1. Identify a work of art that you have enjoyed looking at. List: artist name, title, date the work was created and country. What is the title of the exhibition this work is in? Who is the curator/owner of the work? What type of gallery is the work in.
“Degustation” by Julia DeVile is a room sized art installation. Made in 2013 the piece is part of the artists own collection and can be seen as part of the “Melbourne Now” exhibition at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia. The Ian Potter centre shows a large collection of works of indigenous and non- indigenous Australians, dating back from colonial times to the present day.
This question encourages the student to be informed on what they are talking about and it’s background. Taking the year in to account is important in terms of makes historical references .
2. How big is the art work? What is the scales of the artwork in relation to the human figure? How does it compare to you or the things around you? Do you need to stand or move in any particular view to view the work? Are there constraints on the viewer or is there an element of interactivity? How is the artwork lit?
You enter the room through a curtain and confronted with what can only be described as a Victorian parlour, a table stands before you as soon as you walk in, the light falling directly on it. Laid out like a buffet, animals on trays.
You hesitantly walk around the room, feeling like you’ve stepped back in time. A frozen moment of time that you’re part of. Initially you feel uncomfortable but the longer you observe all the intricacies of the piece you almost feel honoured to have gotten a glimpse. It’s interactive in the sense it requires you to view the room from different angles to be able to see every detail, but it’s clinical in the way there is no desire to touch anything, not for me personally anyway.
These questions encourage the student to really consider their surroundings and how the piece works dynamically. It makes them think about the scale and how such things can really effect the impression or concept of a piece.
3. What materials or media have been utilised in the creation of the artwork? What methods or applications have been applied?
A vast range of amazing taxidermy and a collection of various oak furniture and silver service trays and cutlery. Portraits and chandeliers, all things to replicate the look of a Victorian parlour.
This question helps the students to broaden their knowledge of different medias, how to recognise them and how they can be applied .
4. List the things you can see in the artwork. For example: people, buildings, animals, etc. What are they doing? What is their story?
Various animals are laid out on a variety of silver trays and platters. Some of the animals are clearly to be eaten and others seem to have the roles of serving. Each animal on the platters, displayed almost as they were born, perfect fur so young. Calves, piglets, lambs, does and baby birds. Adorned and embellished with diamantes and pearls. The victims of a feast.
“For most people diamonds, gold and other jewellery materials are considered precious. To me the life of the animal is far more precious, so I adorn them with the conventionally precious to show the value life holds. I am vegan and all animals I use have died of natural causes. ” – Julia DeVille – : http://au.blouinartinfo.com/news/story/1009788/interview-julia-deville-and-the-art-of-death#sthash.OQfPGtCi.dpuf
The definition of Degustation is ‘the action or an instance of tasting especially in a series of small portions’, which I think not only describe the culinary act that is about to take place but is the perfect description of this piece. It’s made up of so many different elements, each with their own individual “taste”
There is a variety of cutlery laid out, each covered with red glitter as blood, finding beauty even within the gore. A large rooster perches on top of a tray almost ready to lift the lid. Two small birds hold a tray lid up in mid-flight. Some of the animals on the silver trays actually have small name plaques attached to them such as “Silence” and “Bambi” (see below). Again, allowing the viewing to relate it back to perhaps their own pets names, or animals that they love.
I think this question is a great way of getting a student to really pay attention to detail. Notably with a painting or photo, concentrating on what’s in the foreground, background etc. It encourages them to look at the clues and build their own assumptions/ interpretations.
Photo by Kelly White
Photo by Kelly White
Photo by Kelly White
Photo by: Kelly White
Photo by Kelly White
5. How have the art elements been applied in this artwork? Comment on at least two: colour, tone, texture, shape , form or line.
The form in which the animals, is so delicate, contrived, thought out. They’re made to look as though they are merely sleeping, or poised in thought. Their poses adding to their already obvious vulnerability.
The darkness of the wall paper and surrounding portraits contrasted with the brightness of the spotlights making the colours so vivid on each of the tables, the glint of the knife as it catches the light, creates a sense of impending doom. These poor innocent creatures, have met their fate.
These quesitons help to teach the student to apply the knowledge that already have and how to use that within critical analysis, which then furthers their understanding.
6 . How have the art principles been applied to this artwork? Comment on at least two. Composition, contrast, emphasis, unity, balance, movement, rhythm or pattern.
There are many parts of the piece that have been frozen in movement. There are birds held in mid-flight holding up the tray covers, revealing the animal underneath. A frozen moment in time, just like death. In some of the cases, the animals eyes are open. You could question if the perhaps some of them are meant to look alive. (see below)
Photo by Kelly White
Photo by Kelly White – the “lamb before the slaughter” perhaps..
