Time travel in the history of art into contemporary art

Painting x Photography

As a mother, during my process of getting pregnant and raising two children, I felt the fragility and preciousness of human life. Therefore, I discuss the relationship between the mother and child to explore the emotional and spiritual connection through art. With the concepts of "transformation "and "hybridization", I make use of the iconic Western classical image and through the addition of the Asian character in the composition to reflect the 21st century in contemporary art. How to express emotions and feelings through vision is what I want to explore. Thus, I combine the use of religion, race, gender, and cultural identity in my art practice. The feeling of mother and child revealed through artistic creation and imagination to paint my self-portrait and my children.

21 century madonna and child

Love is weight but it is sweet ,10 / 2019,Oil on canvas,  130 X 85 CM

I do not know how long I can carry my child on my back. When I am watching him grow up day by day, taking him and protecting him, this let my heart full of joy. Even though love is weight, but it is sweet. From the past to the present, it seems that we can see that maternal love exists at different times whether it is the Madonna and the child in the West, or the Madonna and the child in the East. 

I believe love is the foundation in our life so that we can build other love on this foundation. Witness the growth of children and incorporate my children into my art practice. As a mother artist, my practices do not merely emphasize gentleness. On the contrary, if you try to express "the tenderness of the sacred mother", I think it cannot show or explain the whole meaning.

Whether human tenderness is itself something divine?

What is the difference between tenderness experienced as earthly and tenderness experienced as religious?  Perhaps the answer seems to be that the first one is to appease the heart and the charm,and the second is to be awe-inspiring and to feel stable.

If Asian faces replace the European paintings of
Madonna and Child?

From past and nowadays, the fact that the Madonna is always a while European. Despite the fact Christian that has permeated the entire planet. Initially, I was influenced by this painting-The Adoration of the Magi, Unknown Artist (20th century. Chinese Christian paintings) 

I think this may be challenging to find culture and art to identify different cultures in the future. So I use western religious Christian, iconography and challenging that. To respond to the idea of symbolism the icon and classical painting. I want to create the Madonna and Child with the Asian style, exploring the gaze and background to discuss the relationship the mother and child. I use the concept of "transformation "and "hybridization" to explore the idea of race, gender, cultural identity to reflect the complexity of the image in the 21st contemporary world.

The Adoration of the Magi
Unknown Artist
20th century. Chinese Christian paintings

About the use and experiment of blue background for Madonna’s icon.

Take a close look at religious art from the past 700 years. Notice anything consistent? the Madonna is almost always decked out in blue.


But, in this work, I don't want to use blue in cloth, I was trying to use blue in the background to set off the golden fabric to showing a mother with radiance. The use of colour contrast method to enhance visual perception with the blue​ background to show a particular state, something about them seems to shine or glow on the mother.

As Peggy Orenstein has written,  “pink was considered the more masculine hue, a pastel version of red. Blue, with its intimations of the Virgin Mary, constancy and faithfulness, was thought to be dainty.” 

Therefore, blue is very vital for the image of the Virgin, so I keep the icon and used the vital blue colour as the background to highlight the golden clothes and the yellow-skinned Madonna to correspond.

Marian blue, as the shade has become known, became Madonna’s official colour with the rise of Mariology and the cult of the Virgin. After she was inducted into the uppermost echelons of the canon, declared “Queen of Heaven, Spiritual Mother, and Intercessor” by the Church in 431, Byzantine artists, using the less expensive mineral azurite, began to churn out stylized icons depicting the holy mother dressed in Marian-blue robes against flattened, gold-leaf backgrounds.

Throughout history, blue has been considered a sacred and valuable hue. It’s not a naturally occurring pigment and is thus particularly mystical and rare. One of the earliest “true blue” pigments produced was ultramarine, a colour made from lapis lazuli, a costly stone once more precious than gold. In art, it was reserved for only the most elevated subjects. The Egyptians began importing lapis lazuli from Afghanistan around 6,000 years ago, it was in the early 5th century that blue became associated with the Virgin Mary.

Madonna and Child (The Ansidei Altarpiece) mediterranean sea Manufactures - Lady, oil paintings on canvas.

Gothic altarpiece of Madonna and Child by Bernardo Daddi, circa 1340-1345, tempera and gold leaf on wood. National Museum of Catalan Art, Barcelona, Spain

21 century madonna and child

The power of embrace  3 / 2020, Oil on canvas,  100 X 100 CM

In this 21st century, I am convinced that there is a fact that is eternal love. From the past to the present, the link still between love exists between the mother and the child. As a mother, when I embrace my kid, I will feel joyful with a sense of safety. Also, I believe embracing is bidirectional and supportive.

