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Art and Love

Love, the mystical phenomenon that stirs emotions

Murmuring the word “love” is enough to inspire all kinds of emotions, from excitement to despair. The etymology of love comes from the old English word “lufu”, which describes not only sexual attraction, but also devotion to God and other intense abstract feelings. Although the term commonly refers to romantic intimacy, it is also used when talking about other relationships, between friends and family, with pets, or with one’s country. Love is a subjective and multifaceted concept that has been explored by many philosophers and psychologists throughout history, but no one has been able to come up with a definitive description. Perhaps therein lies the most beautiful aspect of love.

Tae Kim
Luv uuu, 2022
Courtesy of the artist and THEO, Seoul

An emotion that manifests in countless forms and conjures different images depending on the individual, love has been a timeless source of inspiration throughout art history. It cannot be defined in a single sentence, nor contained in a single exhibition - though many do try. The group show and I will wear you in my heart of heart is one such attempt. It combines works by 35 artists who endeavor to explore the many ways in which the tenderness of love exists.

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and I will wear you in my heart of heart at The FLAG Art Foundation, New York (May 1 - Aug 13, 2021)

Jana Benitez
We are the Love We Seek, 2022
Courtesy of the artist and Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong

In this curation, we explore love through carefully selected artists and artworks, delving deeper into the myriad feelings inspired by this phenomenon. Leaving behind the various theories, from Aristotle's theory of love to Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions, this curation focuses on the many emotions that complete a cycle of love: anticipation, joy, fear, sadness, and anger.

“The course of true love never did run smooth.”

-Act I, Scene 1 of A Midsummer Night's Dream, William Shakespeare

The early stage of love is usually full of anticipation and excitement at the prospect of endless possibilities, whether in terms of a relationship with a person, getting a pet, or pursuing a new job. Once the desired subject is within arm’s reach, happiness bursts forth from a sense of accomplishment. Sometimes, anxiety kicks in from the fear of possibly losing what has been achieved, leading to an overwhelming sense of sadness when and if that possibility becomes reality. What comes next might be anger, whether as a residual feeling of sadness, or as a response to rejection. That rage can then be destructive, fuelling a compulsion to hurt others, and sometimes oneself. Nonetheless, anger can be a driving force for change, a rebellion against stagnant situations. Explore the journey of love through art in this unique curation brought to you by eazel.


1. Anticipation: the journey begins with fluttering butterflies

2. Joy: the most powerful motivation

3. Fear: bracing for the uncertain future

4. Sadness: inevitable impact of loss

5. Anger: agent for change and growth

Anticipation: the journey begins with fluttering butterflies

Before any event, be they good or bad, the feeling of anticipation fills the stomach with fluttering butterflies. The emotional combination of anxiety and hope sits between the present and the potential future, laying a pathway for the journey of love ahead. With anticipation, the narrative of love begins to grow like cotton candy. Some might have an endless thread of desire for the warm and sweet smelling cloud, and others might be entranced by the process of making the fluffy treat. Only by embarking on a journey of love can its destination be revealed, whether one ends up intoxicated with sugary delight or overwhelmed with the consequence of having too much of a good thing.

Édouard Manet
Chez le Père Lathuille, 1879
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Tournai, Belgium

In Édouard Manet's Chez le Père Lathuille (1879), a couple is sitting at a restaurant table with a meal, although they seem to be more interested in romantic endeavors. The male figure is leaning toward the woman with his left arm around her chair, looking up at her with a credulous look on his face. There is a light tension in the air, created by an older man staring at them from the back. The atmosphere of the relationship of the couple is hard to decipher as the woman maintains a strong posture, and only the profile of her face is shown to the viewer, not giving away much of her feelings.

The painting depicts the uncertain yet possible development of a relationship through the staged composition of the restaurant owner's son, M. Gauthier-Lathuille, and Manet's muse, Mile French. The warm and fuzzy feeling of anticipation is heightened by the golden sunlight that floods the restaurant Père Lathuille, which was then located off Avenue de Clichy near the Guerbois in Paris. Although Lathuille’s son and French were modeling for the painting and had to pose several times throughout its creation, the scene is as familiar as the experience of first dates or flirting.

Anticipation in love implies the sweetness of a journey, looking forward to the fruit of a destination. Lying in wait of completion, Finitioni: To an end is an exhibition that addresses a new form of separation brought on by the contemporary era of hyper-connection. It is an arrangement of works by Grim Park and Tae Kim, who launch themselves into an exploration of anticipation in the relationships of the new age.

