Thursday, 21 November 2019

Happy Birthday Us! Celebrating 10 years of vase animations!


Oh my goodness! Get the ceramic balloons out, because we are celebrating 10 years of vase animations! 10 years ago we gave our first presentation showing our first animation and outlining some ideas for what we might like to do with vase animations in the future. It has been an amazing adventure since then. In this post we'll have a quick run through some of what's happened since then. And straight off the bat, a massive Thank-You to everyone who has supported us and enjoyed the animations :)

Our first presentation took place at University College Dublin (UCD), at The Museum Artefact and Cultural Space - a conference organised by curator-archaeologist Dr Christina Haywood and soon-to-be-Dr Sonya Nevin (ignoring the good advice not to give a presentation at a conference you're organising). In 'Digital Images of Vases in a Museum Context' (catchy), we showed Clash of the Dicers and discussed the potential that we saw for showing digital animations of vases alongside the original pots in museums. People's reaction to the animation was absolutely great and we knew we were on to a good thing...

Above, flash forward, Steve and Sonya at one of the Iris Project's epic classics festivals.

Christina Haywood and I tried to secure funding to make animations for the UCD Classical Museum, but it wasn't to be (...yet). But wide awake at The Museum Artefact conference had been Professor Amy Smith, curator of the Ure Museum in Reading. She immediately saw the potential of the animations and before long had put us in touch with the Open University, which was getting ready for the 2012 Olympics. This led to The Cheat, a cheeky little number made from a pot sherd in the Ure, which became part of the OU's free online course, The Ancient Olympics: Bridging Past and Present . This was followed by Ure View, a hugely successful and enjoyable outreach project in which we joined the Ure Museum team in teaching local teens about ancient pottery and culture over several months. The teens then developed their own responses to pots that they chose from the collection, and their ideas and storyboards were transformed into three striking animations. Amy and I published an account of this project in the 2014 book, Advancing Engagement: A Handbook for Academic Museums. Ure Discovery followed, building on the momentum of Ure View and involving more schools. Six new animations were created, all under the artistic direction of enthusiastic teens. The Ure created a tablet trail so that visitors can locate the pots and watch the animations alongside them.

Above, on the big screen! A Ure View animation was selected to be shown at the Palace of Westminster.

During this time we learned a lot from talking to teachers and their pupils. We found that people loved the animations but weren't always confident about using them in class or about how to integrate them. This inspired the teaching focus of our new website! At the Classical Association Annual Conference, Sonya gave a presentation about the animations (another organiser/presenter coincidence :/) and introduced people to our website and our new name: The Panoply Vase Animation Project. The website, then as now, housed all the animations so that people could watch them for free and we provided information about the subjects of the animations, the artefacts themselves, and the music, and we suggested activities that would go well with the animations. We hope you've enjoyed using those resources over the years and thanks to everyone who has sent feedback or examples of their work – we love them!

We love seeing people's creative responses to ancient pottery and the animations. Above, Dr Divine Che Neba, Associate Professor of African and Comparative Literature in the University of Yaounde I in Cameroon, shows off his Sisyphus vase.

Through Oxford University's Archive for Performances of Greek and Roman Drama, AHRC funding followed for the creation of Hoplites! Greeks at War. This was an enormously enjoyable project. Sonya has a long-standing research interest in ancient warfare and was working at that time on her book, Military Leaders and Sacred Space. Hoplites!, a journey from the gymnasium to the battlefield, was an opportunity to bring aspects of that world to life. Huge numbers of people contributed to the accompanying project and film, Every Soldier has a Story, and we had the pleasure of working with the Thiasos Theatre Company who created music and played live at the animation's launch at the University of Reading. Just so you know, I love that animation!
Above, a screenshot from our longest animation, Hoplites! Greeks at War.

We continued to hear positive feedback from people using the animations in their teaching and Sonya was often using them in her own undergraduate lectures and in outreach work. We then heard from Professor Véronique Dasen at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. She was preparing for the launch of an exhibition on play and games in antiquity and wanted to feature Clash of the Dicers. We were happy to agree and that animation became part of Veni, Vidi, Ludique, an exhibition which has travelled across Switzerland and France and which will head to the UK next year.

The educational aspect of what we do is very important to us. Above, trainee classics teachers at the Faculty of Education in Cambridge during a session on vase animations in the classroom. A big thank-you to Dr Frances Foster for arranging these sessions.