'If you get simple beauty and nought else, You get about the best thing God invents: That's somewhat: and you'll find the soul you have missed, Within yourself, when you return him thanks.'

- Fra Lippo Lippi by Robert Browning

I think it is a fine way to paint spiritual soul by painting body. To paint a picture of divine motherly tenderness, free from the bonds of space and time, and also to paint a picture of two persons with particular features and expressions. I paint separation and connection. But, using distancing of my family, a historical reference to the mother and child and tenderness; the loss, the joy, and they also have the sadness. Even, then being able to access your family, what that means, and what it means to be a mother in the 21st century.

Madonna Enthroned, the painting has a traditional Christian theme, representing the Virgin Mary and the children of Christ sitting on the shelf, surrounded by saints and angels, and embellished on the throne of various gems. The right hand of the baby in the arms of the Virgin Mary is praying, while the left-hand holds the scroll representing knowledge. The background colour of the painting follows the golden glow of the Byzantine art tradition. However, the manners of the Virgin Mary are closer to the portraits in the future, and they have shown the humanistic trend of the early Renaissance that emphasized humanity and weakened divinity.

I adopted the concept of this picture of the Virgin Mary sitting on a chair(throne), but I abandon the view of the ladder on the throne because I think that my work which the image of the mother should have no sense of distance for people.

Portrait of Pope Innocent X is an oil on canvas portrait by the Spanish painter Diego Velázquez. Many artists and art critics consider it the finest portrait ever created. I used the structure of this painting, the angle of view, and the red fabric curtain in the background. In terms of colour, the portrait is based on a large area of red, which highlights a majestic religious atmosphere. The shawl formed a sharp contrast and set off the pope ’s face.

About the process in my practice

Initially, I use the red fabric curtain background for my painting. But, when I painted my work, the colour of the red dress and the background were too close, so I decided to modify and add deep blue and black colour to increase the emotional change in colour, and the purpose is to increase the separation and reduce the chroma. To increases the sadness emotion of the picture, for the thoughts behind the metaphor and emotions because I reference another painting, Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X, painted by Francis Bacon. His work is based on the theme of “human body” and is famous for expressing personal psychology by reinterpreting masterpieces. The paintings are bold, grotesque, and violent. Most of them use twisted faces and human bodies to convey strong emotions. Bacon attempted to project onto the canvas experiences that formed an “assault” on his nervous system in such a way that the resulting images themselves would impart a shock to the viewer. More specifically, Bacon attempted to project onto the canvas experiences that formed an “assault” on his nervous system in such a way that the resulting images themselves would impart a shock to the viewer. This made me trace well-known “wounds” in Bacon’s life. 

Bacon's "Papacy" theme images are mainly derived from the classic images of traditional art history and the classic images of his era. The artist created his own unique artistic language through deconstruction, transformation and reorganization. This influences me on how to transform a new image for another way with another way to express true emotions in metaphor.

Madonna Enthroned, also known as the Ognissanti Madonna, or just Madonna Ognissanti, is a painting by the Italian late medieval artist Giotto di Bondone, housed in the Uffizi Gallery of Florence, Italy.

Giotto di Bondone, c. 1310
,Tempera on panel
 325 cm × 204 cm 

Portrait of Pope Innocent X is an oil on canvas portrait by the Spanish painter Diego Velázquez,1650.

Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X, painted by Francis Bacon,1953

In modern times, photography is often discussed (focus, wide-angle, depth of field, adjust the aperture). For me, in terms of painting, I use photography as reference material for painting creation, and I also refer to the perspectives explored by photography. The angle of photography is also from the standpoint of painting to create a visual aspect to shoot. 

Painting: Multi-level colouring

When painting, first use a single colour to draw the appearance of the body, and then use multiple layers of colour to shape. The dark parts are often painted thinner, and the middle tones and bright parts are painted thicker, or covered or left, forming a contrast of colour blocks.


Due to the different thickness, the rich charm and texture of the colour are displayed.

There is no strict difference between transparent and opaque painting methods, and I often use them in one painting. When expressing objects in the dark or shadow, the transparent overlay method can produce a stable, deep volume and space sense; the opaque overlay method is easy to shape the shape outside the dark section, increasing the saturation of the colour of the screen.

When expressing objects in the dark or shadow, the transparent overlay method can produce a stable, deep volume and space sense; the opaque overlay method is easy to shape the shape outside the dark section, increasing the saturation of the colour.


