image, sometimes even the past. Just like The deep self-portraits of Rembrandt's later years deviated from his early norms. The portrait of the gnome of Velasque has formed a huge contrast with the theme of his royal family. Draw a gnome by painting the emperor. Rembrandt's Jesus and King Solomon's paintings are classic, but they are very personal on self-portraits. Therefore, I feel that the cross-border of the established symbol is constantly looking for the relationship between the self and the values that the public generally or has recognized. Therefore, it involves the discussion of homosexual topics.

Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon, in 1945, they first met at a weekend party. As a representative figure of the "London School of Painting", Bacon had a great influence in the art scene at the time, and Freud was suffering at the time. Breaking through himself, Bacon has inspired Freud. Their interaction began at this time.

They paint each other for models. For example, Bacon's "Floyd Portrait" by Francis Bacon in 1969,and "The Self-portrait Work"(shown as figure 8)whose head is the head of the portrait, but below the head, is depicted by Freud but only Freud. I have painted two bacons, one of which has not yet been completed. When they were working together, most of the time Freud quietly served as the object of Bacon's painting. His foot and feet are always hung with two intertwined male nudes created by Francis Bacon in 1953. 




figure 8 , self portrait work, Francis bacon,1969 They use their bodies as an established symbolic language to carry out physical grafting with their homosexuals, which is a challenge to the public's established image of people. Perhaps I will associate the root of this phenomenon with the values ​​of religious history. Christianity believes that under the conditions of celibacy and abstinence, monks and monks, nuns and nuns are prone to homosexuality. If they do not severely suppress homosexuality, they endanger the church itself. survive. A city of sin has been mentioned in the Bible, that is, the city of Sodom on the dead sea. The inhabitants of the city were so sinful that God couldn’t bear to destroy the fire and the sulphur. But what are the sins of the residents of Sodom, the later generations have been unclear, some say arrogance, adultery, excessive hospitality, no religious beliefs, some say adultery and uncleanness, but the orthodox church accepted Alexander City in the 1st century AD According to Finno's view, Finno believes that the residents of Sodom City are guilty of homosexuality. He accuses: "The residents of Sodom City disregard the laws of nature, drink spirits, eat delicious food, and engage in unnatural sexual intercourse. Not only do they indulge in women, but they break the marriage of others, and they violate nature, and they rape each other. As a result, when they want children, they find that they are incapable of giving birth. The church has a process of persecution of homosexuals.

In the 3rd century AD, although Christianity had a pivotal force in the Roman Empire, they still did not dare to ban homosexuality. Because homosexuality was very popular in the military at that time, if homosexuality was banned, it would inevitably arouse the dissatisfaction and resistance of the army, thus affecting the consolidation of the regime.

In the 6th century, the situation changed. At that time, the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire) began to be celibate with the monastic system earlier, and it was early to punish homosexuality. In 538 AD, Emperor Justinian promulgated the law on the basis of the integration of Roman law and church law, saying that homosexuality “causes famine, earthquake and plague” and “lost soul” for individuals, therefore, to prevent the country and the city. Destruction must be strictly prohibited. By the time 541 to 544 AD, the rat plague occurred in Byzantium, and the church was convicted of homosexuality. This practice of persecution of homosexuality has become more serious in the middle and late European Middle Ages. In the 16th century, some colonialists in Europe even extended their motives to suppress homosexuality abroad. Christianity has always been an important force in oppressing homosexuality. In the Old Testament Leviticus, it was mentioned that "not to be associated with men, like women," is one of the symbols of Christian opposition to homosexuality. The reason why the city of Sodom was destroyed by God was because the sins of the Sodomians rushed into the sky, and one of them was a man of color, which was obviously inconsistent with the Chinese tradition. The Jesuits and Dominican clerics who came to China during the Ming and Qing Dynasties were shocked and blamed for seeing the prevalence of homosexuality. In modern times, Western anti-same thinking has also profoundly affected the rest of the world. Due to the status of Christianity in the Western world, there is still a large proportion of people in the West who reject homosexuality.

Its obvious to see that Freud always maintains a state of sketching. In his long-term observation and research, the model is physically and mentally exhausted and his personality fades. Presented in front of the painter, it is the truest state of the person after the removal of many additional factors. The painter chose to convey this unrealized, purely true and honest language in a highly realistic and extremely personal language. These are neither elegant nor cumbersome, neither beautiful nor ugly, in the studio. The space is full of everyday postures, and the painter has painstakingly portrayed these various indecent gestures with a pleasant brushwork. This attitude that does not seem to take the art seriously, makes those who still see art extremely sacred, can art really be so casual or even unbearable? Artistic critics different from the masses also refrain from talking about such creations, because such "frame paintings" that are far from the international art trend and "stick to tradition" are difficult to fall into the history of modern and contemporary art. Freud called his creation "the autobiography of the soul". He usually does not accept the order, and rejects all the characters who cannot arouse their creative desires, regardless of their status. It is said that the Pope and Princess Diana were rejected by him. Excluding the extremely fierce and infectious subject matter, as a daily sketching exercise, it is not difficult to see Freud's desire to break the established image, such as in the painter's mother, Freud's exaggerated brush strokes along the muscles. The trend depicts a pile of cross-legged meat that looks a bit disgusting on the sofa. Absolutely subverting the imagination of the mother as imagined by normal inertial thinking, perhaps a kind of beautiful beauty. And Freud's nearly close-up paintings show the reality to the audience without mercy.

"Great Interior Scene W11 (Imitation of Hua Tuo)" is a very rare group of characters in Freud's works. The composition is taken from the French 18th century painter Juan Antoine Watteau, a collection of Swiss collectors familiar to the painter. The early work "Pierrot Content" (1712), but he moved Hua Tuo's location to the interior, changing the night into the day. The characters in the painting crowded together, and the expressions and gestures showed tension, anxiety, indifference and uneasiness. In fact, Freud wanted to express his own creation and classicality through a strong contrast with the typical Rococo style of Hua Tuo. Traditionally different spiritual essences. I think that whether it is the mural painting of the established image symbol in the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance or the Tempera, or the subversive expression of the current painter's image in the current society, it is probably intended to be closer by challenging symbol. Be closer to the feeling of truth. And Use this image language to complete its social function.






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