Posted by: PPHR | February 15, 2010

Edmund Haakonson Talks About Slapshotolus

Edmund Haakonson

Title: Slapshotolus; Ancient Greek Olympic Sculpture Meets Modern Canadian Sport

Medium: bronze

Dimensions: 127 cm x 86 cm x 61 cm

Slapshotolus is a personification of the philosophical ideal of living one’s life true and honest unto one’s self, with a noble character and pure spirit. The sculpture is a visual symbol of living a life unshielded and unarmored. It is a symbolic expression of the idea that one who lives a noble life does not require more protection, does not need to cover because there is nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of.

In ancient Greece a number of sacred games were held in honour of specific gods and were important religious events centered around athletic competition. The Olympian Games in honour of Zeus were considered so important that a sacred peace was declared across the ancient Greek world during the period of competition. Competitors had to swear an oath before the altar of the god, Zeus knew if any had an impure heart and would not allow victory to one who was not true.

A victory in an event was not just a personal victory for the individual athlete, it was a victory for the whole of a competitor’s home city-state (much like we take national pride in our athletes’ medals). A victory symbolized divine favour from the gods and the city-state would sometimes have a work of art created and dedicated to the temple of the favouring god as an act of thanks giving.

Slapshotolus is a connecting of the ancient sacred games and the modern Winter Games. The artist has taken the Classical Greek image that is an expression of high ideals and given it a twenty-first century make over, a modern face. The body is that of an individual, not the formal, stylized convention of ancient Greek art. This recognizes the focus on individual achievement in our culture as opposed to the preeminence of the collective in the ancient. I have kept the body nude to acknowledge a millennia old tradition in art of what a nude symbolizes. The nude human form in art is used as a symbol of purity, innocence, truth. Nude = naked truth, if you will. The representative sport was chosen because hockey is the winter sport in Canada.

In the sculpture there is also an honouring of the Canadian sense of humour as expressed in popular television shows like This Hour Has Twenty Two Minutes, Royal Canadian Air Farce and Rent a Goalie. The image of ancient nude sculpture makes perfect sense to us, the image of a hockey player makes perfect sense, the hybrid of the two has a decidedly amusing result. There is something of the absurd in a hockey player wearing only skates, gloves and helmet, especially for anyone who has actually played hockey. The artist does not however, find any conflict in the absolutely serious and the humourous co-existing in a single work, rather it would suggest that it accurately reflects the true reality of human experience. The title Slapshotolus is a play on Discobolus which is the proper name for the ancient Greek sculpture “the Discus Thrower”.

These ideas are what Slapshotolus represents. It is a symbolic expression that high and noble ideals are something to aspire to, a concept that was worth believing in two and a half millennia ago and a concept worth believing in today.

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