Visual Art

June 2nd, 2022


Visual arts refer to the works of art that can be seen. This category of art mainly comprises of only the things that are visible and are two-dimensional; that is they are flat. Therefore, the works in this category of art involve things like drawings, paintings, photography, visual designs, as well as computer art. Since visual arts mean things that are two-dimensional, architecture and sculpture are in separate categories. Similarly, visual arts have to be stationary while being observed. As such, performing arts, such as music, screen, and stage plays fall under their own separate headings.

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Admirers of art need to understand that art uses a unique language that is different from the normal verbal speech that humans use in their daily interactions. Just as other arts, the language of visual arts is emotion, feeling, intuition, and ideas, but without words. Through drawings, paintings and other visual arts, humans are able to discover the underlying aesthetics of the world around them, which mere words cannot explain. This particular feature of visual arts helps in providing meaning to what may otherwise appear meaningless. Visual arts also help in recapturing experiences and feelings that one has ever had and would like to re-experience.

Visual arts are powerful to most people because they appeal to their visual sense. Humans are visual beings who can recall a lot of information by just looking at a single picture hence the adage, a picture is worth a thousand words. Additionally, all humans have sections of their brain well trained, from childhood to fast-capture and process visuals. These sections are very different from other parts that process verbal language. As such, all humans are naturally primed to be stimulated by visual arts. When artists create visual works of art, they are communicating to their audience just as he or she would be doing verbally. However, their words are non-verbal; instead, they are lines, color, texture, and shape. There are innumerable things that are used in coming up with a single work of art, and likewise, very many things can be said by an artist using different combinations (Jewell 5).

For an artist to come up with an effective product, he or she must understand what different colors, textures, shapes, and patterns evoke in the human mind. For example, they need to understand what colors such as red and grey make people feel, and what emotions jagged lines evoke, as opposed to the gently curved ones. The ultimate goal of any visual art product is to make the viewer react with emotions and feelings even if they are negative, such as anger, tears, or discomfort. Paintings should move the viewer in a way that words cannot. Although many people assume that creating such a painting is an easy task, many amateurs of visual art have confessed that it is not. Only talented and professional artists can create paintings that appeal to the visual sense of people. In other words, the paintings that people marvel at take more than just haphazard color combinations. Sally Mann, Julie Mehretu, and Gerhard Richter are among the most celebrated living artists due to the magnificence of their works.

Sally Mann

Sally Mann is an outstanding female artist who works and lives in Lexington, Virginia, where she was born in 1951. In 1974, she was awarded a B.A. by The Hollins College, and later an M.A. in creative writing, in 1975 by the same school. She has remained attached to her roots, and this, she claims, has helped her thrive in the industry. She has been a photographer in American South from as early as 1970s, something that has enabled her to produce series on architecture, portraiture, still life, and landscape. She is probably best known for her family’s intimate portraits that she has produced, as well as the resonant and evocative landscape work. Despite the fact that her work has been subjected to vicious scrutiny, it has ever been influential. Since the time of her first exhibition in 1977 at the Corcoran Gallery, she has ever magnetized a very huge audience (Gagosian Gallery 1).

Sally explored different genres in the 1970s as she was maturing: she produced architectural photography and landscapes and combined still life with some elements of portraiture. However, she discovered her area after the publication of “At Twelve: Portraits of Young Women” in 1988. This publication stimulated little controversy. The images in the publication captured the baffling emotions and sprouting identities of young adolescent girls. Additionally, the expressive printing style provided a very impressive mood to all the images. Although photographed girls are shown as very vulnerable in their tender age, Sally pinpoints the various strengths that they possess.

In a period of almost a decade, 1984-1994, Sally was busy working on the “Immediate Family” series. This series centers its attention on her three children all of whom were below ten years by then. Although the series mainly focuses on the ordinary moments in children’s lives such as eating, playing, and sleeping, it further talks about other themes such as sexuality and death. This series was explicitly unique because, probably, no other photographer has achieved such success in art before. The book comprises of sixty-five black-and-white photos of her children. Most of these photos were taken when the children were in their normal swimming activity along the river near their home. Despite the accusations that the photos contributed to child pornography, an appreciative viewer would perceive them as natural photographs because Sally, as a mother, had seen her children sad, happy, sick, bloodied, playful, and even nude. Her latest series, “Proud Flesh” prepared in more than six years, focuses on Larry, her husband. The photos are frank and candid portraits of a man during his most susceptible moments, something that shows the love that both of them have for each other.

