Πέμπτη, 5 Μαΐου, 2011
“It is spirit, not painting” Makoto Aida says in the closing frame of Japan Society’s video for the exhibition “Bye Bye Kitty” in New York. (the link to the video is at the end of this post).
Today I want to present Makoto Aida’s work “Harakiri School Girls”. This is a composition that recurs in the artist’s activity. It first appeared in 1999, when the artist wanted to create a poster for his first solo exhibition. What attracted me to the painting is the 2002 print on film with acrylic, which you can see immediately below.
I am a fan of manga, the Japanese comics. So I was immediately attracted to the picture, as it looks like manga in a way, but when you open the door and get in it is something totally different. I am also fascinated by the bright neon lights in Tokyo’s streets, the advertising billboards, the extremely crowded and chaotic urban scenes. I could find elements of all these in the picture. So I present to you all three versions I could find, the original 1999, the “flashy” 2002, and the more etherial 2006, along with some commentaries.
“Harakiri School Girls combines the fetishistic fashions and nubile bodies of fantasy schoolgirls with the time-honored samurai practice of ritual suicide.”
(Source: Japan Society’s “Bye Bye Kitty“)
“Hara-kiri Schoolgirls” is typical of the images by Japanese multimedia artist Makoto Aida, who has created numerous series portraying mutilated young women as consumer goods. This image is intentionally shocking: according to the artist, it combines beauty and violence in order to challenge deeply rooted ideas about Japanese beauty and bring to light elements of the grotesque.
(Source: Jewish Museum, Berlin, Made in Japan)
“Several of the artists borrow from archaic Japanese pictorial conventions, only to skewer them with a contemporary nihilist sensibility. Makoto Aida’s brightly colored “Harakiri School Girls” emulates the style and violent subject matter of the 19th-century artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, but the atrocious acts pictured — ritual suicides, beheadings and disembowelings — are performed by pretty, uniformed schoolgirls, a possible reference to a culture that has lost its bearings.”
(Source: Artkabinet, Elisabeth Kirsch)
“During the late nineties, as gal culture was running rampant, Aida became intrigued. “I think those kogals in the 1990s were originals,” he says. “Historically and even globally, they were unique, and I sought a way to portray them.” Inspiration came from a group of high school girls squatting on the ground in Shibuya. “The scene reminded me of besieged warriors who have decided to commit mass suicide.” Out of this, Aida created Harakiri School Girls, originally as a poster to advertise his first solo exhibit in 1999, and later as a painting for the Singapore Biennale 2006.
Laced with dark humor, the work shows a group of uniform-clad schoolgirls plunging samurai swords into their stomachs, disemboweling themselves, and slicing off their own heads. The flash of a blade creates a rainbow in the blood spurting from a girl’s neck. A stream of blood flows past a curious kitten, karaoke flyers, and discarded tissues, into a drain. The work is gruesomely cute. “Harakiri School Girls is an allegory for the distorted mentality of Japanese youth at the time and the atmosphere of Japanese society,” Aida explains. “After the Bubble Economy collapsed, I felt that an air of pessimism was spreading through Japan like a virus.” Everything might have looked cute and happy, but underneath that veneer seethed dejection and darkness. During the nineties, the number of suicides increased year by year, and according to Aida, Japanese patriotism withered away. These schoolgirls, in their loose socks and school uniforms, symbolize the entire country, killing itself.”
(Source: Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential, by Brian Ashcraft and Shoko Ueda )
The Schoolgirl Body in Pieces: The Manga Portraiture of Makoto Aida
Manga has been an established form of popular expression in the Japanese visual field for centuries. During the postwar era, manga reflected a cultural shift in the identity of the national body, as a formerly cohesive imperial nation fell into fragments in the wake of defeat and control by American military forces. Framed by this shift, the manga renditions of brutalized and sexualized Japanese schoolgirls by the contemporary Japanese artist Makoto Aida convey elements of a nation’s fractured identity still shaped by it’s postwar temperament and global positioning. Certain moments of Japan’s present-day manifestations of postwar trauma find revitalized visual expression when inscribed upon the bodies of these girls, revealing the psychic role of the body in postwar and present-day Japan and how national memories of the past are constructed through bodily tropes. Aida’s appropriation of these bodies also reveals the engagement of the wound with historical memory, and the unstable constructions of female sexuality and identity that linger in contemporary Japan.
