The Art of God of War

Angry boys

Taking its direction from those wildly engrossing stories from Greek mythology, God Of War is based in Ancient Greece and tells the story of Kratos who calls upon the aid of the God of War, Ares, to defeat the Barbarians. In true Greek mythology fashion his journey is replete with vengeance, greed, bloodlust, betrayal and defiance. The Barbarian King Alrik, mere moments from victory over Kratos and his Spartan Army, was beheaded by Kratos wielding his trademark Blades of Chaos. In God of War 2 it seems Alrik has fought his way out of Hades to seek vengeance on Kratos. It is this battle between the two depicted above.

The overall feel of the piece comes from the play between the sedate mossy greens of the background and the fiery orange hues throughout the three central figures. This not only gives the image a very atmospheric feel but those hot oranges push the main subjects right out to the viewer against the neutral green which intentionally keeps the overall depth to a minimum. In turn this contrast reinforces the atmosphere: a deep, murky and thick stage whereupon the two main figures are entangled.

It is this entanglement that grabs the viewer. The artist has clearly used Kratos’ chained weapon as a means to create a visual flow across the canvas. This is not only subtle and effective but ultimately necessary to make the composition so harmonious. Your eye is taken from Alrik’s hand wielding that dreadful hammer, down Kratos’ chain, diagonally across the canvas to Kratos’ outstretched muscular arm and across his body to his vertically positioned blade. This composition is bold and given authority by the demonic horse’s body. This is also very well done and somewhat implicit (if you think a fiery demonic horse is subtle). The build of the horse is not a standard lithe horse but is more akin to a workhorse. Visually this mirrors the scene very well: the heft and mass of the horse adding to the boggy feel of the background, its shape and muscular frame lends that untiring masculine strength synonymous with Kratos, and its position on the canvas is crucial to the overall impact of the composition.

No doubt Park has knowledge of the triangular composition favoured by those Renaissance artists like Poussin, who were so inspired by classical Greek Art. It’s used unconventionally but nevertheless is implemented well here. Such a strong, muscular and aggressive scene can threaten to overpower a composition. To make it less obvious and more complex, this aggressive tension is allieviated and simultaneously emphasised by the sense of momentum and liveliness of the gestures.

Alrik’s hammer is held and poised in such a way that we can almost sense the disgusting power with which it’s about to be swung. The weight of the hammer is pulling it down but the strength on the arm and grip makes it seem under control. The heft of the hammer and strength of the arm combine to give a feeling of devastating power. Kratos’ body is stretched in a way that initially suggests he is at the mercy of Alrik, however the antihero’s left leg gives his frame stability. His whole body is tilted slightly away from Alrik and his free arm is poised in such a way that it puts forward a kind of power struggle. It’s far from clear just who has the upper hand here which kind of mirror’s Kratos’ plight throughout the series: despite seemingly overwhelming odds and facing almost certain death his boundless fury and vengeance keep him fighting to the bitter end.

My only gripes with the image are the lighting and background. The shadows are slight which, in my opinion, is an opportunity lost. Deep shadows could add a further sense of impact especially considering how they could have played against the lighting on Kratos’ blades, the horse’s eyes and Alrik’s arm and eye. Although the colours of the background work well, it comes off as under detailed which robs the image of depth and the scene of a sense of location.

This is a really powerful image depicting the struggle between the two in battle and their ferocious anger – it conveys the tension just before a no doubt brutal impact. It is this tension, momentum and use of colour that makes this a fantastically composed, clever and energetic piece of Art.





4 responses to “The Art of God of War”

  1. Paul Rooney avatar
    Paul Rooney

    Good point, well made

  2. Brad Gallaway avatar
    Brad Gallaway

    An excellent breakdown… I’ve seen this image before, though I admit that I’d never taken it apart the way you did here. Fascinating to see your analysis here. I look forward to your next art lesson! ^_^

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