True Art Doesn’t Portray, It Evokes

4 Artworks That Speak Emotions to Me

Sheela Na Gig (Left), Baubo (Centre), and Lajja Gauri (Right). Collage by Author.

Art is a subjective medium. You might like an artwork because it connects with you visually. Or perhaps you engage at a deeper level; arousing an ocean of emotions. I humbly place myself in the latter category.

Jim Davies, a cognitive scientist at Carleton University, studied what makes art more appealing to individuals. He looked at why some art is easy to understand while others are more esoteric.

Before I started reading paintings, beauty and aesthetics were my only criteria to checkmark an art piece. But as I’m progressing towards learning more about art history, I love to decipher the creative process behind an artwork.

This is how I love to comprehend artworks. Does this happen to you too?

It doesn’t mean I don’t like Girl with a Pearl Earring or Christina’s World. I love them too; but for me, a deeper engagement is more important.

In this article, I’d list 4 artworks that speak to me, creating an array of emotions — happiness, sadness, giving me goosebumps, or might alter my state of mind. You know what they say — “a picture is a poem without words.”

1. Portrait of the Girl by Konstantin Makovsky

Portrait of the Girl. Source-Public Domain

Can you take a quiet moment to appreciate the magical gaze reflected through this artwork? Or is it just me who feels that way?

The first time I saw this painting on Twitter, it caught my attention for a while. For me, this painting strikes a perfect balance of beauty and innocence. It strikes me in a gentle manner and melts my heart right away.

Konstantin Makovsky, an influential Russian painter of the 20th century has drawn many mesmerizing portraits but this painting stood out for me. If I’ll curate my dream wall in my home, which certainly I’d, this painting would be right there.

2. Rape by Rene Magritte

Rape. Source-Public Domain

Every time I see this artwork, it stuns me with goosebumps. It gives me deep tremors. I might not wish to revisit this often. But it is one of the several paintings that made me curious to understand the painter’s psychology and learn about the trauma he underwent in his childhood.

3. Displaced by Arabella Dorman

Displaced. Source-Public Domain

I don’t know much about contemporary war paintings except Picasso’s Guernica. But when I decided to research and write a 2-part article on the Afghanistan war, it broke my heart, often erupting into tears.

While I’d not jump into the war politics or advocate the right and wrong but the complex narrative raised a single question — what was the crime of the innocent civilians who died or had to forcefully displace from their own country and become refugees in other countries?

We should never take our democracy for granted.

4. Sheela Na Gig

Sheela Na Gig (Left), Baubo (Centre), and Lajja Gauri (Right). Collage by Author.

These stone carvings might be considered grotesque, frightful looking, and absurd but the truth is we have mostly read the distorted narrative. It’s time to change our perspective and rediscover the history behind these figurines.

Sheela Na Gigs were predominately found in the churches of Ireland. Baubo is an African Goddess and Lajja Gauri is a fertility Goddess in India.

Dr. Barbara Freitag, a former lecturer in intercultural studies at Dublin City University and author of the 2004 book Sheela Na Gigs: Unravelling an Enigma, was the first to place academic muscle behind the idea of the Sheela Na Gigs as a fertility goddess or talisman.

An Instagram page called Sheela Na Gig was started in Ireland that fights against misogyny and unabashedly promotes women’s reproductive freedom.

Susan Sontag has aptly summarized: Modern aesthetics is crippled by its dependence upon the concept of ‘beauty.’ As if art were ‘about’ beauty — as science is ‘about’ truth!

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