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An Allegory of Vanity (2022)

Acrylic on wooden panels

An Allegory of Vanity is a self-reflection in the form of a triptych that emphasises the significance of the traditional Vanitas warnings fused with the Postmodern Gothic. By using religious imagery unconventionally, the work comments on the idolisation of the superficial and surface aesthetics. In the hope that the work will engage contemporary audiences to question the increased obsession with material wealth and celebrity culture within our society.

An Allegory of Vanity (2022): Welcome
An Allegory of Vanity (2022): Image
An Allegory of Vanity (2022): Pro Gallery


This research explores how the Postmodern Gothic has transformed the Vanitas into imagery that will engage contemporary audiences. Vanitas are symbolic still-life paintings that originated in 1600s Holland; they visualise death, consumerism, pleasure, earthly commodities and religious ideals through the objects presented. Examining traditional Vanitas works, this study emphasises the significance of the conventional Vanitas warnings fused with the Postmodern Gothic voicing the terrors of the public and creative practitioners today. The relation is that the Vanitas is seen and aligned with Gothic motifs such as death, pleasure and skulls.

The exploration of postmodernity is formed from the literary works of Jean Francois Lyotard (1979)  and Gilda Williams (2007), which continues to a study of Fine Artworks (paintings, sculptors and silkscreens), which explore the ways the Vanitas is still fit for purpose in Western culture. Analysing the visual language of influential artists like Andy Warhol (1962-76) and Audrey Flack (1977-78) leads to the notion of death becoming mundane in our society, with material wealth and celebrity culture increasingly becoming more significant than philosophical thinking. The observation gives a different perspective of the Vanitas leading to the notion of the continued need for feminism with the increase in acceptance of using women's bodies as a source of pleasure and exploitation through mainstream media. Secularisation in our society leads to the idolisation of superficial and surface aesthetics rather than religious iconography. This research shows how creative practitioners from different cultures, ethnicities, genders and sexualities are still meditating on death, giving us a well-informed basis for expressing the terrors and anxieties of today which relate to a broader audience.  

This leads to the Postmodern Gothic transforming the almost monochromatic Vanitas from highly religious works of art made to strike fear into the audience of an “everlasting fire”; to bright, vivid, aesthetically pleasing works to display and educate people from all over the world about the change that is needed to transcend above self-indulgence and material wealth.

An Allegory of Vanity (2022): Text
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