Above, Sonya introduces the forthcoming Heracles animation during 2017's Mythology & Education workshop at the University of Cambridge. A follow-up event will take place in Feb 2020; see Eventbrite for details.

Good times ahead in Dublin. We had long wanted to work with the vase collection in the UCD Classical Museum. Curator, Dr Jo Day, shared her predecessor's enthusiasm for the idea, and in 2015 it happened. During the first project, funded by UCD itself, we worked with MA students to plan an animation that would help visitors to the museum to understand the scene better. The Procession was the result, and you can see more about that project in this brief write-up. We returned thanks to funding from the Classical Association of Ireland-Teachers, for the launch of a National Schools' Storyboarding Competition. The winning entry, Bad Karma was turned into an animation of the same name and there was an enjoyable launch and exhibition at the museum. Both animations can now be seen in the museum alongside the vase that they were made from.

Above, The Procession and Bad Karma now on display in the UCD Classical Museum alongside the pot they were made from.

2015 also saw some of the animations appear in Olympus, a blockbuster exhibition in Canada (http://olympus.wag.ca/, with our write-up ( here ). The following year, edited sections of the animations also appeared in an exhibition documentary in the Musei della Canonica del Duomo di Novara, in Italy. Meanwhile, exciting events were afoot in Oxford; it was symposium time! We worked with Dr Mai Musié and Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson of Classics in Communities, the University of Oxford outreach initiative, and with funds from Oxford's Knowledge Exchange, to develop The Symposium. Symposium culture often features in UK primary school study of classical culture, so an animation of a sympotic cup, featuring a symposium scene, with aulos-playing and a game of kottabos, was a good fit as a teaching resource. We popped back in to see that cup just the other day. Watch this space for a short film about The Symposium coming soon.



Above, the Winnipeg Art Gallery block-buster, Olympus; children check out Panoply animations in-between pots.

Above, at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford to revisit our old friend from The Symposium.

In Poland, things were hotting up for the beginning of Our Mythical Childhood. Hoplites! Greeks at War was chosen for inclusion in an exhibition, Hoplites. On the Art of War in Ancient Greece. Thanks to its curator, Dr Alfred Twardecki, the hoplites now marched to the sound of the Spartan war poet Tyrtaios – with his poetry sung by a team of Warsaw ancient Greek enthusiasts. Further publications were coming out. An article in the Journal Classics Teaching outlined ways of integrating the animations into secondary school teaching (free to download here). A chapter in Teaching Classics with Technology recently followed that up with focus on the animations as used within primary school teaching. In a rather different chapter in War as Spectacle we analysed the ways in which we had represented ancient warfare in the vase animations. The latest, about the creation of our forthcoming animation of Sappho, will be out soon in Clotho, journal of the University of Ljubljana.

Above, we're delighted to have contributed to Teaching Classics with Technology.

Above, we launched a shop! Vase animation action on mugs, cards, t-shirts, and calendars.

Big changes were ahead for us with the beginning of Our Mythical Childhood, the ERC-funded project led by Professor Kararzyna Marciniak at the University of Warsaw. This project (http://www.omc.obta.al.uw.edu.pl/#) is analysing the representation of antiquity in modern young people's culture. For our part, we're creating five new animations and a short documentary about the animations and their vases. As frequent readers of this blog will know, we've been working on these for some time now, some of them are made, and we're looking forward to their full release. We'll see Sappho performing, the gods at home, Heracles on the hunt, Dionysus bringing the party, and Iris, Bringer of Storms, bringing the storm.

Above, Panoply's Steve Simons with true legends Véronique Dasen of Locus Ludi (l) and Katarzyna Marciniak of Our Mythical Childhood (r).

Also in development are animations for a further ERC-backed project, Locus Ludi – a study of play and games in antiquity led by our long-term supporter, Véronique Dasen. We're making some new vase animations to show scenes of Greeks at play. We're also branching out(!) to create animations from a variety of ancient artefacts, adding frescoes and relief sculpture to the mix. This is an artistic and technical challenge and it's been great fun to explore this new area. More on this soon!

Above, Sonya talking animated...frescoes(!) at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland.

