The Joy Of Melancholia
Caroline Wild | On 06, Sep 2014
Melancholy is no reason to be sad in the new UQ Art Museum exhibition Five Centuries of Melancholia.
2014 sparks the 500th anniversary of Albrecht DÃ¼rerâ€™s Melancolia I, and the continual representation of melancholy as subject matter in art ever since. In celebration of this the UQ Art Museum has created an exhibition focused around DÃ¼rerâ€™s engraving, and the condition of melancholy as represented in figures, objects and landscapes. It is these aspects, as well as DÃ¼rerâ€™s iconic work that make up the four rooms of the exhibition, curated by UQ Art History lecturer Andrea Bubenik.
DÃ¼rerâ€™s Melancolia I created in 1514 has become such an iconic work for several reasons. Its use of secular subject of melancholy, its medium of engraving and its mysterious subject matter are all aspects which make it such a fascinating piece of art. It is an enigma that just keeps growing, and is full of questions that no one will ever be able to definitively answer. Who exactly is the angel, or main figure in the work? What is the mystery behind the polyhedron and the possible face that can be seen in it? What is the meaning behind the magic square? It is questions like these that have led to elements of the engraving being enlarged for viewers to gaze at and read about, in order to gain more insight into the piece.
Although DÃ¼rerâ€™s work does take up the first room of the exhibition, there is plenty more to see. The figures of melancholia inhabit the second room, where portraits cover the walls, with works ranging from old to new, and collectively giving a sense of isolation and self reflection. Objects of melancholia and sites of melancholia make up the third and fourth rooms, which both create a sense of darkness, but certainly not despair.
What is so interesting about the exhibition, apart from the amazing array of international artists, is the message it conveys. Melancholy is portrayed not as a sickness, but as a state of being, and it is interesting to see how the connotations of melancholy, or depression, have changed over the centuries. Particularly in the sense that in the 21st century depression is seen as a condition to be cured, whereas in the time of DÃ¼rer, to cure melancholy would be to cure creativity, as all artists where seen to be afflicted by it in some way.
It is a fantastic, and diverse, exhibition with a lot to offer. For those interested in the theme of melancholy, Albrecht DÃ¼rer, or witnessing the progression of art in the last five centuries, then this is a must see.
What: Five Centuries of Melancholia
Where: UQ Art Museum
When: 30 August- 30 November, 2014
How Much: Free
Website: Visit the UQ Art Museum website
Images by UQ Art Museum
Albrecht DÃ¼rer (1471â€“1528)Â Melencolia I 1514
engraving on paper
image 23.8 x 18.6 cm
sheet 24.1 x 18.7 cm
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide. Morgan Thomas Bequest Fund 1962.
Francisco Goya (1746â€“1828)Â Tristes presentimientos de los que ha de acontecer (Sad forebodings of what is going to happen) 1810â€“1820
from â€˜Los desastres de la guerraâ€™ (‘The disasters of war’)
etching, engraving, drypoint and burnishing on paper
image 14.6 x 18.9 cm
sheet 24.0 x 34.0 cm
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide. South Australian Government Grant 1965.
Tracey Moffatt (1960â€“ )Â Laudanum, #13 1998
toned photogravure print rag paper, edition of 60
image 36.8 x 37.4 cm
sheet 76.0 x 57.0 cm
Reproduced courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.