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Finitioni: To an end at THEO, Seoul (Mar 3 - 31, 2023)

Haneyl Choi
I saw you, 2021
Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Hyundai, Seoul

Eros-based love, which involves sexual arousal and intense emotional fluctuations, is often considered the quintessential form of love. When butterflies fill the stomach as hands touch accidentally on a first date, the hearts flutter with the wildest imaginations. As technology developed, the ways of finding love have shifted too. One modern manifestation of this is the popularity of dating apps like Tinder, which offer users the potential for libidinous and romantic connections with strangers. Haneyl Choi's sculptures represent the imprint of physical and emotional anticipation in the technosexual era.

Haneyl Choi
He's wasted, 2021
Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Hyundai, Seoul

Dating apps have become a common way for people to seek out carnal and sentimental partners. While the exact motivations may vary, experiencing a reward (a match) almost always triggers an increase in dopamine neuron firing, leading to the pleasurable sensations associated with desire and validation. The anticipation of meeting an attractive stranger can be highly stimulating and exciting. By recognizing the influence of sensual arousal as a powerful force in shaping interpersonal relationships, we can gain a deeper understanding of the many different forms that love can take in the modern world.

“We need the sweet pain of anticipation to tell us
we are really alive.”

- Albert Camus

Joy: love's most intense motivation

Our experience of joy often stems from loving relationships with people, animals, or even material things that bring us delight. The connection between joy and love is one that is both powerful and beautiful, and it is something that most of us strive to experience in our lives at various levels. The sense of achievement of sharing common interests with loved ones, or fulfilling a long term desire or goal, tends to put people on cloud nine.

Marc Chagall
Les mariés de la Tour Eiffel, 1938 - 1939
Centre Pompidou, Paris

Falling in love at first sight, Marc Chagall and his first wife, Bella Rosenfeld were deeply involved with each other both personally and professionally. As depicted in Les mariés de la Tour Eiffel (1938-1939), the couple went through tough challenges together. In the painting, the background is unequivocally chaotic, with the couple’s native Jewish quarters looking like it may catch fire from the upside-down angel holding lit candles on the right. Despite what life threw at them through war and exile, Marc Chagall and Rosenfeld seem content in their wedding outfits as long as they are together. Chagall continued to portray Rosenfeld in his works even after her sudden death in 1944, in honor of her memory and their love for each other.

Marc Chagall
Maternité, 1977-1978
Courtesy of the artist and Opera Gallery, Hong Kong

Chagall's works were not limited to paintings of love between two adults, but extended to the subject of maternity. Mothers and children in his paintings symbolized tenderness and the bonds of kinship, for example the drawing Maternité (1977-1978) is a sensitive portrayal of a mother and child, evoking a sense of warmth and serenity. For Chagall, romantic and familial relationships existed on the same plane in art. Moreover, the gentleness conveyed through the artwork leads us to believe that the happiness stemming from the stability of these two forms of connection is one of the most fundamental reasons driving our pursuit of love.

While our notion of love is often directed outwards, towards other people, it is all the more essential to feel affection and joy for ourselves. Niki de Saint Phalle’s solo exhibition is a celebration of self-love and women, a permission to feel happy in one’s own form. The show highlights the late artist’s Nanas, her signature female figures who evolved from symbols of protest to icons of glorification and liberation.

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Niki de Saint Phalle at Tang Contemporary, Hong Kong (Jul 12 - Aug 17, 2019)

Picasso and Lump
Photo: David Douglas Duncan

The companionship of domestic animals can bring immeasurable joy and comfort to our lives. They offer unconditional love, constant friendship, and a sense of security for many pet owners. Pablo Picasso held such deep affection for his dog Lump that he considered him a muse. Lump was brought into his life by his friend, the photographer David Douglas Duncan in 1957. Their encounter was nothing short of fate, and Duncan likened Picasso's relationship with Lump to a "love affair" as they hardly left each other’s sight. Lump was often carried around the studio by Picasso and they even went traveling together. After a life full of love and joy, Picasso and Lump died a week apart from each other in 1973, as if they promised to continue their companionship beyond the living realm.

“Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.”

- Mother Teresa

Fear: bracing for the uncertain future

Fear can act as a catalyst for love and is often a warning of something approaching. This description may overlap with anticipation, as both emotions are linked to an uncertain future. They are different in that fear arises from a perception of danger or potential harm, while anticipation is based on feelings of excitement or hope. The phenomenon known as the "taboo on pleasure" describes a fear of happiness, or in severe cases, it turns into a belief that one shouldn't be happy. Fear however, is naturally interconnected with love, and once the insecurities are overcome, the reward is tremendous as more mature relationships form with trust.