We're delighted to have worked on all these projects and to have brought movement to the pots that we love so much. Many thanks to all of you who have watched the animations, got in touch with us over the years, and for inviting us for talks, workshops, festivals, and projects, it's been great to share what we've made and to see people's wonderfully creative responses. Some special thanks are in order for people who have supported us along the way: to Amy Smith and Christina Haywood for their vital support early on and since then, to Katarzyna Marciniak for her great vision and efforts in getting Our Mythical Childhood afloat and for bringing us aboard, to Véronique Dasen for her consistent support for the animations, to Jo Day and Ian and Louise Maguire for campaigning for the projects in Ireland, to Arlene Holmes-Henderson and Mai Musié for all their help on The Symposium project, to Armand D'Angour, Conrad Steinmann, Yana Zarifi-Sistovari and all the other musicians who have generously supported us on the musical front, to Steve Hunt, Anastasia Bakogianni, and David Movrin for inviting us to contribute to publications and patiently editing them, and to those who have given such interesting, thoughtful answers to the Panoply interviews. Thanks for watching. We look forward to another ten years of ancient animations!

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Pottery in Cambridge

A new term is here again. We've had an interesting summer at Panoply. We've been making progress on with some lovely animations that we're looking forward to sharing with you in the not-too-distant future, and we've been getting creative in the community with young people in Cambridge thanks to some fun events at the Museum of Classical Archaeology. We have a couple of nice pictures from those events below and we're also celebrating a super exhibition that's been in town – Jennifer Lee's The Potter's Space at Kettle's Yard. As we love a bit of pottery, here are a few highlights from the exhibition...


Jennifer Lee is from Aberdeenshire in Scotland. She trained in ceramics at the Edinburgh College of Arts and the Royal College of Arts. Her works are influenced by ancient pottery, particularly that of Native American cultures and ancient Egypt. Many of her pots are unglazed and she typically begins with a pinch pot to which coils of clay are gradually added. As you can see, her pots feature beautiful subdued colours and intriguing shapes. The exhibition, curated by Sarah Griffin of Kettle's Yard, brought together pots from all eras of Lee's work and included a short video of Lee working in her studio:

Above, Jennifer Lee at work



Above, pots by Jennifer Lee beautifully exhibited in Kettle's Yard

Above, upstairs in the gallery sketch books and other images gave a fascinating insight into the planning behind the pots

Hats off to Kettle's Yard (https://www.kettlesyard.co.uk/) for an interesting exhibition that demonstrates the vibrant world of modern pottery.

...and as promised, a couple of cheery images from Panoply activities over the summer...

Above, Kronos eats his children(!)

...and Achilles kills Penthesilea the Amazon Queen.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Ure Voice: A Panoply Interview with Professor Amy Smith



Time to talk pottery! ...we're delighted to be talking pots with classical archaeologist and curator of the UK's fourth largest collection of Greek art, Professor Amy Smith. Professor Smith curates the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology at the University of Reading, where she lectures on her numerous research interests, including ancient art, iconography, material culture, museum studies, and digital classics. She is also a founding member of the Pottery in Context Research Network, the International Network of Classical Archaeology University Collections, an emerging Specialist Subject Network on Classical Collections UK and a research associate of the Beazley Archive at the University of Oxford. Professor Smith has authored numerous important works on ancient Greek pottery, as well as co-editing Winckelmann and Curiosity in the 18th-century Gentleman’s Library and Brill's definitive Companion to Aphrodite (2010, with Sadie Pickup). She is a long-time friend of Panoply, having known us for many moons and summers and having invited us to make vase animations from the Ure collection for the Ure View, Ure Discovery, and Every Soldier has a Story projects. We caught up to talk pottery, Pan, and the future of tech in museums...

1) How did your love of ancient Greek art develop?
I was born in Libya and—‘tho we left when I was young (so I don’t remember it)—my Dad liked to say I became a classical archaeologist because of him taking me to Lepcis Magna in utero. When we left Libya we flew to Athens, which again I don’t remember, but.... Maybe it was London, whose museums I always loved. In my formative primary school years, we lived in South Kensington, and I used to walk through the museums on the way home from school, especially on rainy days. My mother kept my drawing of the National History Museum’s giant squid, with its Victorian case, labels & hardware included. I remember the excitement of going to big exhibits at the British Museum. I didn’t focus on Greek art & archaeology until I was an undergraduate at Dartmouth College. On their Foreign Study Programme to Greece we travelled to monuments & museums throughout the country & it’s that first-hand exposure to the real art that really got me going.