The production time is generally longer, and some of them are placed for a long time after one layer is painted, and then the colour layer is completely dry before painting. I gradually added some glazing techniques from the direct painting method.


Although this not can be completed in a short time, it must take a long time to accumulate. The advantage of this technique is that it has a unique texture, and because of the thin coating and strict control of the oil ratio, and the work can usually be preserved for centuries, I am willing to spend time for painting.​

The realistic painting is not a direct recording of the image, but a human interpretation that can re-give life. We can see the subtle changes in the colour and lustre even if we see the real picture in this painting and also have a 3D-like three-dimensional feeling. If it printed or displayed on a screen, the special three-dimensional effect would completely disappear.

The ways of seeing

No amount of language is more impressive than the visual gaze of the image

To reproduce and create visual effects on images, I explore photography and painting. However, how to express emotions and feelings through vision, take mother's angle as the starting point. To show my feelings, angle, and to communicate with the audience and respond to this generation, which is what I want to explore.

The concept of the gaze


Morgan(2005)  'A gaze is a projection of conventions that enables particular possibilities of meaning, certain forms of experience, and positive relations among participants. Although in standard English, the word gaze means a particular kind of looking—a steady, intense or absorbed form of a vision— the term is used herein a technical sense. Gaze designates the visual field that relates seer, seen, the conventions of seeing, and the physical, ritual, and historical contexts of seeing. '[1]

Gaze, the original meaning is "seeing", but the expansion of the original meaning refers to visual communication; that is, two-way "seeing", or the viewer is also seen. I use the characteristic of this "seeing" lies in the exploration of the personal identity of the viewer and the viewer - the relationship between the two and extends to the gender, religious and mother and child relationship of individual existence and their social relationship. I want to connect the emotions between the personal identity of the viewer and the viewer. 

'In religious contexts, the gaze has always an individual and a collective dimension, since it activates mental, shared images and concepts that are regulated on a social level, and responds to social expectations and norms regarding the position of the subject of the gaze and attitudes towards what is seen.' [2]

[1]Morgan, David. (2005) The Sacred Gaze: Religious Visual Culture in Theory and Practice, Berkeley: University of California Press.

[2]Stefanie Knauss, Daria Pezzoli-Olgiati(2015, Feb 19)Introduction The Normative Power of Images: Religion, Gender, Visuality., Religion and Gender, 1878-5417, pp.1–17.

About the women's gaze for Madonna’s icon.


What impressed me was the expression of women's gaze and emotions in John Currin works, and he used the colour of analogous combination in his paintings, presenting a gentle classic temperament.

​He uses classical painterly techniques to portray highly charged social and sexual taboos. With inspirations as diverse as Master portraits, he paints ideational, challengingly perverse images of women.  His work is the search for the point at which the beautiful and the grotesque held in perfect balance. His paintings inspired me on how to deal with the atmosphere of modern classic paintings —his artistic ideas, which also influenced my creative thinking.

John Currin
B. 1962
signed and dated 04 on the overlap
oil on linen
107 x  86.6 cm. 

Jennifer Lawrence Covers Vogue's September Issue In A John Currin

21-century madonna and child 

Series of  Mother and Child 's gaze:  Want to be a protagonist? 

Art Director:  YiChiao, Chen
Costume Design:  Frank Lin 
Photography assistant :  Bennyton Children's Photography


The camera acts as a representative of consciousness: observe, extract and record time intervals in preparation for the future. Being aware of its existence usually causes the person being photographed to have a split-consciousness and self-awareness enhancement, making them quickly pose and perform, eager to play roles and roles. I want to behave like me, not like me and hope that expression and body language can convey my desire or gentle and soft, those who may stare at me in the future.

When I did the series of Madonna and child in the 21st century, I did feel the spiritual abundance. For me, the child is the best gift from heaven, whether it is shooting either through painting, interaction with children in the process. When feelings of thought in the production of the art, every time I draw, even when reviewing my works. I reminded of my various time with my children. Memories and photographs as being frozen moments or traces, the process of interaction is a natural emotional connection to me. In other words, if the mother is the entire universe for the child, then it is related to the child's first experience of the mother.  There is an exclusive emotional connection between the mother and the child. Photography provided me with a more accessible visual language, and one connected more closely with everyday reality. Using the camera, I interrogated the visible evidence of modern life. If the camera has replaced the paintbrush, then my body has, in a sense, become a canvas for the expression of ideas to explore the meaning of modern time.

