Samantha Thole 
14/09/2015 Bruised Apple, digital image
bruised apple 
digital image, 2015 

the Amazons the negative side of the civilized spectrum 

Classical art and artifacts have traditionally served as paradigms of Western European taste and ethics. They were not only vehicles of communication in their own time but continued to have a impact for centuries after and still have the power to shape our view of the past and relate to the future. 
The Graeco society was more sexually polarized and repressive of women then any other culture in Western history. [1] Female exclusion from public and political life, legal restrictions upon their conduct and confinement to the home for the upper classes were cultivated through normative imagery. Visual representation of women in both the domestic as the mythical realm served as an instrument to implement the ideals of proper female behavior. 
The legend of the Amazons tells of a tribe of female warriors who lived by hunting and delighted in war. Tradition located their home vaguely at the outer reaches of the ancient Greek known world. There they were said to live apart from men and would only come in to contact with males through combat or for the purpose of recreation. 
This all-female legionary appearing in scenes of conflict were a popular theme within antiquity. Depicted battles between the victorious Greek hero’s and the Amazons, the Amazonomachy, adorned amongst others vases, wall paintings and elaborate friezes. The images symbolized the triumph of the values of civilization over barbarism. 
Within the Classical world, the legend of the Amazons and the retellings of their decline through Greek male supremacy placed feminine characteristics and their possible dominance to the negative side of the spectrum of civilization. 
‘Reading Greek Vases' (Steiner, Cambridge University Press, 2007) 
‘The Reign of the Phallus‬: Sexual Politics in Ancient Athens’‬ (Keuls, University of California Press‬, 1993) 
image 'The Capitoline, wounded Amazon' (digitally adapted, original Thole/Van Veen, 2014) 
'Divesting the Female Breast' by Beth Cohen 
spread from 'Naked Truths' (Koloski-Ostrow/ Lyons, Routledge, 1997) 

Classical Polychrome our past is not in black and white, but in full colour 

The white marble remains of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture and architecture has become an iconic marker for Classical Antiquity as a whole. This stone and its (non-) colour have come to signify a noble European heritage as Western ideals of the highest order – aesthetical, philosophical and ideological- have been grafted upon them. 
When the ‘rinascita’ (it. rebirth) of the Graeco-Roman arts began in the 1200-hundreds, the passing of the centuries had left the ancient surfaces bare. But the past was not in black and white; it had been in full colour. Throughout history it has been difficult to challenge the fundamentally received truth of a monochrome white ancestry.  
The French “arm chair” archaeologist cum architectural theorist, art historian and antiquarian Antoine-Chrysosthome Quatremère de Quincy was a die-hard neo-classicist. But he nonetheless lit the fuse on the exuberantly colourful nature of our solemn heritage with his book ‘Le Jupiter Olympien’ in 1814. This works subtitle deserves to be given: ‘or the art of sculpture with an explanatory analysis of sculpture in bronze and a historical review of Greek and Roman sculpture in gold and ivory, including reconstructions of the most important monuments of this type’. 
image 'The Lansdowne, wounded Amazon' (digitally adapted, original Thole/Van Veen, 2014) 
'Divesting the Female Breast' by Beth Cohen 
spread from 'Naked Truths' (Koloski-Ostrow/ Lyons, Routledge, 1997) 