Above, nothing like visiting Greece to encourage a taste for classical art.

2) You're the curator of the Ure Museum. What does a typical week as a curator involve?
The best thing about my job is that there’s no ‘typical week’. As a full-time professor I have to wrap my curatorial work around my teaching and research. Term-time that means I’m in class whenever the timetabling office dictates and, as at other times, I have oodles of meetings with staff & students, course preparation, marking and related paperwork. The museum-specific work entails lots of paperwork and organisation too—applications for funding, arranging finances if someone’s kind enough to donate, purchasing equipment, organising events, etc.

Above, Aphrodite greets visitors to the Ure Museum

I have pop-up and scheduled meetings with the museum's Assistant Curator and Education Officer. Our staff have traditionally been people at the beginning of their careers who quickly move on to other opportunities, so for years I was constantly helping them in their career trajectories, then negotiating with the University to make the job more rewarding for the next person. Generally the part-time staff do the hands-on supervision of volunteers, interns and students on work-experience ‘tho I do a lot of correspondence related to that. I also supervise students and volunteers doing museum displays and/or text. I welcome visiting researchers and lay out the stuff they want to study. Either I or Jayne Holly, our Assistant Curator, has to be available to take artefacts out of display cases, for study, display in another exhibition, or conservation.

While my research mostly takes me into libraries—so I try to reserve one day a week as a library day—I also need to go to museums from time to time for my research. It’s nigh impossible to get someone to pay for you to visit collections so I tend to schedule such trips when I’m travelling anyway for family, lecturing or teaching reasons. So on such visits and at conferences I’m also serving as an ambassador for the museum and its university. So I’m not a typical curator but I doubt there is such a person.

Above, the Symposium case in the Ure Museum, featuring a number of symposium-related pots and the famous Reading aulos.

3) What makes pottery a good source for finding out about the ancient world?
Throughout the world and most cultures from the last 3 millennia or so, pottery is the most prevalent archaeological artefact. Each pot or fragment thereof has markers of its history, even if it doesn’t have artist’s signatures or dates: its mineral composition helps us judge its origins or those of its creators; chemical traces and other contents attest its use and age; its archaeological findspot (if known) tell us also about its age, function or use/reuse, and maybe something about its owner(s); there’s also economic and technical matters to be learned from ancient pots. On top of all of that, however, ancient Greek pottery is usually decorated with figural images, which are our best window into the cultures of ancient Greece: we’ve only a few dozen Greek plays preserved but more than 200,000 ancient Greek pots in the museums of the world.

A red-figure bell krater by the Pan Painter now in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (10.185). See more on this pot at: https://www.mfa.org/collections/object/mixing-bowl-bell-krater-153654.

4) You're an expert on the Pan Painter. Where does a name like that come from and how do you know a Pan Painter pot when you see one?
Painters of ancient Greek pots were craftsmen, not artists in the modern sense, so their own names don’t seem to have mattered much to the purchasers. Where we have named individuals on the pots, certainly those decorated in the 5th-century, the names are those of the ‘makers,’ presumably potters or owners of the potteries whose products the painters painted. So some painters are named for those artists they worked for, e.g. 'The Meidias Painter' who painted a famous pot potted by Meidias. Others are named for the findspot or museum of their most famous pot, e.g. 'The Empuries Painter' or 'The Berlin Painter' or for the person who owned the pot, e.g. 'The Macmillan Painter'. Sometimes these names conflict, so a while back it was realised that 'The Macmillan Painter' was one in the same as 'The Chigi Painter.' Some painters are named for what they painted, e.g. 'The Elbows Out Painter' or 'The Painter of the Woolly Satyrs.' 'The Pan Painter' is one of the painters known for a particular image he painted on his so-called name vase, a notorious image of the woodland god, Pan, chasing a shepherd boy, on a bell krater in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

The Pan Painter’s oeuvre has been well studied by scholars before but I’m still visiting and assessing the vases that have been ‘attributed’ to this artist, sometimes by overly optimistic excavators and curators. I saw one just before Easter in the Nasher Museum of Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina. I’m confident that the Pan Painter painted one side of the vase, because it had his characteristic anatomical features—short nose, round chin, broad neck, deep chest—as well as drawing tendencies, like an invisible “sketch line” (etched lightly into the surface) vertically through the neck, presumably to help the painter put the head in the right position above the torso. The other side of the same pot had none of these features and presumably was done by another lesser painter in the workshop.

