Student Resource

Relationship Exam Help

Exploring relationships in art, as a connection or association between people, things or ideas

Tracey Emin, ‘May Dodge, My Nan’ 1963–93
Tracey Emin
May Dodge, My Nan 1963–93
Tate
© Tracey Emin
Francis Bacon, ‘Second Version of Triptych 1944’ 1988
Francis Bacon
Second Version of Triptych 1944 1988
Tate
© Estate of Francis Bacon. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2019
Dame Barbara Hepworth, ‘Three Forms’ 1935
Dame Barbara Hepworth
Three Forms 1935
Tate
© Bowness
Donald Rodney, ‘In the House of My Father’ 1996–7
Donald Rodney
In the House of My Father 1996–7
Tate
© The estate of Donald Rodney
Bruce Nauman, ‘Violent Incident’ 1986
Bruce Nauman
Violent Incident 1986
Tate
© ARS, NY and DACS, London 2019
Rasheed Araeen, ‘Bismullah’ 1988
Rasheed Araeen
Bismullah 1988
Tate
© Rasheed Araeen
Damien Hirst, ‘Mother and Child (Divided)’ exhibition copy 2007 (original 1993)
Damien Hirst
Mother and Child (Divided) exhibition copy 2007 (original 1993)
Tate
© Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.
Carel Weight, ‘The Friends’ 1968
Carel Weight
The Friends 1968
Tate
© The estate of Carel Weight
David Hockney, ‘Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy’ 1970–1
David Hockney
Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy 1970–1
Tate
© David Hockney

Personal relationships

Tracey Moffatt, ‘[no title]’ 1997
Tracey Moffatt
[no title] 1997
Tate
© Tracey Moffatt

Many artists, including Tracey Emin, Francis Bacon and Tracey Moffatt, explore personal relationships between people in their work. They feature family members, lovers, friends as well as enemies. Many artists have made portraits of their mothers. Lucien Freud spent more than 4,000 hours painting his mother!

Lucian Freud, ‘The Painter’s Mother IV’ 1973
Lucian Freud
The Painter’s Mother IV 1973
Tate
© The Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Images
Lucian Freud, ‘The Painter’s Mother’ 1982
Lucian Freud
The Painter’s Mother 1982
Tate
© The Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Images

Relationships and identity

Rasheed Araeen, ‘Bismullah’ 1988
Rasheed Araeen
Bismullah 1988
Tate
© Rasheed Araeen

A relationship to society or culture is a theme often explored by artists exploring their identity. Rasheed Araeen uses diagonal shapes to play on the links between Eastern and Western cultures. Other artists address the relationship between different communities or nations. Many R.B. Kitaj works explore his awareness of his own Jewishness as a refugee to London.

R.B. Kitaj, ‘Cecil Court, London W.C.2. (The Refugees)’ 1983–4
R.B. Kitaj
Cecil Court, London W.C.2. (The Refugees) 1983–4
Tate
© The estate of R. B. Kitaj
R.B. Kitaj, ‘The Wedding’ 1989–93
R.B. Kitaj
The Wedding 1989–93
Tate
© The estate of R. B. Kitaj

Relationships between objects

Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher, ‘Blast Furnaces’ 1969–95
Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher
Blast Furnaces 1969–95
Tate
© Estate of Bernd Becher & Hilla Becher

Artists have long been interested in the formal relationships between things. How objects relate to each other? How do colour, shapes and texture affect each other?

Bernd and Hilla Becher group industrial buildings together, to show relationships between similar structures. Sculptor Barbara Hepworth looks at the relationship between different forms and the space they are in. Painters such as Piet Mondrian and Ellsworth Kelly explore the relationship between colour and composition.

Ellsworth Kelly, ‘Nine Squares’ 1976–7
Ellsworth Kelly
Nine Squares 1976–7
Tate
© Ellsworth Kelly
Piet Mondrian, ‘No. VI / Composition No.II’ 1920
Piet Mondrian
No. VI / Composition No.II 1920
Tate

Conceptual relationships

Joseph Kosuth, ‘Clock (One and Five), English/Latin Version’ 1965
Joseph Kosuth
Clock (One and Five), English/Latin Version 1965
Tate
© ARS, NY and DACS, London 2019

Conceptual artists address a less visible relationship in their work. They investigate a relationship of ideas. In Clock (One and Five), English/Latin Version 1965, Joseph Kosuth looks at the relationship between our impression of a clock, and what it is like in real life.

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