Australian Painter Garry Shead Finds Divine Inspiration in Dante

“Gregorian chants play softly and a curl of incense drifts high into the air at Garry Shead’s studio in Bundeena on the coast of the Royal National Park.

“For almost five months, Shead, one of Australia’s best-known figurative painters, has been grappling with a new series based on Dante Alighieri’s poem, The Divine Comedy. Invoking the spirit of the 700-year-old poet has been “terribly difficult”. He grimaces as he recalls stepping up to the blank canvas every morning, regardless of whether he felt like it or not.” […]    –Ali Gripper, The Sydney Morning Herald, September 12, 2014

 

“Wandering from the Straight Path of Clarity,” review of “The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists”

“You may feel, at times, as if you’ve been handed a map, and then told that the map may or may not be accurate, may or may not relate to anything in the real world, may or may not be entirely a fiction, or a random design concocted by some clever trickster to mislead you. That is how the title of a new show at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art — ‘The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists’ — relates to the work on view, by more than 40 artists from 18 African countries.

“The exhibition is shoehorned into spaces not quite big enough for anything to breathe comfortably, filling temporary galleries, stairwells and passage spaces on four floors of the mostly subterranean museum. The current exhibition, curated by Simon Njami, is slightly smaller than the original Dante exhibition he presented in Frankfurt last spring, but it still sprawls, both in its physical layout (the route through its various rooms requires careful navigation) and intellectually.

“Consider one of the best works in the show, a large-scale drawing by Julie Mehretu, in which a finely etched suggestion of architectural facades is overlaid with a storm of delicate lines, smudges and erasures. In the catalogue, published in conjunction with the Frankfurt display, her work is listed as belonging to the ‘Purgatory’ part of the presentation; in Washington, it is in the ‘Inferno’ room. It isn’t the only work to migrate from one celestial realm to another, and those migrations suggest that the basic template borrowed from Dante is not to be taken too seriously.” […]    –Phillip Kennicott, The Washington Post, April 17, 2015

See also our post on the first iteration of Njami’s exhibition, featured at the Savannah College of Art and Design’s museum.

Le LA du Monde a film directed by Ghislaine Avan

“Tap-dancer, choreographer, and video artist, Ghislaine Avan has been working since 2006 to achieve a choreographic and transmedia work inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy.

“The diptych includes a choreographic ensemble of 10 pieces entitled Seuil (Threshold), and a film entitled Le LA du Monde, the result of filming, since 2006, people around the world, from all backgrounds, nationalities and in all languages, reading an excerpt from Dante’s poem.”

Of the project’s goals, the artist lists the following:

  • “Celebrating on September 14, 2021, the 700th Anniversary of Dante’s death.
  • “Realizing/Creating a worldwide installation entitled Divine Babel: the simultaneous screening of the film Le LA du Monde with the 100 cantos of the Comedy projected on 100 screens, located in 100 different places around the world.
  • “Representing all continents to make this Babel truly divine.”

View the English trailer for “Le LA du Monde” on YouTube.

Contributed by Ghislaine Avanghi

Made Goods Dante Buffet

“Aged leather and rounded edges are the hallmarks of our Dante collection, which adds an Art Moderne touch to any space. Metal legs and hardware finish off its classic, ’30s machine-age look. Slight differences in color and texture are characteristics of this collection’s aged leather.

“**Natural variations in this material may occur. Slight differences in color and texture are characteristics of this collection’s aged full-grain leather. This durable, high quality leather may show inherent markings, distressed appearance, and variations in pattern.**

“Finish: Aged Camel Full-Grain Leather (Shown), Storm Full-Grain Leather”    –Made Goods, Candelabra Inc., July 26, 2019

Guy Denning’s Oil Painting Series on the Commedia

Guy Denning is an artist based out of Finistere, France since 2007. Beginning in 2011, he created a three part series of oil paintings based on Dante’s Divine Comedy. The image above is a painting called “ch’io ‘l vidi uomo di sangue e di crucci” from his first series, ‘Inferno‘ (2011).

“In 2011 he presented ‘Inferno’, the first part of his three-part series of oil paintings on Dante’s Commedia in Bologna; this was his first exhibition in Italy and the complete exhibition sold out.
In 2011, he presented the second part of the series in New York City for the exhibition ‘Purgatorio’. Originally drawing inspiration from Dante’s writings, his intention was not to recreate the poem in a visual or literal sense, but instead let the ‘Purgatorio’ series act as a framework for his own personal interpretation of the world following 9/11. As with the writing of Shakespeare, Denning finds a perpetual relevance in Dante’s work where the specifics of name, situation and place are easily adapted to the modern world; as if time moves on but the problems of humanity remain essentially the same. The events of September 11th and the emotional toll it took on the US identity was a critical element to this body of work. Poignantly enough, this exhibition was held in a ‘pop-up’ location just blocks from Ground Zero and on the 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.” [. . .]    —Widewalls Magazine, 2017

On exhibition set- “Inferno”

“This was the first part of my paintings based on Dante’s Divine Comedy. Inferno was exhibited at my first solo exhibition in Italy at MAGI’900 Museo, Bologna.”     –Guy Denning, on his site, January 19, 2017

On exhibition set- “Purgatorio”

“This was the second part of my paintings based on Dante’s Divine Comedy. Purgatorio was exhibited in Manhattan at a pop-up gallery space by Brooklynite Gallery on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.”    –Guy Denning, on his site, January 30, 2017.

