Today we have the third and final part of our Art and Ladders series. If you haven't seen the first two they're well worth a read, we started with part one, Ladders - Sculpture and Form, on the 12th of April which was then followed the next week by part two, Ladders - Form, Shape and Decoration. Now in part three we see that ladders have been used in many other sculptural and painted pieces of art as well. We'll begin with the famous Spanish artist Joan Miro, very well known for his colourful abstract paintings, more so in fact than his abstract sculptures, but that is where we start as he created the beautiful and symbolic ‘The Ladder of the Escaping Eye’ in 1971. Cast in bronze, the small sculpture is of a curved ladder, which tapers towards the top, mounted upon a piece of animal bone which is in turn mounted on a stone. At the top of the ladder a spherical shape, representing the ‘all seeing eye’, or an untainted vision. The symbolism of the ladder here, placed in between the representation of the conceptual ideal (the eye) and base forms (stone and bone) is that of a bridge between two worlds. Ladders are a common theme in the Constellations series of Miro’s work, which includes both sculpture and painting. Miro also painted The Escape Ladder in 1940, which was part of the same series. This painting seems to have influenced the sculpture that came later, as well as other ladder themed paintings in the set. The Escape Ladder is done in Miro’s typical style, very linear with block colours and strong movement. Miro’s style is particularly suited to depicting the linear movement of a ladder structure and in The Escape Ladder it is this linear form that ties the picture together. Free-floating abstract forms are on either side of the ladder, which appears to lead to a crescent moon. The ladder is the only definite structure in the painting, so it is representing an escape from the chaos that surrounds it. Miro painted the picture shortly before he fled the seaside town of Varengeville-sur-Mer in France for his native Spain when the Germans started bombardments there employing heavy artillery; so it is easy to see the harsh colours and chaotic nature of the painting as representative of the turmoil Miro was experiencing in Nazi occupied France.

Ladders and Photography

Photographer Philippe Ramette enjoys playing with composition, placing people in incongruous situations and places. One image sees a man underwater, wearing a suit, standing on the top of a stepladder reaching towards the surface of the water. The viewer cannot see what he is reaching for, but there is a certain comedy in the sight of a smartly dressed man on top of a stepladder underwater. Some of his other images see a man leaning against a rock underwater, checking the time on his watch, a man standing on the wall of a room, perfectly perpendicular to the wall, or a man standing on stilts in the mountains. Jon Sasaki’s photograph "Ladder Stack, 2009" depicts what we assume is three ladders stacked on top of each other (although we can’t see the feet of the bottom ladder, so we don’t know how tall this stack is), with a man’s feet at the top of the top ladder. It is absurdly comic like Ramette’s ladder image, because no one would climb up a stack of (possibly more than) three ladders for any reason! Colin Biddle is also a photographer, but unlike Ramette or Sasaki, does not tend towards the surreal or absurd. His photograph, Hayloft with Ladder is a still life photograph of a hay barn in Herefordshire with a long ladder leaned up against a stack of hay bales. The afternoon sun shines in from the right side of the frame, highlighting the golden hay. This is one of the few examples of ladders depicted faithfully in traditional art. Corporate Ladder by Ed Massey shows a ladder set against a blurred backdrop of an office foyer. At the top of the ladder is the boss, looking smug and untouchable, and at the bottom is the cleaner. In between these figures are people representing the levels in between, fighting with each other to get to the top. A single figure stands back to the left and watches. It is a representation of the struggle that people go through to get ahead professionally and the single figure watching represents the absurdity of it all; he can see this for what it is and is not getting involved. The fact that the ladder and people are very prominent against the blurred background of the office reinforces the idea that the workplace setting is not particularly relevant, that this sort of corporate ladder climbing occurs everywhere.

What Do Science Fiction and Ladders Have in Common?

Chickasaw’s Ladder by K. Hoover is of a rickety wooden ladder appearing between two portals, one in the ground and one in the sky. The landscape this is set in appears barren and inhospitable. Rays of light project from each portal, suggesting that the ladder is in a kind of limbo state between two better worlds. The painting is in the Sci-Fi genre, as is Lars Wilkman’s Ladder to the Moon. This is a mixed media (pencil and digital) depiction of a long ladder reaching towards the moon, which takes up the majority of the composition. The idea of ladders reaching to the moon is a popular fun theory within science fiction and these two images play on that idea. Ladders are popular figures in street art as well. Perhaps because street art uses walls for a canvas and ladders are generally leaned against walls. They have been seen in a number of artworks, including some by Banksy. We will look at his use of ladders in more detail below. In the Schrijversbuurt, a district of Eindhoven in the Netherlands, there is a painting on the side of a wall of a man up a ladder fixing a sign to the wall. It is very lifelike, even including a shadow of the ladder on the wall to suggest that the ladder is actually leaning against it. In a similar artwork in Spain a man is seen up a ladder painting a palm tree on the side of the building. The palm tree is a painting on the building, as is the man painting it and the woman holding the ladder. These types of street art are quite effective as seen from the right angle and distance they look very real. Design group GSU 2D Design have made pieces of art that create the illusion of a three dimensional set of steps or a ladder when viewed from a certain angle. They are so convincing that a person can pretend to be climbing the steps when the whole image is looked at from the right angle. These optical illusions are two-dimensional, i.e. they are flat against the wall, but appear to be three dimensional as you move to the right place for viewing. This is a popular technique in street art; creating something that looks like subtle shapes and shadows from one angle, and something completely different from another angle by using the negative space left between the lines of the drawing.

Banksy's Use of Ladders in Art

Banksy’s most famous artwork involving a ladder is on the Segregation Wall in Palestine. He painted a series of images on the wall, mostly of what might lie on the other side, through painting "holes" in the wall giving a glimpse of what may be there if you could cross over and some of people trying to do so, to escape. One image shows a little girl floating over the wall holding a bunch of balloons. Another shows a long rope ladder descending to the floor from right at the top of the wall. At the bottom is a small boy with a paintbrush; he has painted the rope ladder on the wall in the hope of escape. As with all of Banksy’s work the location inspires the aesthetics and message of the piece and the Palestine wall project is no different. A lesser known Banksy image was made in London: After hiding the side of a building with scaffolding and tarpaulin he painted in large white letters ‘One nation under CCTV’, with an image of a child on a ladder holding a white roller, having just painted on the wall. Banksy is well known for his theme of painting another person painting a slogan or a picture on the wall. In doing this he opens up his method of art to everyone. We hope this series on ladders in art and sculpture has made you look at your ladder slightly differently on at least one occasion; perhaps you have even tried making your own sculpture? Let us know in the comments below.