The other side of the Pan Painter's famous krater in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (10.185). This side features Artemis finishing off Actaeon as his own hounds lay into him: https://www.mfa.org/collections/object/mixing-bowl-bell-krater-153654.

5) You've been a supporter of Panoply since our first adventures in vase animation. Tell us a bit about your thoughts on the role of technology in museums.
From the birth of museums, alongside neoclassicism, their creators and curators have aimed to welcome people to them, to share knowledge of art, history, and the origins of civilisation, yet by the 20th century they had become misunderstood as bastions of privilege, because of limiting factors like cost, distance and opening times that unfortunately restricted access. Technology has changed all that: social media and web resources share museum content and activities on a 24-7 basis and allow us to reach audiences who never even heard of some of the smaller museums without advertising budgets. We can and should do more with 3D visualisations, like holograms and prints. 3D prints can be used to rejoin disparate materials in two or more museums/countries, like broken pots separated into multiple collections, or even to display objects that might be risky or impossible to move. In the Museum of Cultural History at University of Oslo this December I saw a brilliant 3D print of the tomb of Seti I from the Soane Museum in London. This is sustainable curation. It might help reduce the huge expenditure on travelling expeditions: this money might be better spent on preserving and protecting cultural heritage.

Above, the Ure Discovery museum trail, featuring vase animations and links to the museum catalogue.

6) Who's your favourite ancient Greek?
Athena—goddess of war, wisdom, crafts, and much else—has always been my favourite goddess, even before I knew what feminism was. I might have learned about her first through Herakles, one of the many heroes she protected. She is the city goddess who gave her name to Athens, where I lived for a few years while working on my PhD. I named my daughter, Sophie, for her (in part). Sophia is Greek for wisdom (and poetry) and the owl is their shared symbol; like Athena my Sophie was born at dawn. Athena should be an icon of the #MeToo movement, because she famously repelled Hephaistos’ attempted rape of her. Maybe we should do that story in a Panoply animation?


Many thanks to Professor Smith for talking to us and sharing these insights.
You can find out more about the collections research going on at the Ure Museum by visiting
: https://research.reading.ac.uk/curiosi

In other news, we're not long back from an Our Mythical Childhood get-together in Warsaw. Thanks to everyone who helped to organise or took part in the vase workshops (whoop whoop!). We promise a write-up of the many superb presentations on antiquity in young people's culture in our next blog post.

A unified look at the Pan Painter krater (Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, 10.185)

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

A Panoply Interview with The Acropolis Gallery.

Antiquities belong in museums (*Indiana Jones shouting*)! So what do you do when you want to brighten up your home or classroom with a bit of classical pottery action? One answer of course is to turn to a replica maker. Today we're talking to Anna Kolinska & Patrick Kolinski, the Athens-based artists behind The Acropolis Gallery (https://www.etsy.com/shop/AcropolisGallery). The Acropolis Gallery creates replicas of ancient works on ancient shaped vessels and new designs based on ancient iconography. Replica-lovers will find a shop link and discount code at the end of the interview. In case you're wondering, Panoply and the Acropolis Gallery are not connected businesses, we're just mutual vase enthusiasts!

1) You have a pretty enjoyable line of work. Tell us a bit about how you got into it.
From my very first years I loved to paint. I just painted on everything...with all types of different oil paint, graphics and pencils. Everything started when I chose to live permanently in this wonderful place. I met people who love this type of ceramic and a potter who lives here in Athens. It was that step - he impressed me with his skills. It was magic, to go from a piece of clay to this amazing result with so much history of beauty from the past. Greece is a historic place full of art and colours; that motivated me to work in that direction. After all these years I know that everything around Greece (the climate, sea, sun, the blue of the sky) stole my heart. I choose to stay here to work and give to the world pieces of Greek art. So, in our store we not only sell Greek handmade ceramic souvenirs, we give the positive energy of this place to our customers.

Above, an Acropolis Gallery plate featuring the Minotaur.

