BRONZE - A Reflection on the Open Call

APRIL 2020 // Emily Wilkinson 

            The Bronze Age marked the first time when countries and civilisations started to harvest metals and trade them internationally, creating networks. This new economic productivity brought with it an emergence of skilled workers, who naturally started to express their artistry through the metal, that date back to as early as 3100 BC. It is because of these facts that it seems only fitting we chose this word as our inspiration for our first mini brief.

It is in the Bronze Age that we have our first transcriptions of writings that allow historians to piece together the history of our past. In Ancient Egypt some of the first hieroglyphics were found cast into bronze and from then on bigger accomplishments like monumental architecture, most notably the ancient pyramids. Around this time the civilisation saw a huge increase in the production of art consisting of murals, pottery and sculptures that are still being uncovered to this day.

In East Asia bronze was used to create artefacts that were mainly used for practicality, like tools or weapons. When larger vessels started to be made they would be cast with what is now known to be the earliest inscriptions of Chinese writings. Later on, motifs would be added which mainly consisted of symbolic animals, abstract symbols and demons. The inscriptions and motifs cast into bronze help us understand not only the origins of Chinese history but countries across the globe.

A few centuries later in 2600BC a new very important art period in the Mediterranean would begin called Aegean Art which brought major social, technological and economic growth for Greece making it the epicentre for cultural growth at the time. Three new cultures emerged in three different civilisations which the Greek describe as the Cycladic (the Islands of the Aegean), the Minoan (Islands of Crete) and the Mycenaean (mainland Greece). Through the Bronze Age, the Mycenaean civilisation outlasted the other two, and became classified as ‘Helladic’. The Helladic civilisation is also referred to as ‘The Age of Heroes’ as it is in this period when Greek Mythology was born bringing with it the world of Hercules, Zeus and the other Gods of Olympia which has inspired every form of art imaginable, from architecture, fashion, literary writings and film. With the emergence of art came the emergence of cities, which brought more sophisticated use of written language and labour skills including metal and stone work. As a result, the art that was being produced was a of a quality that had rarely been seen before, an example of this is the invention of the potters’ wheel, bringing huge advancements in the art of pottery.

It is in the Cycladic civilisation that archeologists have found the earliest examples of Aegean art which consist of very few marble carvings of female standing nudes with their arms crossed with only slight carvings of outlines for noses and mouths. These are reminiscent of ‘Venus figurines’ (the term for sculptures of women) that date back to the Palaeolithic Culture from 30,000BC- 10,000BC during the Stone Age. However, these marble carvings found in the Islands of Aegean are the earliest forms examples of Greek sculpture, an art form that was to inspire the Western world for over two millennia.

Due to the discovery of Bronze, we as humans created networks across the world that allowed us to start documenting the birth of our cultures through writings and arts. Bronze allowed the world population to increase because of more stable practical objects and weaponry which later brought advancements in thinking, enabling people to experiment and express their artistic ideas which would last and inspire others for thousands of years.

Bronze in a contemporary society

Even though the Bronze Age may be a period of the distant past, we as a society are still obsessed with the art of the bronze. The first thing that springs to my mind when thinking about bronze is the sun kissed bronze tone we come across in the world of beauty.