Monday, March 16, 2015

Canvas 3/16

Let's take a minute, guys, and talk about flags. Now, if you've been in the office the same time as me at all in the past two weeks, you've seen me furiously playing that stupid flag game. Here's the thing about flags: they're amazing. Every country gets to pick one universal symbol that will accurately represent the way said country wants to be viewed. Seeing how nations go about doing so is one of the most interesting ways to learn about a country. Take Greenland and Mexico as foils, for instance. 

Mexico is a country that has been dredged in conflict for most of its existence; it was invaded by the Spanish when the New World was discovered, fought violently for its independence multiple times, and then had to fight within itself for a semblance of identity. Most people know the green, white, and red stripes of the Mexican flag, but not as many know the symbolism behind it. The green strip is supposed to represent the Independence Movement, the white symbolizes the purity of the Catholic state, and the red is the quest for independence and the blood of national heroes. In three colors, it becomes evident the values held by the country. Juxtaposed with this is the relatively peaceful, historically trivial Greenland.

This happens to be my favorite flag, because Greenland doesn't have any major wars to commemorate or bloodshed to champion. Instead, it focuses on the beauty of the nature around it. Greenland's flag (featured above), also includes symbolism; as the flag's designer, Thue Christiansen, explained, "the large white part in the flag symbolises the ice cap and our fjords are represented by the red part in the circle. The white part of the circle symbolises the ice bergs and the pack ice, and the large red part in the flag represents the ocean." In a way, though flags aren't traditional art, (you wouldn't see one in a museum unless the museum was x-nation's major gallery or something), they convey as much history and emotion as anything one could find in an art gallery.

The closest one could find would be Rothko, who used "blurred blocks of various colors, devoid of landscape or the human figure, let alone myth and symbol," because he believed these, "possessed their own life force." It's interesting to note that Rothko experimented with blocks of color in order to escape symbolism while the flags of world nations used them in order to best employ it. There are few exceptions to this adherence to solely color (i.e., the flags of India, Ecuador, Belize, etc.), but for the most part it seems we have to depend on the similar stripes we all know so well.

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