The narrative of the male fantasy in which a young girl is desired, attacked, stimulated, and brought to ecstasy has been present in Japan since the 1970s, persisting as a major trope within manga and anime. Graphic depictions of sexualized young girls play a major role in contemporary Japanese visual culture and because of this, “she” has become a highly readable and visible format from which to instigate social criticism and expression. I would like to suggest that the immediate and cursory misogyny that is visible in Aida’s depictions of young girls borrows from these pornographic genres as a subversive gesture that re-appropriates this bodily narrative vessel for social commentary. An examination of Aida’s imagery unveils the social forces shaping the artist’s source material, the implied spectators and their habits of bodily consumption.
I will discuss two of Aida’s manga works in which the young girls are presented with varying degrees of agency and submission when confronted with their brutalization. With Harakiri Schoolgirls (2006), the girls are depicted in a more individualized and essentialized manner. Here, a bevy of vibrant, uniformed Japanese schoolgirls commit stylized acts of self-inflicted suicide (harakiri) and decapitation. Of Aida’s schoolgirl imagery, this piece is unique in that the girls retain a certain control over the fatal violence. The second series, The Edible Artificial Girls, Mimi-chan (2001) is an example of Aida’s work in which the girls are presented en masse and in pieces as the main ingredient in an array of delicious Japanese dishes. Mimi-chan works as Aida’s hyper-realized riff on the dominant characterization of Japanese girls as the ultimate material consumers and the problematic consumability of these bodies. A portrayal connected to the ideological commodification of the female body that was conceived during the postwar era.
(Source: Maya Kimura’s Thesis Abstract)
Δευτέρα, 25 Απριλίου, 2011
More than a year ago, I wrote a post about Holderlin’s “Hyperion”. Today I revisit the great German poet, and present his poem “In lovely blue”. I have added some pictures to the words. In addition, there are explicary notes to the poem and the pictures. All of them are at the end of the post.
In Lovely Blue
by Friedrich Hölderlin
(Translated by Glenn Wallis)
In lovely blue blooms the steeple with its metal
roof. Around the roof swirls the swallows’ cry,
surrounded by most touching blue. The sun rises high
above and tints the roof tin. But in the wind beyond, silently,
a weathercock crows. When someone comes forth from
the stairs of the belfry, it is a still life. And though the form
is so utterly strange, it becomes the figure of a
human being. The windows out of which the bells resound are as
gates to beauty. Because gates still take after nature
they resemble forest trees. Purity, too, is beauty. From within, out
of diverse things, a grave spirit emerges. So simple,
these images, so holy, that one often fears
to describe them. But the heavenly ones, always
good, possess, even more than the wealthy, virtue and
joy. Humans may follow suit. Might a person, when
life is full of trouble, look up and say: I, too,
want to be like this? Yes. As long as friendliness and purity
dwell in our hearts, we may measure ourselves not unfavorably
with the divine. Is God unknown? Is he manifest
as the sky?(a) This I tend to believe. It is the measure
of the human. Deserving, yet poetically, we dwell
on this earth (b). The shadow of night with its stars,
if I may say so, is no purer than we
who exist in the image of the divine (c).
Is there measure on earth? There is none. (d) For
the creator’s worlds can never contain the clap of thunder.
Because it blooms under the sun, a flower, too, is beautiful.
In life, the eye often finds creatures to call more beautiful
still than flowers. Oh! I know this well!
