In our increasingly divided and isolated world, our basic need to connect with one another feels more urgent and pressing than ever. Much like air, food and water, connection is fundamental to our survival, fostering happiness, belonging, fulfilment and meaning. Art has illustrated the power of connection since early Renaissance times and has continued to do so through the ages, capturing the vital sparks of life-giving energy that are passed from person to person through the simple and profound act of touch.
One of the most moving and timeless illustrations of connection is Italian Renaissance master Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Fresco The Creation of Adam, 1473-81, where God’s hand reaches out and sparks life into Adam. The two male figures reach out towards one another as an unseen pulse of energy is passed from heaven to earth in the ultimate act of selflessness and creation. Many paintings and sculptures of the same era capture the bonded attachment between mother and child through Biblical portrayals of Mary and Jesus. Raphael’s stunning painting The Grand Duke’s Madonna, 1504, captures the sensitive tenderness of their attachment to one another as each gently rests their hands on the other’s body, mirroring one another’s body language as a symbol of their unbreakable union.
As art themes gradually shifted towards secular subjects, romantic unions between lovers became a popular topic for artists to celebrate the pure and unbridled power of love. French sculptor Auguste Rodin’s iconic portrayal of The Kiss, 1882, was originally based on the clandestine and ill-fated love affair between Francesca and Paolo in Dante’s Inferno, but is now widely recognised as a more general symbol for ardent, reckless love as the two are caught in the heat of passion.
Rodin’s scandalous sculpture spanned a series of homages with the same title in the decades to follow, including Gustav Klimt’s stunning painting The Kiss, 1908, that encases lovers in a golden blanketed patchwork of colour and light, and the more abstracted The Kiss, 1907, by Romanian modernist sculptor Constantin Brancusi, which merges two figures into a tight and unbreakable union, carved into stone for all time. Pablo Picasso’s more ambiguous, Cubist portrayal of love in Friendship, 1908, conveys two figures with concealed genders in a tender moment of shared intimacy as a universal celebration of love and unity between all.
Here at illus prints many of our images celebrate similar acts of connection between individuals as their bodies merge together into one. Beso continues with Rodin’s timeless theme of the kiss, illustrating two people caught in a private moment of passionate union with clean, simple lines that delicately blend their faces together into a single image.
Flirt is equally refined and minimal, as one coy pinkie finger playfully wraps itself into the other person’s hand with the cheeky body language of flirtatious young love. In Reach, outstretched hands mirror the composition of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, but they also suggest the passionate need between two people to reach out and form a deep-rooted connection, through the enduring union of holding hands.