2) Do you feel that it's important to keep this tradition alive in Greece?
Pottery was important to the ancient Greeks for storage. Everything from wheat to wine was stored in pottery. Pottery was made by shaping clay on a wheel, decorating the pot, and then heating the clay in a kiln... All these steps and that history come from the past. We have to continue it, to make people feel excited about them. I think that when you come to Greece you can see a lot of wonderful things. We can start with the history, the sea, food... the amazing places, hospitable people all of that... but if you want to take something back home it must be a Greek souvenir, something that you can keep in your house and feel all that positive energy from this historic place. Acropolis Gallery is all about that - you can discover the world of ancient Greek art with wonderful handmade ceramics.

Above, familiar Greek pottery motifs.

3) What are some of the challenges that you face when you are making replicas?
Greek pottery is one of the most fascinating and probably the oldest of the Greek minor arts. The first step is to make the same material from clay. I mean, to make one vessel is easy, but to create the same dimensions as those used in antiquity is hard! So we always have the details from museums to work with. Because fired clay pottery is highly durable we need to buy only good quality clay and it's so hard to find. Believe it or not, only a few potters in Athens have that high quality clay in their pieces. It costs a lot of time to create one piece, sometimes many days and you must be so careful with it... the final result is always something that can bring tears. I love it so much, that's why I continue to make it... I always think of that history of the faces I am painting. That makes me work with more passion to finish it to a high standard however hard it is.

Above, Acropolis Gallery's take on the familiar scene of Achilles and Ajax gaming - made famous by Exekias, imitated by a host of other pottery painters ancient and modern, and animated in Panoply's 'Clash of the Dicers' animation.

4) How do you navigate the balance between authenticity and innovation?
Sometimes I start to make an amphora design, for example, from nothing. I might change the faces a little, or the colours. I'm a free artist but I keep some authentic feeling and features and "connect" them with new colours or new techniques to make something that is the same yet different; ancient yet new.


5) Which do you feel are your most successful designs?
The one I find most lovely is a Corinthian style piece on which you can see lions, panthers, boars, goats, sirens and swans. I love the feeling of painting more "freely" on these pieces...you can see nature in it all around. I also like Minoan period style which is inspired by the Aegean Sea and adorned with colourful dolphins (the symbol of Harmony), octopus, coral and fish. They make me feel good and having spoken to people about them I know that people enjoy having these designs around them in their homes. Maybe some of them made a beautiful Greek gift to a loved one. I'm happy with that...I enjoy it!

Above, an amphora in the Corinthian style.

6) Who's your favourite ancient Greek? I can say that is Athena. The goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilisation, law and justice, strategic warfare, mathematics, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, and skill. What more can I say?!! Back in history she helped all the people around, she gave the olive tree to them. I can tell you a short story about it... Athena, became Athens' patron goddess after a contest with Poseidon. The two gods competed for who would get the honour of becoming the patron god, and they offered gifts to the Athenians. Poseidon hit the ground with his trident and created a spring, showing that he would offer significant naval power. Athena, on the other hand, offered the olive tree, a symbol of prosperity and peace. The Athenians, led by King Cecrops, decided to take Athena's gift, making her their patron goddess. Here where I live, where everything started...

Thank-you for the chance to talk with you and all your fans. We invite you to visit Athens - that wonderful and historic place! For your fans we offer you a gift, a 20% off coupon to use in our store on ETSY (enter the code: PANOPLY20)https://www.etsy.com/shop/AcropolisGallery. Now you can decorate your house with lovely vases and feel the Greek culture around your place.

Above, some Athena appreciation from The Acropolis Gallery.

A massive thank-you to Anna and Patrick for talking to us about their wonderful work. In other news, Panoply's very own Dr Sonya Nevin will be talking about vase animations and the 'Our Mythical Childhood' project at the University of Reading from 4pm on Thursday 8th May in the Edith Morley building – be there if you can!

Monday, 11 March 2019

The Art of New Ancient Vases.

Like a sonnet, a haiku, or a humble stamp, ancient Greek vases were created within certain constraints of form. Those constraints of shape and colour make the Greek vase a recognisable type which in turn lends itself well to being imitated – in ceramic or illustration. Frequent readers of this blog will know that at Panoply we're big fans of creating new vase scenes on card or clay as part of thinking and learning about antiquity. We've even looked in the past at how the conventions of vase painting have been adapted within Star Wars fan art to create Greek vases from a galaxy far far away. In this post we'll look at a few more examples of modern 'ancient' vases and how people have worked within the constraints of the genre to make their point.

