Giovanni Battista Piranesi and Marshall Arisman

Giovanni Battista Piranesi

We were shown a brief overview of the work done by Piranesi, but first I’ll go into a little bit of background information about who he was.

He was an Italian artist from the mid-1700s who was best known for his unique etchings of Rome and his fictitious “prison” environments. Most of his work stemmed from an architectural background, since his father had been a stonemason and uncle was an esteem architect in his own right. His work is absolutely surreal and stunning, since it contains so much detail beyond what was the norm in Piranesi’s day. Many archaeologists appreciate his work even more, given the amount of notes and annotations he included; a lot of his work included very precise observations important in reconstructing 18th century Rome.

I’d never heard of Piranesi previously, however I’m extremely happy to look into him now; his 16-piece “Imaginary Prison” series is exceptional and are attributed to something more akin to dreams/nightmares than the real world. A lot of professionals believe he was unhinged, to put it nicely, but it’s not uncommon for forward-thinking artists to be thought mad in their time and beyond. I can just see why they would think so, looking at the imagery included in the prison etchings.

Marshall Arisman

Meanwhile, Arisman seems like he’s also manic in his own way. His artwork is usually colourful and vivid, where his work centralises on the themes of violence and predation (animals preying on other animals). It’s no real surprise that people like Goya and Lucian Freud have been cited as his influences. He also says a huge part of his artistic life is owed to his grandmother’s influence – she was a medium, Spiritualist minister, and also an artist. From this, he dived into the spiritual worked and says he “learned to stand in the space between angels and demons.”

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