For to bleed in body and heart and cease to be whole—
does this please God? The soul, I believe, must remain
pure, or else the eagle will wing its way to the almighty
with songs of praise and the voice of so many
birds. It is substance and it is form. Beautiful little
brook, so touching you seem as you roll so clear,
like the eye of God, through the Milky Way. I know
you well. But tears stream from my eyes. A clear
life I see in the forms of creation that blooms around me
because I do not compare them unreasonably with the lonely pigeons
in the churchyard. People’s laughter seems
to grieve me—after all, I have a heart. Would I
like to be a comet? I believe so. For they have the quickness
of birds, they blossom in fire, and in their purity is as children’s.
To wish for more is beyond the measure of human nature.
The clarity of virtue also deserves praise from the grave
spirit that blows between the garden’s three pillars. A beautiful virgin must
garland her head with myrtle, for to do so is simply
her nature and her sensibility. But myrtle trees are found in Greece.
When a person looks into a mirror and sees
his image, as if painted, that is like the Manes.
The human form has eyes, but the moon has light.
Perhaps King Oedipus (e) had an eye too many. This
man’s suffering seems indescribable, unspeakable,
inexpressible. When the drama presents it so, so it is. But how is it with me?
Am I thinking now of your suffering? Like brooks, the end of
Something as vast as Asia is carrying me toward it. Oedipus, of course, suffered like this, too;
and certainly for the same reason. Did Hercules suffer as well? Of course.
Did not the Dioscuri, too, in their friendship bear pain?
As Hercules fought with God—that is
suffering. And immortality in envy of this life—
to divide these two—that, too, is suffering. But it is also
suffering when a person is covered with freckles—
to be completely covered with freckles! The beautiful
sun does that, for it draws out everything. The path
seduces the young with the charm of its rays, like roses.
Oedipus’s suffering is like a poor man
wailing that he is deprived. Son Laios, poor
stranger in Greece. Life is death, and
death is also a life.
Notes to the poem
(a) Note that in German, Sky is Himmel, which also stands for Heaven.
(b) This is the phrase that Heidegger used in his essay “…poetically man dwells…”.
(c) Book of Genesis, Chapter 1 verse 26: ‘And God said: Let us make man in our image’.
(d) Holderlin seems to imply that only in the heavenly skies one can find measure, therefore introducing a metaphysical element in the poem. Werner Marx, who was the professor who took Heidegger’s teaching post at the University of Freiburg, wrote a book with the same question in its title, and “Foundations for a nonmetaphysical ethics” as its subtitle.
(e) Holderlin translated Sophocles’ tragedies Oedipus and Antigone. These translations are significant interprpetations of the works.
Notes accompanying the pictures
(1) Note to Yves Klein’s painting: Monochrome abstraction—the use of one color over an entire canvas—has been a strategy adopted by many painters wishing to challenge expectations of what an image can and should represent. Klein likened monochrome painting to an “open window to freedom.” He worked with a chemist to develop his own particular brand of blue. Made from pure color pigment and a binding medium, it is called International Klein Blue. Klein adopted this hue as a means of evoking the immateriality and boundlessness of his own particular utopian vision of the world.(Source: MOMA)
(2) Question: On the other hand, perhaps it is Friedrich Holderlin who has organized you? Why is Friedrich Holderlin ‘Kommando’, rather than, e.g., ‘Muse’?
Σάββατο, 23 Απριλίου, 2011
This is the result of a juxtraposition of the creations of two people who have not met in their lifetime. Both made Spain their home. Both originated in another country (culture). The occasion of this is the Holy Week that is now approaching its climax. I chose to focus on the zenith of the drama, the burial. The beginning of the trip to Hades.
El Greco: Domenikos Theotokopoulos, Painter.
Born in Crete, Greece, El Greco was trained as an icon painter.
It was as a painter who “felt the mystical inner construction” of life that El Greco was admired by Franz Marc and the members of the Blue Rider (Blaue Reiter) school: someone whose art stood as a rejection of the materialist culture of modern life.