Sally has produced two chief landscape series: “Mother Land” and “Deep South”. In both series, the photos were taken using the collodion process, something that gave the photographs a churning ethereal likeness with a hub of extra-natural clearness, and revealed many artifacts and flaws: some are from the photography process, and Sally herself introduces others. Another outstanding work is “What Remains” where Sally assembles a study of mortality, with photos ranging from the decaying carcass of her greyhound to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia where a fugitive committed suicide. This work reveals Sally’s diligent experimentation with color photography. However, she has a deep interest in white and black, particularly the antique technology of photography. Though not many people like the white-and-black photos, her photographs are unique in their way and always attract a very huge audience.

Through her photography, Sally has achieved much success. For instance, Time Magazine named her as the “America’s best photographer” in 2001. The photographs that she took appeared twice on the cover page of The New York Times Magazine: the first is for her three children and the second is her own portrait. Additionally, she has been subject of two renowned film documentaries: Blood Ties and What Remains. Blood Ties was voted for an Academy Award whereas What Remains was first shown at Sundance and was voted for an Emmy for 2008’s best documentary (Gagosian Gallery 4). The most prestigious award she has ever received is perhaps the honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree in 2006 from the Corcoran Museum, as well as the Honorary Fellowship that she received from the Royal Photographic Society (UK) in 2012.

Julie Mehretu

Mehretu is an outstanding African artist who was born in 1970 in Ethiopia. She was the first child of an American teacher and an Ethiopian college professor. Her fame stems from the large paintings drawings that she makes, as well as her method of employing different media and elements. Unlike others, her paintings are created through layers of acrylic paint on canvas overlaid with mark-making using ink, pencil, pen, and thick paint streams (White Cube 1). Her canvases are unique because they overlay different elements such as facades, porticoes and columns with varied geographical representations such as building plans, city maps, and charts, as seen from diverse perspectives, sometimes cross-section, isometric and aerial. Her drawings do not just happen; they are elementary to the subsequent huge paintings, and sometimes provisional between paintings.

Mehretu’s works express a compression and layering of time, place, and space and downfall of historical references to art, from the vitality of the Italian Futurists to the enclosing level of Abstract Expressionist color field painting. She creates original narratives, in her expertly worked canvases, using conceptualized images of wars, cities, geographies, and histories. Her paintings convey a cyclone of visual incidents where firm cities become flattened, as numerous layers of city graffiti. In other words, her paintings and drawings focus on architecture and mapping, and they have achieved calligraphic intricacies that are similar to dense social networks and turbulent atmospheres. She describes her canvases as “story maps of no location,” perceiving them to an imagined, instead of actual reality. Through the disharmony of her works’ marks, her drawings tend to represent the agility of the city represented, as opposed to the archaic materials of paint and pencil marks (Art21, Inc 1).

Just as Sally Mann, Mehretu has reaped many benefits from her unique works of paintings and drawings. To start with, she was awarded the 2001 Penny McCall Award. Additionally, her work has featured in Greater New York, New York (2000), P.S.1 Contemporary Arts Center, and she has taken part in many group exhibitions such as the one at Bard College, Center for Curatorial studies, and Annandale-on-Hudson (2000). Lately, her work has featured in the “Free Style” at Studio Museum in Harlem (2001), among many others. This success is a clear indication that the uniqueness of Mehretu’s works of art continues to attract a wide audience (Walker Art 3).

Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter was born in 1932 in Dresden, Germany. He is one of the greatest living visual artists as well as among the pioneers of the New European Painting, which emerged during the second half of the twentieth century. He has produced various works ranging from abstract to photorealistic paintings, as well as photos and glass pieces. His works tend to follow the examples of Jean Arp and Picasso in challenging the artist’s duty to preserve a single consistent style. His work in the industry has not been a lone-wolf journey; he has collaborated with other artists to help him get to the level that he is now. In the early sixties, he met and began working with artists such as Konrad Fischer-Lueg, Georg Baselitz, and Sigmar Polke. He formed a group that was known the Capitalist Realists with Fischer-Lueg and Polke (TATE 1).

In 1963, during their first exhibition, Richter presented his magnificent gray “photo-paintings,” which are still counted among the best of his works. Originality and creativity in his paintings are undoubtedly some of the major features that contributed to his great reputation. For example, he would create brilliant figurative works, producing an entire series of clouds, city views, and mountains. Additionally, after being intrigued by the contention between mass media imagery and traditionalist painting methods, and each medium’s capacity to symbolize and interpret realism, he used to project found photos onto canvas, trace the images, and finally blur the paint with a squeegee or a soft brush.