Naturally the way that the red and the black scream 'Greece' makes ancient pottery a great format for illustrators who are addressing Greek themes. This made vase themed cartoons a popular choice when the Greek financial crisis hit the headlines.

Above, 'Grexit Vase' by Sunnerberg Constantin has heroically nude warriors in the classical style fighting back against an onslaught of be-suited modern day bureaucrats. https://www.cartoonmovement.com/p/6347

Above, Sergei Tunin's 'The Greek Divide' uses a similar contrast of classically nude figures resisting the clothed representatives of the modern world – in this case riot police rather than money-men. The crack through the vase acts as an instantly recognisable metaphor for division within society. https://www.cartoonmovement.com/cartoon/638

Above, police force also seems to have been on the mind of Hajo of Studiohajo in creating his 'Greek vase'. Without the presence of antagonists, the focus falls more exclusively on the police, whose heavy protective gear adds to the sense of them as a modern iteration of the ancient soldier. All is not well, however. The gun is smoking and the vase is cracking, the cracks once again expressing stress on our social fabric.

Above, Dave Granlund seems to have a more optimistic approach to the same subject with his work, 'Vase repair job'. The Greek economy vase is damaged, but EU glue is piecing it back together and not a rifle in sight. http://www.davegranlund.com/cartoons/

The format can work for topics beyond Greece of course...
Above, Cleon Peterson, takes a far from optimistic view of the modern world. This is his 2017 work 'Trump', featuring a fiercely tiered and none too harmonious society. Peterson has a penchant for dystopian scenes realised in the stark reds and blacks of vase art (the original of 'Trump' was black and red too). The limited palate, constrained space, and bold figures all add to the power of the image. You can see more of his reimagined Greek vases here: http://www.artnet.com/artists/cleon-peterson/.

This post has been a brief look at some political pots. More new ancient pots in the next post, but this time a promise of some funny ones.

Fancy drawing your own scene? Get stuck in on your own or come and see us at the Iris Project Festival of Natural History, Classics and More, Oxfordshire, 27th March 2019.
Free – and no booking required unless you fancy bringing a school group. http://www.irisproject.org.uk/index.php/resources/14-resources/215-iris-festival-of-natural-history-classics-and-more-27-march-2019

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Happy New Year, vase fans!


2019 promises to be an enjoyable year for vase animation fans. September will see the release of our Mythical Childhood animations in coordination with the opening of the new antiquities galleries at the National Museum in Warsaw, where they are due to take a dramatic role amongst the pots. We'll be showing some of them at some events and schools before then, so come and see us if you fancy a sneak peak. And before then, have a quick look here.

Heracles, who you can see above, will be hunting a mythical beast in his adventure. Meanwhile, Dionysus will be looking to kick off some good times:

Here he is looking for some likely helpers...

...and here is a likely looking candidate. We're big fans of this little fawn. (made from Nat. Museum Warsaw 142355 MNW)

You can also look forward to a simply extraordinary animation featuring Sappho and her daydreams about Troy. Big shout-out to Prof Armand D'Angour of the University of Oxford for creating the score for this animation, which recreates the melody of Sappho's own poetry. Pretty rad.

Above, Sappho conjures up tales of long ago.

We'll be bringing you something a bit different with a supercool Iris animation. Get ready to feel a little wonder. And you'll get a glimpse of the gods at home in what will be the final OMC animation to take shape. Watch this space for updates – and more – throughout the year.

Above, storm-footed Iris, bringer of rainbows.

You may recall that we have also been dipping out toes in Roman waters courtesy of involvement in the Locus Ludi project. A fresco from the House of Deer in Herculaneum is the first of our Locus Ludi subjects. Below here you can meet one of the chubby fellows who will be bringing Roman games into the 21st century.

Above, the House of the Deer erotes bring you season's greetings for the New Year.

A big thank-you to all the people and parties who are behind these projects: Prof Katarzyna Marciniak, the University of Warsaw, the National Museum in Warsaw, the University of Roehampton, Prof Veronique Dasen, the University of Fribourg, and the European Research Council. In new news, Steve and I have just been made associates of The Past for the Present research & education programme, and we would like to thank the University of Warsaw again for that honour (cue little bow). Further thank-yous to everyone who came to our workshops and talks last year, everyone who wrote us nice letters, and to all of you for watching.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2019, from Steve & Sonya at the Panoply Vase Animation Project.


Here's to a year of further adventures with ancient pottery!