El Lebrijano: Juan Peña Fernández. Lebrija (Seville), 1941. Singer.
García Marquez wrote: “When Lebrijano sings, water gets wet.”
(Please refer to FlamencoWorld for a biography and more).
The Burial of Count of Ortaz
The huge painting is in the Church of Santo Tome, in Toledo, the city that El Greco made his home in Spain.
Lagrimas de Cera (Tears of Wax)
“…The director of the company wanted to record right away and it occurred to me to say, almost as a joke, “I’m going to make a record about Holy Week.” When I was on the AVE to Seville I asked myself, “What did I say to this guy?” He called me up and said “How are you going to do it?” And I said to him, “What am I doing?” Then he said to me, “Come to Madrid because Hugo is here.”….As soon as we got there, in a recording studio on the Alameda de Hércules in Seville, we put together a multicolored musical ensemble: a Belgian producer with his French engineer, the Moroccan brothers that Juan has worked with for 10 years on strings and vocals, four Bulgarian singers, Antonio Moya de Utrera on guitar, Rosario Amador, niece of Raimundo also on vocals, and Sainkho from Southern Siberia. “It was like the U.N.,” jokes El Lebrijano.” (exerpt from an 1999 interview to Louis Clemente, published in Flamenco World)
This stunning music written for “Santa Semana” – the Holy Week – evokes the Universal aspect of Passion and Drama, universality that knows no boundaries or religions. The music unites the Christians and the Arabs with the itinerant Romas and the Jews in mourning for the Death and Burial of a Man, a God, our own.
The Video (Slide Show)
I have put together a slide show with photos of the painting, and one song from “LAgrimas de Cera” as audio background. Here it is.
Πέμπτη, 7 Απριλίου, 2011
Back in 2009, I wrote a four part article on the Venus of Urbino, trying to answer the question: “Who is the 20th century Venus of Urbino?”. In the concluding fourth part, I nominated Monica Bellucci for the title.
In the past I have written about painting of the human boby and flesh. I consider this article to lay the foundation for the aesthetic principles to be employed here in order to nominate the artist.
Time is of the essence! If I were to start from the origins of painting and sculpture, or even from the renaissance, I would find many candidates: Titian, Michelangelo, Velazquez, Rubens, Rembrandt, Degas, Rodin, and so many others.
But the artist who will immortalize of Monica must be alive today, so I need to limit my set of choices. Thankfully, there are so many, that I had to select five to be included in this article.
Cathy Wilkes, Irish, born 1966
“Cathy Wilkes’s installations of objects, readymades and paintings are formally precise and contemplative. Their essentially diaristic and self-reflective forms are composed using a complex and liberated visual language. Her work, whilst in many ways uncompromisingly introspective, is characterized by direct, almost diagrammatic invocations of daily human experience.” (Source: Tate Gallery, England)
In 2008 she was nominated for the Turner Prize, for her solo exhibition at Milton Keynes Gallery, which showed “her personal approach to figurative sculpture”. She uses everyday items such as widescreen TVs and modern pushchairs in her installations. The judges of the competition said: “Through rigorous, highly-charged arrangements of commonplace objects and materials, Wilkes has developed an articulate and eloquent vocabulary that touches on issues of femininity and sexuality.”
Ron Mueck, Australian, born 1958
Born in Australia in 1958, he has lived in the U.K. for the last 20 years but didn’t come up through the same channels as the other YBAs. Self-taught, he worked for two decades in children’s television, animatronics, and the movie industry before making his first work of art in 1996.