Seeing Madonna and Child 

The Madonna and Child of every generation have different images, I decided to galleries to see paintings which are related to the Madonna and Child(Seeing Madonna and Child ) and to think about what kind of image would it be for the Madonna and Child in modern time? Based on the perspective of humanism, the mother-child relationship and interdependent emotional connection are the focus of this photography.

In this series, I am an art director and collaborate with photographers and a costume designer. At the same time, I also played the Madonna and let my son play him as a Child. I rented a studio and hired a professional makeup artist to complete the Madonna and Child series in the 21st century. To present a bright texture and light considerations in the studio, I chose this painting of Madonna and child drew as a reference for costume design.

When I was shooting this set of photos, from conception to shooting, and discussing the style of the Madonna with a costume designer, I chose the material of the clothing and participated in the cloth making. To make the picture look good, I referenced the paintings of different Madonna and child and finally considering that if used as reference material for art.​

Musée des Beaux Arts Chambery : Giovanni Battista SALVI dit SASSOFERRATO (1609-1685) Vierge à l'enfant

 About gender and identity 

Cindy Sherman is an American photographer and filmmaker whose self-portraits offer critiques of gender and identity.  

Sherman examines and distorts femininity from the History Portraits series as a social construct. Sherman treats objects like actors and created a narrative by setting them up. The use of her own body in roles or personas in her work. She influences me about thinking meaning to the mother identity in her works, and I want to reproduce the religion and historical culture that creates new meaning. 

In the '80s, she began making History Portraits, which borrowed from noble historical paintings from the renaissance, baroque, rococo and neo-classical periods. Inspired directly by painted portraits by Raphael, Caravaggio, Ingres and Rubens among others, Sherman uses a range of props and costumes in her classically stylised images.



Cindy Sherman, Untitled #228, from the History portraits series, 1990

Cindy Sherman, Untitled #216, from the History portraits series, 1989

The rise of female power│New era women

Photography of images in newspapers, periodicals, posters, advertisements, and other social media has continuously appeared in daily life and different times, which has profoundly affected the creation of me. I use “seeing” photographs from prints and reassembled them with other images and text to form a new themed artwork to reflect this time.

"No matter what your status is, you can change and build a better self at any time." --Madonna, the representative of the world's female power

21 century Madonna and Child
​ in TIME

​11.2019 , Photoshop

21 century Madonna and Child​

​5.2020 , Photoshop


Belong to this era and the Madonna and Child​. What do we want to become? What is the future of the Madonna and the Child? 

Women in the new era refer to the feminism in which women today are free from traditional patriarchal society; advocating equality between the sexes—a derivative of the American feminist movement. New era women in the modern era keep their jobs after entering a marriage. Emphasis on independence, self-confidence, freedom from marriage, family, good education, economic autonomy, and freedom of love. So, we often can see excellent and outstanding women in the magazine. It seems to be a superwoman—more mature character. In terms of feelings, women are brave in pursuit of happiness, does not care about traditional restraints, loves herself, and treats herself well.

If gender is not a framework, why do mothers always feel that they have no choice?

There are many dogmas that women are expected to obey in this society. Many norms and frameworks constrain our thinking and our desires. Life has never been one way, so I think that women have different looks and possibilities. Every woman is worth pursuing the life she wants and the future she wants.

About Cover Story Inspiration


The cover design of Time Magazine, with distinctive red borders, is a registered trademark worldwide. Since its inception, Times has adopted "Cover News" or "Cover Story" as its editorial policy. It treats the most important news of the week as "Cover". The principle of using portraits or photos as covers is also an important feature.
Emphasize the photo illustrations of "Cover Characters" and "News People" and give an in-depth introduction.

Time Magazine was launched in London on March 3, 1923. It has been published for more than eighty years and is the world's first newsweekly with the most extended history.  Because of his "cover" approach, using portraits or photos as the cover, plus Time magazine reports have historical significance and catch up with pressing international issues so that I will integrate its characteristics (time and history) into this series works.

Photographed by Tyler Mitchell, Vogue, September 2018

Beyonce talked about her life and body in this issue of "Vogue". She said that imagine if someone had not given a chance to the brilliant women who came before her: Josephine Baker, Nina Simone, Eartha Kitt, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Diana Ross, Whitney Houston, and the list goes on. They opened the doors for her, and she prayed that she was doing all she can to open doors for the next generation of talents. If people in powerful positions continue to hire and cast only people who look like them, sound like them, come from the same neighbourhoods they grew up in, they will never have a greater understanding of experiences different from their own. They will hire the same models, curate the same art, cast the same actors over and over again, and we will all lose. The beauty of social media is that it is entirely democratic. Everyone has a say. Everyone's voice counts, and everyone has a chance to paint the world from their perspective.' From Beyonce cover story, it can see women's power in our society and everywhere no matter what any race so that I used the concept of Vogue cover and combined my idea for this work. 

