One child Is One Too Many, Thomas Knauer 2017, 38 X 38 inches
Knauer T 2019, Why We Quilt, Storey Publishing, USA, pp x-xi
Cot size quilt in coloured patterned and plain fabrics, featuring a traditional ‘Sunbonnet Sue‘ design which has been altered to add the white silhouette of a gun.
<http://www.getty.edu/education/teachers/building_lessons/formal_analysis.html> Viewed 5 September 2020 – This link is a refresher to the formal elements that I will use as structure for my discussion of why this is a good painting.
Medium and size: Work is rendered in fabric and thread, as for a traditional quilt and is of a size that could have been used in a cot or for a child.
Colour: the colours used are similar to the pastel colours often used in a traditional cot quilt but they are slightly more intense and the background yellow is quite a sickly biological green yellow rather than lemon yellow, which introduces the work as mildly unsettling even at first glance.
Line: Fifteen figures appear to move across the quilt, initially read from left to right but this is then disrupted by the alternating direction of the figures, the selection of a different background for two of the figures and the absence of a figure at all in the bottom right corner. In this way the traditional geometry and repetition of a quilt is further subverted but still retains neat regimented arrangement which belies the horror and chaos of the content being suggested.
Atmospheric elements (movement light space): Neat regimented arrangement belies the horror and chaos of what is being represented
Shape and form: The soft curves and simple shapes of the figures suggest childhood innocence and the layering of patterned and plain fabrics give further soft form to the figures. The machine gun is inserted into this as a white silhouette with sharp edges and no suggestion of three dimensional form. This serves to highlight the contrast between the child like figure and the straight edges of the gun. A white silhouette suggests absence to me and is perhaps indicating that it needs to be removed from the image.
The final empty yellow block also reinforces the idea of absence going forward into the future, but in this case may be commenting of the absence of the child and loss of childhood.
Space/picture plane: All figures are presented on the one picture plane, but have space around them. Isolated figures repeated across the work, referencing repeated but separate events.
Texture: Texture is visible as a soft work due to the medium and further relief is developed by the use of quilting lines. In this case the lines encase each figure in its own cage like structure best seen on the darker background. It is a tight and somewhat hard looking quilting pattern that removes some of the traditional quilt softness and is a bit reminiscent of a target centered on the child figure.
Whilst at first glance this looks like a quilt made for a child, on closer inspection it reveals itself to be unsettling but effective comment on the loss of children in the US to gun violence and gun accidents. It encourages the viewer to engage, to look deeper and most importantly to feel, and this is why I think this is a good painting.
Below is a hand out sent by Yvette to help with this task.
Strategies used in analysis and evaluation of artworks
- An examination of the image in front of you that discusses formal elements (such as colour, line shape), materials and medium, technical qualities as well as subject matter.
- Be objective. Try not to use words such as “beautiful” or “ugly” that identify a subjective opinion.
- An assessment of atmospheric elements of the work (i.e. movement, light, space).
- Examines how the work is organized as a complete composition. How is the work constructed or planned (i.e. placement of elements within the pictorial plane, directional forces)?
- Identifies some of the similarities throughout the work (i.e. repetition of line, colour, shape etc)
- Identifies some of the points of emphasis in the work (i.e., use of scale, pictorial space, movement, use of colour).
- Identifies the relationships between the subject matter and formal elements
- Addresses the visual information that the artist presented in terms of content
- Describes how the work makes you think or feel:
- Describes the expressive qualities you find in the work.
- Describes any feelings, emotions or attitudes that may arise when viewing the work.
- Does the work remind you of other things you have experienced (i.e., analogy or metaphor)?
- Does the work use symbolic elements?
- Does the work respond to a specific social or political issue or event?
*All statements made here should be supported by visual clues and evidence found within the image.
Judgment or Evaluation
- Presents your opinion of the work’s successes or failures
- Addresses how effectively the image projects or communicates the artist’s intention
- Addresses whether you like or dislike the work
- Address other issues such as originality, contemporary relevance and social context.
*All statements made here should be supported by visual clues and evidence found within the image.
GOOD PAINTING PRESENTATION
This is a fabric and thread work, nearly one metre square, that is comprising of 16 square panels arranged and joined in a square and then further contained within a thin border. The individual panels show a stylised child-like figure rendered in patches of patterned or plain coloured fabric. This figure is shown carrying the white silhouette of a gun pointing away from the child. The child is shown in all but the last panel which is left blank in the background yellow colour. The figures are arranged in rows of four, first facing in one direction and then the other. All but two of the backgrounds are yellow with the substitution of a blue and a pink background for the remaining two. Quilting lines in an echo type pattern centred on each panel is visible overlying the panels. The figures are all the same in shape and hang in space centrally in each panel essentially on a flat picture plane. The only slight depth is created by the overlaying of fabrics in the figure.
As a functional quilt, this work could be considered cot size or of a size suitable for a child, immediately referencing childhood.
The colours used are mostly primary but fall somewhat on the pastel side in tone. The fabric patterns are cheerful floral or other repeating patterns. The background yellow however has a slightly biological green hue to it as opposed to sunny yellow. This colour serves to unsettle and insert an element of anxiety into the work.
Fifteen child-like figures move across the work, initially read from left to right but then disrupted by alternating direction at the end of a row. This repetition is further undermined by the use of a different background for two of the figures and the absence of a figure at all in the bottom right corner. In this way the traditional geometry and repetition of a quilt is somewhat subverted. The work however, still retains an neat regimented arrangement, while belies the chaos of the content the artist is referencing.
Soft simple shapes and curves suggest childhood innocence and the layering of patterned and plain fabrics give slight form to the body of the child. The gun, however, is represented as a silhouette in white suggesting absence or perhaps that it needs to be removed. It is not given form or detail possibly to highlight that it is out of place.
The final empty yellow panel also reinforces the idea of absence going forward into the future, but in this case may be commenting of the absence of the child and loss of childhood.
The figures are all presented on the one picture plane and each figure is isolated on its own panel with no points of connection or interaction between them. The arrangement suggests both isolation and repetition of the isolated event.
The work is visibly constructed of fabric and hence reads as soft but some relief is developed by the use of quilting lines. Lines encase each figure in its own cage-like structure best seen on the darker background. It is a tight and somewhat hard looking quilting pattern that removes part of the traditional quilt softness and is reminiscent of a target centred on the child figure.
At first glance this appears like a traditional baby quilt, but this initial impression is then undermined by the presence of a gun. The use of many traditional quilt elements and the modification of a traditional quilt pattern serves to highlight the contrasting elements of softness and protection with the frightening concept of a gun in the hands of a child.
I am conflicted appreciating the formal elements of attractive colour and pattern but at the same time facing the terrifying message of the work. I feel a desire to get in there and remove the gun from the image to restore its beauty and peace.
I know from reading about the work, that it is responding to the deaths of children in the US from gun violence or accidents. I think this meaning is accessible from the work without this knowledge. The violent content viewed in the context of what is normally regarded as a gentle type medium, speaks clearly to the horror of the mix of guns and children.
I think this work is very successful at disquieting the viewer and conveying a message made more powerful by the contrast with a lot of other works in this medium. It is a work that conveys a message first and foremost. I don’t find it aesthetically pleasing, and I find myself having a desire to see it without the gun, in order to feel the pleasure I can obtain when I look at some artworks. It is a work that is relevant to the social and political environment in the US where it was made.
The work encourages the viewer to engage, to look deeper and most importantly to feel, and therefore I think it is a good painting.