Photo by Kelly White
Photo by Kelly White
There’s an obvious contrast between life and death. For example, the skeleton of a bird preying on a silver bowl of mice. The animals that are working as the wait staff, versus those they present on a platter. That power play between the two is what the whole piece is based upon.
These questions help to teach the student to apply the knowledge that already have and how to use that within critical analysis, which then furthers their understanding.
7. What is the overall mood or emotional intent of the artwork? How does it make you feel? what has the artist done to make the viewer feel like this?
Initially, when you enter the room, through the dark, cobwebby curtain, you’re stifled by the stillness of the air. It’s dark wallpaper and dark portraits create a presence of impending doom . You feel as though you’re trespassing, encroaching on a feast that is about to occur. It felt so sinister when I entered, and saw al the animals placed on silver dining trays and in saucepans and the like, but as I moved around and looked at all the animals, there was a beauty about it. As you got closer to the animals you could see they were embellished with diamantes and pearls, it encouraged you to look closer. I found myself circling the room for a good 20 minutes, constantly noticing something new each time. After a while, I started to like the darkness and feelings that the room created. My view changed from one of shock and disgust to comfort in the almost… worship/appreciation of the beauty of the animal forms. The use of lighting, creating the dark spaces with the dark portraits and wallpaper really helps to set the tone of the piece.
This helps the student to analyse how mood can be applied to a piece, perhaps expanding their own knowledge on how this can be achieved.
8. Does this artwork refer to or remind you of any other artworks, art movements or artists? Has the artist appropriated anything from another source? What other artists of art movements might have inspired the artist? Does it remind you of anything else?
DeVille, much like Damien Hirst plays with the same connotations of death. Hirst brings to attention the denial of death that permeates our culture. They both like to remind their audiences of how fragile life is and how in modern times, it gets forgotten. The disposable society that we live in. There is morbid beauty about death that in so many ways, is overlooked in today’s society. Both of them, use the preservation of animals to get their message across.
I think being able to compared different artists is really important. It not only furthers a students understanding of a concept but also is a way of confirming their understanding, by encouraging them to find similarities and consistencies.
9.Do some research about the artist to see what else you can learn about their art practice. Is this different to other work they have made or the same? Try to describe the difference?
Julia deVille is highly influenced by the Memento Mori era of the 16th-18th Centuries, the Victorian period, nature, life, death and most importantly the humane and kind treatment of all living things. A memento mori is symbolic reminder for the inevitability of death. Specialising in both jewellery and taxidermy, the scale of the installation is deVille’s biggest work to date. She finds beauty in the macabre of death. She uses symbols of death to highlight how fragile and significant life is. The pieces she makes have a real delicacy about them, like the concept they are trying to convey. She encourages the viewer to see beauty in the macabre of death, in both her taxidermy and jewellery. Obviously her jewellery works on a much smaller scale but still conveys the same message.
This question encourages the student to build on their artist knowledge. Whether you like an artist or not, it’s always important to know about them. The more you know the more techniques and concepts you have to pull from. It’s a great way to see how an artists work has developed and to be able to see a change or similarity.
10. What issues, ideas or themes do you think the artist might be trying to raise in the artwork? What might the artist’s point of view be? What makes you think that? Do you have an opinion about it?
“The nature of our culture is to obsess over planning the future, however in doing so, we forget to enjoy the present,” – Julia deVille
“As a society we spend most of our time thinking about the past or projecting into the future. The only moment that actually holds any value is this moment. I use symbols of mortality in my work as an anchor into the present, a reminder of the importance of life.” Julia deVille
I love the adverse reaction this piece creates. I think a vegetarian/ vegan on first view of this room would be mortified, but as deVille is a vegan herself, it’s the focus of the beauty of the animals that is the focus and the value their life holds. Once you look deeper in to the meanings behind the concept, it’s almost warming and sad. I love pieces that create reactions like this.
I think it’s a fantastic way of highlighting to people about how disposable such creatures are to the world, especially when laid along side e.g the sauce pan with the cat, along side a family pet. What makes the value of one animals life any different to another? No one takes the time to visualise the beauty in death or the significance Having a frozen moment in time, which allows you to observe the beauty of the fragility of youth and life. It’s not something to be squandered. The craftmanship that goes in to deVille’s work fascinates me. The animals all died of natural causes and this piece almost makes sure that their life didn’t go to waste. They are a thing of beauty and should be respected. I really love what deVille is about, and she’s definitely going to be an artist I keep my eye on in the future.
I think getting the student to reflect on their own findings and interpretations is really important, notably within the art world. It’s important for a student to develop confidence within their own voice. They’re totally allowed to have an opinion and I feel it empowers them to give them the opportunity to do so.
11. Write a bibliography.
“High Art Lite” By Julian Stallabrass
“Interview with Julia deVille” by Nicholas Forest
A bibliography is a great way of being able to see how much effort the student has gone to and insightful to see what resources they have pulled from.