The Madonna of Evolution (Simian Vanitas)

On May 8, 2013, in Paintings, by Dire Wolf

Madonna of Evolution (Simian Vanitas) by Chris Shaw, 2013

The Madonna of Evolution (Simian Vanitas)
60″w x 84″h
Acrylic on Canvas
2013

Living in the modern world means accepting that occasionally we need to evolve some of our concepts about how things work, we live in an age of great discovery and innovation. Long ago when it was “discovered” that the Earth is not a flat plane centered in the middle of the Universe, after some controversy, the new model was accepted. Discovery of gravity, the elements, and relativity (among others) were pivotal moments in the understanding of our world and brought about great change. While the rift between science and religion isn’t as wide as it was, some widely accepted scientific facts continue to be deeply controversial.

The Madonna of Evolution Layout

The subject behind this painting is Darwin’s Evolution. For me, its a compelling fact of nature and one without any personal spiritual debate. I believe in fossils and don’t have a problem with monkeys. The theory is elegant and a great subject for a modern icon.

I bluntly appropriated the image from Ambrogio de Predis’, “Girl with Cherries”, a 15th c. Italian painting with a beautiful triangular composition. The triangle now represents evolution in the sense that triangles are directional and have an apex. To adapt the original, I replaced the cherries with a human skull and added an ape’s skull in the manner of a classic vanitas portrait. In a vanitas, the subject often holds a skull as a symbol of contemplation of one’s existence and the fleeting nature of life. As a large painting and center of a loose triptych, the perspective was also adjusted so the subject looks across to the Madonna of the Microscope and down to the viewer.

Within the image I included helixes as a reference to DNA, some easier to spot than others. The color DNA of the piece is created from 4 main color components, made from carbon, nickel, chrome, and titanium pigments. Liberal use of metallic golds, silvers and deep glazing creates deep, color changing hues enhanced by a matte background.

Chris Shaw
April 2013

The Madonna of Evolution and other work by Chris Shaw, cur­rently on exhibit at The San Fran­cisco Museum of Mod­ern Art — Caffe Museo, until June 2013. 151 Third St., San Fran­cisco, Ca. Open every­day except Wednes­days. Cafe exhibit is free.

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Chris Shaw at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

On April 18, 2013, in Events, by Dire Wolf

Chris Shaw
New paintings: The Madonnas of Science, plus selected other work.

Currently on exhibit at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art РCaff̬ Museo
Until June.
This is a cafe exhibit, admission is free!

SFMoMA
151 Third Street (between Mission + Howard)
San Francisco, California

Open daily (except Wednesdays): 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Open late on Thursdays: until 9:00 p.m.

SFMOMA.org

Madonna of the Particle by Chris Shaw, 2013

Madonna of the Particle
36″ x 48″
Acrylic on Canvas
2013

 

Dark Matter by Chris Shaw, 2013

Madonna of Dark Matter
36″ x 48″
Acrylic on Canvas
2013

 

Madonna of the Squid by Chris Shaw, 2013

Madonna of the Squid
36″ x 48″
Acrylic on Canvas
2013

 

Madonna Science 2 by Chris Shaw

Madonna of the Magnet by Chris Shaw, 2013

Madonna of the Magnet
60″ x 84″
Acrylic on Canvas
2013

 

Madonna of Evolution (Simian Vanitas) by Chris Shaw, 2013

Madonna of Evolution (Simian Vanitas)
60″ x 84″
Acrylic on Canvas
2013

 

Madonna of the Microscope by Chris Shaw, 2013

Madonna of the Microscope
60″ x 84″
Acrylic on Canvas
2013

 

Madonna Science 1 by Chris Shaw

Madonna of the 40oz. by Chris Shaw, 2010

Madonna of the 40oz.
36″ x 48″
Acrylic & Currency on Canvas
2010

 

Madonna Kalashnikov by Chris Shaw, 2012

Madonna Kalashnikov
30″x40″
Acrylic on Canvas
2012

 

Madonna of the Suicide Vest by Chris Shaw, 2012

Madonna of the Suicide Vest
36″ x 48″
Acrylic on Canvas
2012

Madonna of the Particle

Madonna of the Particle sketches - Chris Shaw, 2013

This painting is inspired by the recent scientific confirmation of the Higgs-Boson “GOD” particle, the supposed sub-atomic building block that gives all matter mass. The name itself is enough to warrant the creation of a Modern Icon. In this piece, I created a geometric foundation using shapes, curves, and ratios found in nature, and fit the figure into it. The icon is also based on the types of geometry found in sub atomic particle collisions, it will fit snugly into the actual image of a particle collision which created a “God” particle. While the painting is not intended as a black-light piece, it does take full advantage of the fluorescent spectrum, metallic colors, and unveils phosphorescent effects in total darkness.