The image above to the right is a painting called “the cardinal virtue of media temperance” from the ‘Purgatorio‘ exhibition.

On exhibition set- “Paradiso”

“This was the third part of my paintings based on Dante’s Divine Comedy. Paradiso was exhibited at Signal Gallery in London.”    –Guy Denning, on his site, January 27, 2017.

The image below is a painting called “Looking for Beatrice” from the ‘Paradiso‘ exhibiton.

To view Denning’s full list of exhibitions, check out his website here

Luke Chueh’s Inferno (2009)

“The Inferno‘s artistic legacy is huge; Botticelli, Doré, Dali, Rauschenberg, and countless lesser known artists have created works inspired by the poem. It has inspired a movie (acted out by paper puppets) and even became a video game. Most artists seem to stay true to the poem, focusing on ‘the poets’ Dante, his guide Virgil, and Inferno‘s diverse cast of demons and damned. Rauschenberg approached Inferno by creating a painting for each of the 36 cantos. As for me, I’ve decided to remove Dante and Virgil, and instead create a painting for each ring of hell, with the exception of Rings Seven (a triptych – 3 paintings) and Eight (a deciptych – 10 paintings). I wanted to compose each painting in a way that illustrates what a ‘normal day in hell’ would be like. In order for me to accomplish this, I had to take some personal liberties with certain details within the Inferno, but I did my best to stay as true to the text as I could.

“Inferno was hosted by Gallery 1988, and opened on September 9th, 2009 (9/9/9). If you’re interested in any of these paintings, please contact Gallery 1988 for availability.” [. . .]    —Luke Chueh on his work, August, 2009.

Pictured above is Chueh’s map of his Inferno.

You can check out the full series of artwork and more of Chueh’s work on his website.

Donald Newman Illustrations of The Inferno (2004)

Donald Newman is an artist who works in oil, watercolor, sculpture, and photography. He created a series of illustrations depicting the 34 cantos of the Inferno, with the above illustrations representing Canto 5 and Canto 19.

You can check out the full series and Newman’s other works on his website.

Inferno by Franz von Stuck (1908)

Inferno. Franz von Stuck (1908)
Oil on canvas.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY

“This painting’s title refers to Dante Alighieri’s medieval epic of a journey through hell. Although Stuck employed traditional symbols of the underworld—a snake, a demon, and a flaming pit—the dissonant colors and stylized, exaggerated poses are strikingly modern. He designed the complementary frame. Stuck’s imagery was likely inspired by Auguste Rodin’s The Gates of Hell, particularly the figure of The Thinker (see related works nearby). When Inferno debuted in an exhibition of contemporary German art at The Met in 1909, critics praised its ‘sovereign brutality.’ The picture bolstered Stuck’s reputation as a visionary artist unafraid to explore the dark side of the psyche.”    —The Met on Franz von Stuck’s Inferno.

To see the artwork that von Stuck was influenced by with this piece, check out The Met’s website.

The Spirit of Peace by Jasper Frances Cropsey (1851)

The Spirit of Peace. Jasper Francis Cropsey (1851)
Oil on canvas
Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia, PA

“This romantic and imaginary landscape is filled with palm trees, temples, tombs, ruins of previous civilizations, and an array of active figures. The benefits of peace are evident in the tranquil integration of philosophy, the exchange of knowledge, the visible signs of trade and commerce, and the arts of dance, music, and representation. Cropsey emphasized that this invented view of the ancient world expressed his belief that Christianity was historically inevitable. The shepherd with his goats in the lower left is a direct reference to Christ guarding his flock while the lion, boy, and lamb carved on the monument on the round temple allude to the Old Testament prophecy that the kingdom of peace, brought into being by the Messiah, would be a place of ‘no violence or destruction in God’s creation, even in the animal kingdom. Natural enemies will no longer be enemies. The food chain will be unchained.’ (Isaiah 11:6)” [. . .]    —Woodmere Art Museum on The Spirit of Peace, 2018.

The second picture is The Spirit of Peace on display at the Woodmere Art Museum, taken by an anonymous contributor.

New England Winter Hell

new-england-circles-of-winter-hell-2016This cartoon by Beth Wolfensberger Singer summarizes the struggles of New Englanders during the winter season.

“Beth Wolfensberger Singer is a Boston-based artist. Her comics appear on her blog, ambitionectomy.tumblr.com.” — Singer, Boston Globe, December 16, 2016