LINOCUT PRINT & ACCOMPANYING ESSAY
BY AMY HILEY
‘Now, because his parents are Plenty and Poverty, Love’s situation is as follows. In the first place, he never has any money: he’s a vagrant with no shoes on his feet. He takes after his mother in having need as a constant companion. From his father, he gets his ingenuity, impetuosity, and energy…, and his skills with magic, herbs, and words. [...] Plenty had got drunk on nectar and he’d gone into Zeus’ garden, collapsed, and fallen asleep. Prompted by her lack of means, Poverty came up with the idea of having a child by Plenty, so she lay with him and became pregnant with Love.’1 (Plato, Symposium).
Inspired by Plato's philosophical mythology, ‘Love’s Situation’ is a symbolic composition which explores theories about the origins of love (or Eros). The design is based on the idea that 'Love' was born of a love affair between 'Plenty' and 'Poverty', as described above, and it is this collection of relationships that I have attempted to translate into symbolic form.
In the artwork, Plenty and Poverty are represented by an overflowing and an empty vessel respectively. The scale is used to accentuate the lack of balance present in and between both extremes. Love sits above this unbalanced structure of his parents, with the visual layout sharing similarities with that of a section of a family tree, illustrating the relationship between the three figures. Love is depicted playfully pulling the strings of the embracing couple below, opening up questions about the true nature of the state of being ‘in love’. The lovers stand unaware of their place in the larger web of relationships that surrounds them, and ideas of control, sanity and the true origins of such extreme feelings are presented in a new, ambiguous light.
Historically, the use of symbolism in the personification of abstract concepts such as love has often been used as a way of understanding ideas that cannot easily be otherwise defined. Complex relationships are allowed to evolve between the ‘characters’ that represent various theories or ideas, enabling subtle conceptual networks to emerge without becoming too obscure to be retained and understood. Art and mythology are two of the most powerful methods of symbolic translation, and, in a philosophical context, can serve as invaluable tools in reducing complex ideas to their simplest core form, as a way of making them more widely and deeply accessible.
1. Plato, Symposium: The Birth Of Love, as quoted by Catalin Partenie, Plato: Selected Myths 2009