The dispute 'art is dead' for me is more a question of a narrative in art. Yes, art doesn't need a narrative anymore. Cubism, founded in the XX century, became more interested in how we see things rather than what we see. Contemplating a work of art became a journey. It wasn't a journey of your eyes moving from one character to another. A Journey was created by different points of view instead. People and objects were given an opportunity to last and to move through the fact that we know they can be seen from different angles.
It is strange to think that even cubism was developed by Pablo Picasso and George Braque in the beginning of XX century, it took another 70 years to bring this approach to photography. “In Picasso’s pictures you can see the front and back of a person simultaneously. That means you’ve walked round them. It’s a sort of memory picture; we make pictures like that in our heads” - David Hockney, a creator of famous photographic joiners, says*.
How about other generations who lived centuries and even millenniums ago, were they seeing the world that way too?
Some time ago I was looking at the sculptures of Parthenon from the east pedimentin at the British Museum. I was taken on a journey. It started with the figure of Aphrodite. Even though we read from left to right, somehow my eyes started climbing this trio from the lowest point of Aphrodite's ankles. I couldn’t stop admiring her shapes: her elegant legs wrapped into thin fabric, her feminine stomach framed by her top's drapery. The fabric was semi-transparent and loose enough to drop down and expose one shoulder. One could see her firm breasts, which suggested freshness of her youth. Even though her legs were crossed, her posture seemed welcoming and playful. I could almost see a grin on her face. She is the goddess of love indeed: desirable, mysterious, and seductive. Her position is horizontal; a horizontal line in art symbolises femininity. It looks like she is awaiting.
My eyes slipped from her shoulder to her elbow, where I could instantly sense discomfort and pain. Aphrodite’s elbow was piercing Dione's stomach. Dione is her mother and a titan goddess. Her figure was very different. It was difficult not to notice her heavy knees, wrapped into a piece of fabric less delicate than the one Aphrodite was wearing. She was leaning down towards her knees, arching her back. Her breasts were slightly bigger, hidden as well as her shoulders with her top. She was facing the same direction as Aphrodite did, but she was so different from the goddess of love, lacked a seductive aspect. The third figure was Hestia, a goddess of family and home. She was facing an opposite direction and looked like she was about to stand up. Her figure was more bulky, grand. Her posture was straight and seemed confident and decisive. Her breasts were big and swollen. Her legs were spread apart.
After I realised that my mind was taken on a journey, I was left astonished. These figures, aren't they stages every woman goes through on her way to maternity? From being attractive, seductive, mysterious to fears and sufferings of her body, which has to change in order to reproduce. Greek myths help us to read this message: from goddess of love, to a mother and a homemaker.
Childbirth is not a whole story, but just a beginning. If we could follow further towards the middle of the pediment, which is now empty, we would have seen the birth of Athena from Zeus's head. Then, we see a figure running away, possibly Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth and the divine helper of women in labour. She is walking away as she's done her duties and she is the first one to deliver the news. We see seated bounded women. And Dionysus, the god of wine and celebration, who is seated alone with his arm raised (was there a glass in his hand?) This movement finishes with figures of horses, which represent 'rising and setting sun. The horses at the end of the day are exhausted.'** Every day they carry the god of sun Helios through the sky. Probably their figures suggest the childbearing lasted all day and the evening brought the joy of new life.
I believe the ancient Greeks were capable of constructing a physiological and psychological cubism withing figures made of stone.