Marina Abramović and Ulay
Rest Energy, 1980
Courtesy of Marina Abramović and Sean Kelly Gallery, New York

Accepting love requires bravery, especially when dealing with the fear that loved ones can disappoint us. Usually, the only way is to trust that the other person would not intentionally do anything hurtful. Allowing vulnerability means exposing the most private parts of ourselves in an unprotected state. In this regard, the performance Rest Energy (1980) by Marina Abramović and Ulay was a demonstration of complete trust.

In it, Abramović and her former partner Ulay stand facing each other, with a bow and arrow pointed directly at Abramović's heart. The tension is palpable as the audience watches with bated breath, wondering what could happen if Ulay were to let go of the bowstring. Two small microphones are attached to capture the sound of their beating hearts, heightening the sense of apprehension in the audience.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres
“Untitled” (Loverboy), 1989
Courtesy of The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation

Felix Gonzalez-Torres was an acclaimed artist who poetically and conceptually explored complex themes and emotions through his art, especially after losing his lover. One of his most notable works is the blue curtain installation, Untitled (Loverboy) (1989), which offers a poignant contemplation of the themes of love and fear. The sheer blue fabric allows sunlight to filter through, bathing the space in a pervasive blue tint that can be seen as a symbol of the engulfing fear of losing someone.

“Untitled” (Loverboy) (detail), 1989
Metropolitan Arts Centre, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Photo: Simon Mills

Pain that follows loss is inevitable, like when light passes through the fabric and there is little to nothing we can do to stop it. We can only witness the space turning blue as the light filters through, experiencing the turmoil helplessly. It is only after this frustration has passed and the space has turned completely blue that we can confront the emotions we must feel, with a semblance of calm. Fear is a natural reaction to emotions that we don't understand, and sometimes it can create negative expectations. However, not all fears lead to loss and anxiety. Sometimes, it is just a lingering feeling of sadness. Such fears can hold their place even over time and can provide a unique source of motivation and creative energy for those who are left behind. Understanding this kind of fear can give a richer meaning to love.

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love.”

- John Lennon

Exploring the emotions of fear and pain in relation to losing one’s home, Ficre Ghebreyesus: I Believe We Are Lost is a retrospective that unfolds from the artist's experience of emigrating from Eritrea. Articulating the impact of war on his childhood, his practice and his life in general, Ghebreyesus wrote, “I suspect I have carried this angst and fear of imminent explosion within me to this day, for when I paint I am accompanied by dissonances, syncopations, and the ultimate will for life and moral order of goodness.”

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Ficre Ghebreyesus, I Believe We Are Lost at Galerie Lelong & Co., New York (Mar 30 - May 5, 2023)

Sadness: for the loss of love

Perhaps one of the most unavoidable emotions when talking about love is sadness. The fear mentioned in the previous chapter is often rooted in the anxiety of avoiding these sad emotions that can arise during a relationship. When someone becomes precious to us, we expose ourselves to the possibility of pain, yet still we risk it for love to reign. Accordingly, love and sadness are deeply interconnected and represent opposite ends of the emotional spectrum, making it difficult to completely distinguish one from the other. Exploring how artists cope with the onset of grief and how it becomes a long journey can be a crucial key to understanding the intersection between that emotion and love.

Edvard Munch
The Sick Child, 1907
Tate, London

Edvard Munch's painting, The Sick Child (1907), is a strong and moving work that conveys the raw emotions of sadness and love. The picture depicts a young girl lying on her deathbed, surrounded by her grieving family. It represents Munch's own experience of losing his beloved sister, Johanne Sophie Munch, to tuberculosis at the age of fifteen, when he was only fourteen years old. The tragic deaths of his mother and sister, both from the same disease, made death a constant shadow in Munch's entire life, influencing his artistic practice. This painting resonates with the universal human experience of loss and grief, with Munch's use of muted tones and loose, expressive brushstrokes intensifying the emotional impact.

Yamamoto Motoi
Sakura Shibefuru – Falling cherry petals, 2021
Courtesy of the artist and Setouchi City Art Museum, Setouchi

Japanese artist Yamamoto Motoi also lost his sister - to a brain tumor - and the installation Sakura Shibefuru – Falling Cherry Petals (2021) is manifested by his grief over her death. The piece features a vast expanse of salt that Motoi had meticulously hand-poured onto the museum floor, creating an ethereal landscape that resembles the delicate petals of cherry blossoms falling gently to the ground. Salt is significant in Japanese culture, representing purification, healing, and renewal. Motoi's use of salt in this installation is a reflection of his sister's struggle with cancer and his desire to find a sense of healing and closure in the wake of her passing.

