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Comparison between Homage to Newton and Big Bird September 7, 2008

Posted by Sun Ran in Writings.
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Homage to Newton by Salvador Dali
Bronze

Big Bird by Botero
Bronze

(a) Compare the different treatment of form and use of materials in these works
Homage to Newton was cast in bronze with dark patina. The artist, Salvador Dali, was born in the Catalan town of Figueras, Spain, on 11 May, 1904. He belonged to the Surrealist movement. He worked in a range of media and there are usually hidden images anf faces in his paintings, which are of a photographic quality, yet depicts unrealistic images. Big Bird was also cast in bronze and done by the artist Botero. Fernando Botero was born April 19, 1932 in Medellin, Colombia.His work includes still-life and landscapes, but Botero tends to primarily focus on situational portraiture. His paintings and sculptures are, on first examination, noted for their exaggerated proportions and the “fatness” of the human figures and animal figures.
In Homage to Newton, the sculpture is semi abstract, but we can still see that it is a sculpture of a man with a ball falling from its right hand, and it suggests Sir Isaac Newton discovering one of the most fundamental and important physical law. In Big Bird, Botero has “fattened” his bird, like many of his other artworks, and here it signifies the joy of living and the power of optimism.
Like his other surrealist works, Dali has created a sculpture that looks realistic, yet does not depict reality. He has also made people ponder over his artwork. The sculpture appears solid and heavy, yet there are two open voids. The torso of the figure and the head of the figure have been “opened up”. According to the introduction, the suspending heart indicates “open-heartedness” and the open head represents and “open-mind”. These are two necessary qualities for the discovery of natural laws as well as for success of all human endeavors. Although Botero’s Big Bird is unrealistic, for no bird will ever be so fat, one can easily tell that it is a bird. There is a quality of humor in the piece of sculpture. Although the sculpture is appears big and round, like a ball, it appears to be quite light and hollow, perhaps because of the light hearted ideas it represents.

(b) Why have these artists used simpified and abstract forms to express their ideas?
The front of Homage of Newton is a man, besides the two open spaces, it looks rather well modeled and shaped. However, the back of the man is distorted, especially the head. The head looks torn and pieces of irregular or flattened tubes seemed to be coming out from it. The veins of the figure can be seen clearly, and the right foot is separated into 3 parts, with another toe beside it. The distortion of the man causes people to ponder why the man who discovered Gravity is distorted by Dali. Dali may be implying that the living being, Sir Isaac Newton has become a mere name in science, completely stripped of his personality and individuality. To represent this transformation, Dali has pierced the figure with two large holes: one that portrays the absence of Newton’s vital organs, while the other clearly displays the lack of mind. What remains is only symbolic representation.

On the other hand, Big Bird is made from shapes that are round and smooth, such as ovals and spheres. It is highly simplified such that only the eyes, beak, body, wings, tail and legs are shown but are easily identified and made of the simplest forms. There are neither feathers nor other complicated details, such as scales at the feet. The feet and tail are oversized while the wings are too small. The bird could clearly never fly as it seems too heavy and disproportional, although it may also represent a balloon with air and thus able to float. This creates a comical look and thus reflects light-heartedness and joy.

Dali has used abstract forms probably because it leads to imagination and to question the viewer if Newton has become a mere name of Science. If he depicted a normal and realistic Newton with a ball hanging from his right hand, it would not induce the viewer to think, but rather, treat the sculpture has a replication of Newton, or a sculpture that simply tells people Newton discovered the physical law.
Similarly, if Botero has made the sculpture a normal bird with normal proportions, viewer may not get the idea of the funny and humorous fat bird, for the simplified fat bird looks almost chubby and happy, thus enabling Botero to enhance and show has idea of joy and light-heartedness. Also, it is Botero’s style to represent objects and figures by “fattening” them. He said “An artist is attracted to certain kinds of form without knowing why. You adopt a position intuitively; only later do you attempt to rationalize or even justify it.”

(c) Asscess how and why you think one sculpture is more effective.
I prefer Botero’s Big Bird to Dali’s Homage to Newton. Botero’s sculpture appeals more to people of my age while Homage to Newton is a bit too serious. I like the way Botero has simplified the bird and it give a comical and fat look. The message behind it is light-hearted and simple as compared to Homage to Newton. Bird Big is also easy to understand and causes optimism and a fair and good mood whereas it may be difficult for people to understand the in-depth idea of Homage to Newton. It also causes people to be reflective about what they thought about Isaac Newton and gives a dark atmosphere and mood. Compared to a dark and pessimistic message from Homage to Newton, I prefer the light-hearted and simple message given by Big Bird.

Although Botero has been effective in conveying its easy and happy message, Homage to Newton by Dali is also pretty successful in inducing people to reflect on their thoughts about Newton. However, Big Bird appeals to viewers of all ages while Homage to Newton is for those older and more in depth in their thinking. Dali, belonging to the surrealist movement, created pieces of work such as The Persistence of Memory and Soft Construction of Boiled Beans and succeeded to make people think about the juxtaposition he has used and why some forms are distorted and Homage to Newton is another one with distorted forms such as why the right foot is separated into three parts.
Botero many other works such as Roman Gladiator and Head were also created using the same style. He is attracted to “fat” forms and has been successful in conveying light-hearted messages since “fat” makes the figures look comical.

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