Medieval Decoration non- figurative motives as portals to the next world 

The restricted set of symbols applied on medieval utensils was not a passive element - added to make an object more attractive-, but the patterns are a way of magical picture writing.The non-figurative motives were an attempt to control prosperity and misfortune, good an evil, life and death. These images did not function as abstract metaphors, but were implemented as direct tools to manipulate the invisible realm that was deemed connected to the visible world. This turns decorated object in to portals, simultaneously influencing a physical reality and an ephemeral plane. 
Christianity dominated this period in Europe and there were strict rules that governed the seemingly ineradicable pagan customs. The usage of symbols would have been quickly identified as witchcraft, but as decoration on every day items they proved an inconspicuous way to participate in magical tradition. 
Within the medieval perception there existed a connection between sensory and non-sensory perception of reality. This made it possible to influence invisible and intangible phenomena by means of the visible. Therefore everything perceptible acquired both a symbolic and a functional significance. This also applied to implements and their decoration.” 
Garthoff-Zwaan, Reupol, Kuin, 1988, Communcerende Vaten: beeldtaal van slipversiering op laat-middeleeuws aardewerk in de Nederlanden (1st edition). Rotterdam, Boymans- Van Beuningen 
“ Each thing would be absurd if it’s meaning was limited to its immediate function and form; that all things may reach a long way in to the next world.” 
Huizinga, Herfsttij der Middeleeuwen. 1919 
Fertility Choker 
printed and scanned digital photograph (sellotape, markers and the artist), 2015 
Fertility Symbols 
The most reoccurring signs in late medieval picture writing are used to increase fertility. The associated images consist of the various positionings of two half circles.  
These compositions reflect the heavens/ earth, moon/ sun, and female/ male.  
(fig. a) 
Regeneration Symbols 
Another dominant theme in medieval imagery is the perpetuation of life. The natural world has a strong influence on the motives, as we see in the ‘three sprout' and its more elaborate version called the ‘three of life’.  
The ‘vortical wheel’ is a cosmological pictorial distillation of the sun. The infamous swastika is a variation on this theme.  
Originating from the Germanic rune-alphabet is the “S” shape/ odal-rune, associated with heritage, place of birth and family property. (fig. b) 
Defense Symbolism 
We see the diagonal grid applied to ward of evil, or even flies. from a plate (fig. f), as if it is graphical “fencing” the object.  
Sun (fig. g) and Moon (fig. h) imagery is also commonly applied, as the strong powers attributed to these two influential heavenly bodies is used to protect from evil. 

Thou. Shall. Not. Pass. Buddhist Temple Guardians 

Temple Guardian, Japan, 1203 
Nara, Tōdaiji-temple 
Everything in the physical presence of a temple guardian is designed to ward off evil. Placed on both sides of a Buddhist temple gate, the wooden guards are there to scare unwanted energies away from the sanctuary. Befitting their role as protectors, they are usually depicted as ferocious figures with emphasized musculature and facial expressions. The strong bodies of the guardians are sculpted with tightened muscles and placed in bold frozen gestures that seem infused with repressed movement (as if they are ready to discharge at any moment).  
The watchmen are made to protect the temple from all threats. Anything that can harm something or someone inside the sacred place is stopped at the gate by these fierce custodians and is not allowed to pass. 
Temple guards always come in pairs. One of the sculptures has his mouth open, as the other keeps his jaws firmly together.  
The open mouthed guardian is made to pronounce the sound “a” and is called Agyō. The other guard is named Ungyō, after the “un” sound he produces. These sounds are the first and the last syllables of the ancient Sanskrit Siddham. Between each other, the set of wardens represent all cosmic sounds and stand for every form of humanly imaginable (and unimaginable) wisdom and compassion. 
A person that passes trough a guarded gate is symbolically enlightened with these powers. 
Temple Guardian, Japan, 1203 
Nara, Tōdaiji-temple 
digital photo series 
temporary tattoo, the artist (2015) 
Temple Guardians, c.1300-1400, Japan (Yokota, Iwayaji-temple) © Rijksmuseum 
digital photo series 
temporary tattoo, the artist (2015) 
Temple Guardians, c.1300-1400, Japan (Yokota, Iwayaji-temple) © Rijksmuseum 
Thou.Shall.Not.Pass. (2015) 
behind-the-scenes/ it’s a wrap, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam 
Thou.Shall.Not.Pass. (2015) 
Black -figure, Red-figure 
digital image, 2015 
The striking fact about Athenian pottery (480–323 B.C) is that it is dominated by the human (and divine) figure. 
‘Black- figure’ and ‘Red- figure’ mean exactly that; 
everything other then the human figure, is secondary. 
Our site uses cookies. For more information, see our cookie policy. Accept cookies and close
Reject cookies Manage settings