You’re face to … well, something, with one of the most superrealistic sculptures you will ever see, Ron Mueck’s Mother and Child — a perfectly painted, scaled-down rendition of a supine, naked woman who has just given birth. This silicon and fiberglass resin sculpture never gives up its illusion. Mother’s arms are limp at her side, a sheen of sweat glistens on her cheek, her face is flushed and splotchy. There are bags under her eyes, stray hairs stuck in her mouth. She raises her head just enough to peer at the crinkled, crimson-colored baby crouched on her puffy belly, and gives this child — whose umbilical cord still snakes into her vagina — a look of love and incredulity. As one woman said, while peering between the mother’s legs, “It doesn’t get any more real than that.” (Jerry Saltz in artnet.)
Jeff Koons, American, born 1955
Born in York, Pennsylvania, in 1955, Koons painted copies of the Old Masters and sold them in the furniture store owned by his father, an interior decorator.
On the evening of 10 May 2011, Sotheby’s will offer one of the most important works by Jeff Koons ever to have appeared at auction. Pink Panther from 1988 draws on many of the themes that have come to define Koons’ output and stands as one of the outstanding achievements of his illustrious career.
Tobias Meyer, Worldwide Head of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s, says that “together with ‘Balloon Dog’ and ‘Bunny’, ‘Pink Panther’ is a 20th-century masterpiece and one of the most iconic sculptures of Jeff Koons’s oeuvre”. In a press note, Sotheby’s describes the work as “a masterpiece not only of the artist’s historic canon, but also of the epoch of recent Contemporary Art”.
Pink Panther will appear on the front and back covers of the sale catalogue for the spring Contemporary Art Evening Auction in New York and is estimated to fetch $20/30 million.
Eric Fischl, American, born 1948
I encountered the work of Eric Fischl in the Brandhorst Museum, in Munich. The work that immediately impressed me was the “Japanese Bath”.
I then turned to another canvas, that was atmospheric and almost menacing. The Living Room Scene 3 of the Krefeld Project.
EF: “America has a hard time with the human body and the issues surrounding the body and certainly, mortality is one of those problems.”
IS: “So much of your work has been about sexuality.”
EF: “Yes, an exploration of sexuality. And the sensuality as the experience of paint and material.”
(from an interview to Ilka Sobie, in artnet.)
The travel of romance is a set of four paintings.
Lucian Freud, English, born 1922
Lucian Freud is the grandson of Sigmund Freud, and is quite possibly the greatest living painter. He was born in Berlin in 1922.
On the occasion of his 2010 exhibition at the Pombidou Center in Paris, Jonathan Jones of the Guardian commented: “The revelation is that, in spite of all the technocratic global homogenisations of our age, the human being remains a vast, irreducible mystery. Freud has said he wants to make his paint as real as flesh itself, so that you see a body before you.”
One of my favourite paintings of his is the “Naked Portrait with Reflection”. There is silent despair and abandonment which is exacerbated by the nakedness of the woman. And this precisely the mastery of the painter. To take the naked body in all of its mundane existence, and make it a tragic entity that oozes tension, despair, and the inevitability of death. Which in turn, makes the viewer even more moved by the body and more and more. It is a spiral that takes you to the depth of existence, inward, and more inward….
Feud has been quoted as follows: “The problem with painting a nude… is that it deepens the transaction. You can scrap a painting of someone’s face and it imperils the sitter’s self-esteem less than scrapping a painting of the whole naked body.”
Who is the artist who will immoprtalize monica Bellucci? When I started the article, I wanted to leave this question unanswered.
Now that I have reached the conclusion, I would suggest that it is Eric Fischl. By process of elimination I explain:
1. Cathy Wilkes is highly intellectual. She is creating powerful figures and installations, but inside it all, you have to interpret a lot.
2. Ron Mueck is a stylist who is almost perfect, therefore bordering on the artificial.
3. Jeff Koons is so much into deconstructing reality that Monica in his hands would be a caricature, albeit a beautiful one.
4. Lucian Freud is in the final analysis treating the flesh as a fetish. There will be no place in his painting of Monica for these glorious eyes.