 

Artist Statement

I’m not sure exactly where my fascination with Madonnas was born, but I’ve loved Icons of all kinds for a very long time.

As an artist I’m intrigued with the the way icons present their ideas – an easily understood, blunt central image juxtaposed with deep symbolism and cryptic geometric foundations. Icons also have a reason for existing, they are conveyers of information.

The modern icons I create also convey information, it could be a scientific concept, a political statement, or a pop-culture reference. Regardless, each icon has a story and a reason for existing.

In this body of work I use the Madonna as the vehicle to literally carry the ideas I’ve chosen to portray. The titles are straight forward. However, underlying and obfuscated by the image is a rigid geometric base, over which the Madonna icon is constructed. The geometry within this base is a riddle to decipher as are many of the symbols within.

I’ve mainly learned about hidden geometry and symbolism in art by deconstructing an artworks composition, then researching what I find, something I like to do for fun. Golden ratios, spirals, and fibonacci sequences are easily found in many types of art, but especially deeply woven into icons. How and why this geometric language was used fascinates me, it ultimately led to creating my own icons with their own meanings.

Orthodox icons are a favorite style to appropriate. Real ones can often be quite abstract as the image becomes subservient to the geometry used in the composition, I try to emulate this ideal. The “Madonna of the Particle” and the “Madonna of Dark Matter” both concern the recently discovered Higgs-Boson particle. The geometric base used within each image contains natural ratios and curves that reference the sub-atomic particle collisions which led to the “God Particle’s” discovery.

Western icons, in particular Italian Madonnas, are another deep influence in my work. In the large triptych panels I’ve referenced and riffed on the artwork of Bellini, Botticelli and Ambrogio de Predis as base foundations for the images. Predis’ “Girl with Cherries” (1495) has transformed into the “Madonna of Evolution” now incorporating a both human and ape skull with repeating helix motifs as both a “vanitas” portrait and an icon. The “Madonna of the Magnet” reconfigures Bellini’s “Madonna and Child” (1480) into an icon devoted to my love of magnets. It is painted with iron and copper based pigments and composed using the sweeping curves found in magnetic flux.

Each painting communicates its secrets in various ways.

Chris Shaw
April, 2013

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Madonna of Dark Matter

On April 28, 2013, in Art, by Dire Wolf

Madonna of Dark Matter
36″ x 48″
Acrylic on Canvas
2013

This painting explores the concept of Dark Matter. Dark Matter (and Dark Energy) are yet unproven scientific theories which help explain the 80% of our universe which we cannot see. While Dark Matter and Dark Energy are invisible to us, we can detect their existence from the effects of their gravity.  I find the various theories about Dark Matter interesting and sometimes ridiculous.  The reality is that nobody knows what it is.

I like to think that whatever Dark Matter is, its heavy.  It could also exist in another dimension – hidden in the folds of our “normal” space/time.  It probably follows the same general “rules” which other matter does,  but we should be careful not to assume too much.

With these notions in mind I created this Madonna icon with deep, draping folds which cradle a heavy object.  The object is my representation of Dark Matter as a particle, modeled on an armillary.  Armillary spheres were used in antiquity to model the heavens and the movements of planets, constellations, etc.  They were fantastic pieces of technology for their time, however, as geo-centric models they created a reality based on belief, not fact.  Galileo’s story comes to mind.

I use the armillary as a cautionary metaphor to remind us that theories often describe ourselves more than reality.

The painting itself is very dark, created with deep glazed hues of metallic blue contrasted with copper, silver, 24k gold, and black metal flake.  The use of metallic colors and under-bases means that this painting changes depending on the angle at which its viewed. The smooth glazing of the figure is further accentuated by a richly textured background.

This painting’s blue color is about the exact opposite of the fluorescent orange hues used in the Madonna of the Particle.  However, the sister-paintings share the same common geometry, ratios, and curves found in sub-atomic particle collisions as well as our larger universe.

Chris Shaw
April 2013

The Madonna of Dark Matter and other work by Chris Shaw, currently on exhibit at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art – Caffe Museo, until June 2013.  151 Third St., San Francisco, Ca.  Open everyday except Wednesdays.  Cafe exhibit is free.

Dark Matter by Chris Shaw, 2013

Chris Shaw Dark Matter layout

Armillary Sphere

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