Yamamoto Motoi, during the Return to the Sea Project
© Yamamoto Motoi

The falling cherry petals also serve as a symbol of impermanence, representing the fleeting nature of life and the inevitability of death. The artwork invites viewers to walk among the salt crystal blossoms, amidst a calming and even spiritual atmosphere. At the end of his exhibitions, Motoi runs a project that gathers people on the last day to destroy the works, collect the salt, and return it to the sea, representing a cycle of life and new beginnings.

“Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.”

- Oscar Wilde

Sadness is a very personal emotion that everyone deals with differently. In an expression of her grief over the loss of her father, Crystal Liu makes flowers bloom into the sky, weeping as they guide the moon home. The pieces displayed in her solo show you gave me everything contain the motif of rocks in a sign of unconditional, eternal love.

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Crystal Liu, you gave my everything at Galerie du Monde, Hong Kong (Apr 26 - Jun 3, 2023)

Anger: agent for change and growth

The interplay between love and anger is intricate and nuanced. The intensity of love often makes it difficult for rage to be reined in. The mere mention of "love" and "anger" invokes a sense of enigmatic bond between the two emotions. But what exactly fuels their connection and interaction? And what specific types and forms of love tend to trigger feelings of fury? While it’s commonly viewed as an emotion to be avoided, it can also serve as a powerful agent of change, presenting opportunities for personal and societal growth.

Frida Kahlo
Frieda and Diego Rivera, 1931
© Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA

One of the most famous love stories of the art world is that of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, for its drama and how they affected each other’s artistic practice. In 1939, the couple divorced, just to remarry the year after, demonstrating how unsettling their relationship was. During their ten-year marriage, they served as each other's beloved muses, enduring numerous obstacles such as her health issues, the loss of a child and multiple affairs. The love-hate relationship often left Kahlo confused and angry, which is reflected in many of her paintings.

Frida Kahlo
The Two Fridas, 1939
Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City

The year of their divorce, The Two Fridas (1939) was painted. It is one of the most famous works by Kahlo, depicting two versions of the artist sitting side by side, holding hands and connected by veins that flow from their exposed hearts. The Frida on the right, who is dressed in traditional Mexican clothes, is believed to represent her true self. The other Frida, wearing a white European-style dress, seems to have cut one of the veins with surgical scissors, splattering blood on the white dress. Going through internal struggle and turmoil during the time of extreme loneliness and anger towards Diego, the painting represents the contrasting emotions towards her lover.

The anger caused by loss is not only limited to love between people, and not all anger is expressed to release stress caused by the frustration. Well-managed anger can be a useful tool to make changes on both personal and collective levels. Some artists create works that deal with the loss of their beloved country, covering a wide spectrum of issues related to the conflict in their homeland, from colonization and displacement to human rights and identity. These dialogues contribute towards the age-old subject of diaspora and transnationalism in ongoing.

Mona Hatoum
Roadworks, 1985.
Documentation of performance, Brixton, London
© Mona Hatoum
Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, St. Gallen
Photo: Stefan Rohner

One of the most important figures in contemporary art, Lebanese-born Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum deals with subjects of race and identity, with belongingness and statelessness playing a major role in her practice. Roadworks (1985) is one of Hatoum’s most famous performances, where she walked through London’s Brixton barefoot while dragging Dr. Martens boots behind her, addressing the complexity of identity politics in the realm of marginalized communities around the globe. After being forcefully exiled in London at age 23 for a decade, with a childhood memory of her family fleeing to Lebanon from Haifa due to the war with Israel, Hatoum’s idea of identity may have been at the height of her interest as an artistic subject at that point.

With the power to consume, anger comes through as dangerous. Like fire, it can rage and be destructive, but like water, it can be calm and life-giving. Filipino-American artist Jana Benitez transforms aggression into compassion in her solo exhibition titled Wild Silence. With her efforts to “stay present in the rawness of pure feeling,” Benitez presents the complexities of emotions through the embodied experience.

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Jana Benitez, Wild Silence at Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong (Sep 8 - Oct 29, 2022)

Love is not simply love, but a myriad of emotions that interact and entangle to form an almost ungraspable feeling. It brings warmth to the hearts of some and tears to the eyes of others. It is attractive, abundant, frightening, despairing, and yet again productive. Touching almost every individual regardless of the context, love has, in all its forms and complexities, fascinated and inspired a great number of artists throughout history and it will no doubt continue to do so as the centuries go by.