In almost all his work, Richter demonstrates illusionistic space, which appears natural, as well as the painting material, as joint interferences. To Richter, reality involves combining efforts not only to comprehend, but also to represent the world. He created some paintings from black-and-white photographs in 1960s, relating them on a number of sources such as books and newspapers, and sometimes integrating their captions. Many of such paintings were produced in the process with several steps. He started with a photo that he would take himself, and later projected it onto his canvas. From the canvas, he would trace it for exact form. In order to paint a replicate of the original picture, he would take his color palette from the photo. To achieve a hallmark blur, he would make a light touch with a soft brush, or sometimes make a hard smear with a violent pull using a squeegee.

Using photographic imagery as a focal point for his early paintings stemmed from his efforts to flee from the sophisticated process of establishing what to paint, together with both the theoretical and critical implications associated with such decisions in the perspective of a modernist discourse. In order to achieve this, he began assembling photos from books and magazines, most of which emerged to be the subject matter of his paintings during his early years in the industry. From as early as 1964, he made portraits of collectors, dealers, and artists, among other people who were directly connected with his profession. In 1977 and 1988, he made two portraits of his daughter, Betty; in 1993, he made a portrait of his second wife, Isa Genzken, and in 1994, he produced a portrait of Sabine Moritz, whom he married later in 1995. Most of his realist works mirror the history of National Socialism, producing members of a family who had been both members and victims of the Nazi party. From 1966 onwards, he began using the photographs he had taken as portraits (Lorber 1).

1965 is a remarkable year in the history of Richter’s work because it is in this year that he began making prints in bigger volumes. Before 1974, he was not as active as he turned out later. His dormancy would have probably been attributed to the fact that he was only striving to complete the sporadic projects. Between 1965-74, he produced more than a hundred prints with identical subjects as his paintings. Through his engagement with different photographic printmaking methods such as photolithography, screenprint, and collotype, he has been able to establish the most economical mediums that do not affect the quality of the work produced. He worked in print media until 1974 when he began making paintings from the photos he had taken himself.

Other than photograph paintings, Richter engaged in abstract work, which is noteworthy because of the space illusion that is created, ironically, from an incidental process: amassing of impulsive, reactive gestures of moving, adding and subtracting paint. Despite the unnatural palettes, sheets of color without space, and the overt trails of Richter’s tools, the resultant abstract pictures act as windows through which one can see the exterior landscape. Just as his representational paintings suggest, there is a significant balance between paints and illusion. In his paintings, Richter reduces natural images to simple art incidents. In the same manner, he exalts impulsive, intuitive mark-making of his abstract pictures to the extent of believability and spatial logic.

At this level, it is paramount to note that Richter embarked on his work as an artist in a time when becoming an artist was not an easy task; when both global and modern politics had reached their ultimate milestones. Although such a situation would have been a discouragement to many people, Richter managed to get workable means of merging his long grounding with Social Realist painting. During such a time when painting art was almost suffocated to death, he proved that painting was still a powerful tool in expressing realistic ideas concerning the physical world, irrespective of whether the images being represented originate from the cinema, media, or the internet. He also affirmed the idea that longing for beauty is an acceptable ambition, especially during this time when aesthetic desire was something that many people were embarrassed about. Through his determination and hard work, Richter has been ranked among the richest, outstanding, and greatest visual artists (The Art Story Foundation 8).


Art appreciation is a personal endeavor that creates a particular emotional reaction to the viewer. A successful piece of art is one that evokes feelings and emotions to the audience, despite the fact that the emotions triggered may vary in terms of intensity and magnitude. The intention of an artist is irrelevant when it comes to interpreting the work of art because people’s intellectual functioning is dissimilar. Everyone has a personal view of the world and, therefore, interpretations are bound to differ. However, understanding the history of a piece of work and how it was created may help in understanding it better. Sometimes the stories behind a particular work of art might be more interesting that the work itself. Additionally, being familiar with the different techniques of how visual works are created may help in more appreciation of a particular work. This perception follows the fact that some creations can only be understood if one acquaints him or herself with the methods followed in making of such work of art. As already seen above, it is through engaging with an artist’s piece of work that the audience can appreciate different visual arts.

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