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Same Old, Same New

Aliki Braine

Wednesday 17th April 2019


You might think it is easy to spot the difference between contemporary art and historical art, but let’s consider what they have in common. Can old masters help us understand works such as ‘The Pile of Bricks’ and ‘The Unmade Bed’? This lecture explores whether the old masters can help us understand modern works and whether artists’ intentions and strategies have really changed across the centuries.

Aliki Braine studied at The Ruskin School of Fine Art, Oxford, the Slade School of Fine Art and the Courtauld Institute where she was awarded a distinction for her Masters in 17th Century painting. She is a regular freelance lecturer for many galleries and collections in London, an associate lecturer for the University of the Arts, London and teaches courses on the Slate School Summer Programme. She also regularly exhibits her photographic work internationally.


Review of "Same Old, Same New" by Ann Marriott

I approach this review with hesitation because this was a good lecture but difficult. I have absorbed odd parts of it.

The lecture started with a 17th century painting showing a silver dish reflecting a beaker of water and a  rose both of which it supported. This painting symbolically represented the Virgin Mary. The lecturer linked it to a modern work of art: a glass shelf bearing a glass of water and a sheet of paper with writing. This symbolically represented an oak tree.

Artists have considered things which are generally found distasteful. From  the 17th century  a painting of a man’s backside with flatterers moving up his bottom. This was linked with the famous Marcel Duchamp urinal.

Artists have brought unconsidered things into view so that they must be considered. From the 17th century we saw a Durer etching where on a single sheet he had put a self portrait and four crumpled pillows. The lecturer compared this to Tracy Emin’s well known unmade bed.

There was a modern photograph, the scene for which had been set to echo a 17th century painting. It showed a trashed room with a slashed mattress on the diagonal. The painting had a red bed on a diagonal.

The lecturer showed us a close- up of the paint on Velazquez’ Philip IV.  It was quite like a Jackson Pollock painting. Pollock was trying to paint more honestly without creating illusions. All paintings are really just paint on canvas. Whatever we see depicted is an illusion.

The lecturer dealt ably with a question on the infamous pile of bricks. She said anything was art if the artist said it was art and displayed it in a gallery. The artist’s recognition of subject is key.  I think she had more to say on this but I was unable to grasp it.