Three gelatin silver prints, 10.5 x 8 inches, 26.7 x 20.3 cm (each image size), 19.125 x 16.625 inches, 48.6 x 42.2 cm (each frame size), edition of three. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

21 century Madonna and Child​ 
V.S AI Genesis

​11.2019 , Photoshop

The Sentient Machine: The Coming Age of Artificial Intelligence

In the 21st century, the Madonna wants to read the book (AI Genesis) to learn about AI technology and teach her child how to master the future in the future.The human problem that AI will cause in the future: Why are humans so valuable? How smart is human beings? If human beings are difficult to make progress, why?

Inspiration / Concept

Madonna and Child in the generations of alternation

This work (21 century Madonna and Child​  V.S AI Genesis) is inspired by Raphael. The Solly Madonna by the Italian renaissance artist Raphael was painted somewhere between 1500 and 1504. The virgin Mary is reading a book. I took The Solly Madonna as a reference, and made such a gesture that I saw, and synthesized the book of Genes AI with photoshop
When I saw this painting, I guessed that Madonna should be reading a story about the Bible. The beginning of creation in the Old Testament, now in the 21st century, AI technology is changing the development of human society, preparing to open up a new century, so I put The two images are combined to respond to the painting.

The author of the book, Amir Husain, extensively discusses the human problems that AI will cause in the future in "AI Genesis": Why are humans valuable? How smart are humans? Why is it difficult for humans to make progress? The coming era of perception machines gives everyone the opportunity to ask themselves: Who are we? What do we want to become? Should we seize the opportunity to use artificial intelligence as a mirror to examine the nature of human nature reflected in artificial intelligence? Above related questions, this book inspired me to think about who we are? What do we want to become? As a mother, I think to explore the unknown and future technology, and this is the only way to lead the child to understand this new world. Books are also an essential medium for spreading knowledge and shaping human culture, so I incorporated this concept in my work.

Raphael Solly Madonna, c. 1502 Berlin, Staatliche Museen

21 century Madonna and Child​ - The Virgin of the Rocks in the Orient

​3.2020 , Photoshop

The Virgin of the Rocks

Crossing the culture of thousands of years ago to this epoch. 

From the past and nowadays, how to share the cultural heritage that still exists, I explore the loss of this generation of culture, invoking the ‘epoch’ in this way with the present-day ‘historicism. I combine the concept of Madonna and Child and Chinese painting as a background to explore the remixed cultural change in the 21st century. 

About historical portraits  Inspiration

Yasumasa Morimura is a contemporary Japanese appropriation artist whose work consists of inserting his face and body into portraits of historical artists and celebrities. Similarly to American photographer Cindy Sherman, Morimura uses extensive props and digital manipulation to create his images, resulting in often-uncanny recreations of iconic works. “Taking photographs is generally an act of 'looking at the object, whereas 'being seen' or 'showing' is what is of most interest to one who does a self-portrait,” he has explained. “Self-portraits deny not only photography itself, but the 20th century as an era as well.” The majority of his practice focuses on characters from Western history, especially women. Simultaneously reverent and satirical, his self-portraits manages to skewer traditional notions of beauty while revealing a deep appreciation for the art he appropriates. From his work, it inspired my exploration of self-portraits, and the possibility of other portrait themes with historical background. Also, it motivated me to think about how to deal with the 21st century from a female and mother identity and perspective.


each: inkjet print on canvas in artist frames
Size:30.71 x 21.85 in. (78 x 55.5 cm.)

Launa Bacon

La Mort de Marat, as known as Marat Assassiné, which is a famous artist in the Révolution française period. Launa Bacon, who is a creative Contemporary artist, chose to rebirth it by actress and photographer. This idea inspired me to breakthrough and produce art. As long as the concept can be expressed when the audience is watching, the way of making art should be free. So I don’t believe that sentence, which is called From today, painting is dead. In modern society, people still get inspired by any painting in the gallery or museum. As an artist, Launa’s work also reminded me that the painting is still alive in contemporary art, and it will become more fascinating, with the artist’s energy and soul.            

ARC: Launa Bacon Maratess, 2006 digital photograph. Performer: Tiffany Trenda. Photo: Beth Dubber

© 2020 copyright Yi Chiao Chen. All rights reserved. 

CONTACT: chenyichiao761002@gmail.com

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