Over the last few days I’ve been highlighting elements that interest me in Parallax over on our Discord (https://discord.gg/y4RwvfWcpW) but thought I’d cross post here for the Collective to see! If you browse through the image gallery you’ll see I’ve also included references to other art works and an overview of where van Minnen has featured these elements in his work before. As you’ll see Parallax ties together so many typical features of his work really nicely. 👀
Skull & (gummy) Bones
I wanna start with the “hidden” skeleton in the edition. I count three skulls and a handful of gummy bones as part of the bouquet. Skulls are quite a typical symbol in the 17th century Dutch vanitas paintings that inspired Parallax. They were meant to be a reminder of the certainty of death. What I found interesting is that the skulls seem to be partially obscured from sight, almost as if to say that focus should not be on them or their macabre message.
Now onto the gummy bones, just like the skull these are not new to van Minnen’s work. I really like them and for a very simple reason; I feel it’s a little pun, purposely placed in the work just to make you smile. Gummy sweets are easily recognised because of their shiny and squishy appearance. Traditionally, they are made of gelatin which is really not much more than hydrolysed collagen. Guess where this collagen comes from? Yes, it’s bones! Gummy bones, made of bones; elements out of the body, that go back into the body. Full circle in a little sweet, feels weirdly poetic.
The Baby & the Butterflies
Parallax has a lot of heavier elements and I’d like also look at some lighter ones. As some people have mentioned before, the baby in the vessel can give off an eerie feeling but for me it’s more of a hopeful note. The skull and bones are typical reminders of mortality while both the baby and the butterflies make me think of lightness and life.
The symbols of a foetus and butterflies have been featured in van Minnen’s work before, often in opposition to more gloomy elements in his painting. To me the vessel holding the foetus almost reads like a womb holding new life, birthing the bouquet that holds the skulls. Life leading to death, the natural order of things. The butterflies then not only add an aesthetically pleasing element but can also hold a little message, one of hope. Butterflies have been used by many artists before to indicate hope and optimism in their work. My personal favourites being the butterflies of van Gogh and Dali.
Knives & Tulips
Parallax features a lot of gummy elements but the two that first caught my eye were the knives and striped flowers. Now the knives are a more recent element in van Minnen’s work, being prominently featured in many of his paintings from 2019. Vanitas paintings commonly feature knives as a sign of human vulnerability. I love that they are made of gummy, actually rendering them unable to do any harm and contradicting their original meaning.
The striped flowers I’ve seen in van Minnen’s earlier work and they instantly reminded me of striped tulips. These tulips were considered rare and incredibly valuable, leading to an insane speculative bubble in the 17th century also known as tulip mania. While the flower became a real status symbol, in painting it also often symbolises foolishness probably due to their association with the craziness around their speculative trading. They can be seen in the work of many famous Dutch masters like Rembrandt. Now what’s interesting about this variety of tulip is that while admired for their beauty and rarity, bulb grafting was used at the time to create the striped variants but it wasn’t until more than 300 years later in 1928 that scientists discovered the patterns on the leaves had all along been the result of a virus that infects the tulips. Today Tulip Breaking Virus (TBV) is no longer used to create the effect and instead is the result of cross-breeding and hybridisation.
The floating tooth & mini mushrooms
I love the mini mushrooms, they’ve been featured in quite a few of van Minnen’s works and i really like whenever I spot them. In art mushrooms can refer to many different things but are often a hint to their psychotropic properties. Ingesting them has inspired many an artist, Hieronymus Bosch ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’ is one of those typical works said to be created as the result of a very unusual trip..
Now on to the floating tooth, honestly I don't know if it is a tooth. I’ve been looking at this thing for days trying to figure out what it is and then I realised it looks a lot like the silhouette of a wisdom tooth. If it is a tooth it certainly isn’t the first, while not a prominent feature in van Minnen’s work I found a work from 2011 that had a whole set of teeth floating in a bouquet. I wonder why the tooth in Parallax is floating so far away and out of focus.
Would love to hear the associations you have with the different elements of Parallax. Van Minnen's art is open to many interpretations so let me know below what it is you see! 🧐
This painting instantly had a stronger feeling of hope to me when I first saw it, than some of his other gloomier pieces. For many of the reasons you listed and so much of the (perceived) symbology. The purple iris is also a symbol of hope from greek mythology. They are placed on graves to ease guidance to the afterlife. While the grass awn and grass flower often symbolize growth and expansion.
I'm so excited that this is the available print because of these uplifting themes, in my eyes. I get a love of life and newness from it, with a hinting reminder of the temporary nature of our experience and our bodies. ❤️
11 months ago·