On the other hand, Eric Fischl is strongly rooted in the realist tradition represented by Edward Hopper and quite clearly loves women and their bodies. Yes, there may be death lurking about, but what the hell, he will miss no opportunity to enjoy and glorify the woman. And for this reason I nominate him for Monica’s portrait.
Παρασκευή, 7 Ιανουαρίου, 2011
The itinerant John the Baptist has baptized Christ. In the Gospels, John announces the coming of Jesus and is therefore considered the “forerunner”. He died a cruel death by beheading. One of the variants of the story is that his death was the result of the wish of Herod’s stepdaughter, Salome.
There have been many renderings of the beheading of St John the Baptist by Salome.
Salome looks away, although she is carrying the tray with the motionless head. The sword-man contemplates the fate of humans, while the servant observes in silence. This is a silent motionless picture full of tension.
There have also been a few “staged” photos. Frantisek Dritkol’s black and white photo shows an ecstatic Salome, delirious with joy, holding the head to her chest.
Finally, in prints Aubrey Beardsley’s depiction is minimal, but in my view highly effective.
Umayyad Mosque in Damascus Syria, built on the Christian Basilica dedicated to St John the Baptist, is one of the places claiming to have St John’s head.
There is no better end to such a quick tour of the macabre end to the story, than Salome’s dance as interpreted by Karita Mattila. to the music of Richard Strauss’s opera “Salome”.
The opera is based on a the Oscar Wilde’s play “Salome”.
“In Salome, Oscar Wilde expresses a dangerous relationship between sight and sexual desire that leads to death. The play depicts a night in a royal court on which Herod, the Tetrarch of Judea, and his wife, Herodias, hold a dinner party for some Jewish officials. Herodias’s daughter Salome leaves the party and occupies the terrace, where she attracts the gaze of other male characters, while she herself becomes attracted to the prophet, Iokanaan. Her carnal desire for Iokanaan leads to his beheading, an act that brings her sexual gratification and leads her to kiss the lips of his severed head. Similarly, Herod comes to desire his step-daughter Salome, and, after persuading her to dance a highly sexualized dance, he is disgusted when she kisses Iokanaan’s lips and orders his soldiers to kill her.”
More on the play in the excellent article by Leland Tabares, which is the source of the above summary.
“A scherzo with a fatal conclusion” was Richard Strauss’ own tongue-in-cheek description of Salome. Upon hearing the freshly composed score played at the keyboard, his father—a famous musician himself—declared that it conjured the feeling of countless bugs crawling inside his pants. (From Washington National Opera’s feature article on Salome).
Δευτέρα, 3 Ιανουαρίου, 2011
Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly sea, and
We set up mast and sail on that swart ship,
Bore sheep aboard her, and our bodies also
Heavy with weeping, and winds from sternward
Bore us onward with bellying canvas,
Crice’s this craft, the trim-coifed goddess.
Then sat we amidships, wind jamming the tiller,
Thus with stretched sail, we went over sea till day’s end.
Sun to his slumber, shadows o’er all the ocean,
Came we then to the bounds of deepest water…
«Ήδη ὁ ήλιος, επιφανεὶς ακόμη μίαν φοράν, έκλινε προς την δύσιν. Ήτο τρίτη και ημίσεια ώρα. Και ὁ ήλιος εχαμήλωνε, εχαμήλωνε. Και ἡ βαρκούλα του μπαρμπα-Στεφανή, με το ανθρώπινον φορτίον της, εχόρευεν, εχόρευεν επάνω εις το κύμα, πότε ανερχομένη εις υγρὰ όρη, πότε κατερχομένη εις ρευστάς κοιλάδας, νυν μεν εις την ακμὴν να καταποντισθή εις την άβυσσον, νυν δε ετοίμη να κατασυντριβή κατά της κρημνώδους ακτής. Και ὁ ιερεὺς έλεγε μέσα του την παράκλησιν όλην, από το «Πολλοίς συνεχόμενος» έως το «Πάντων προστατεύεις». Κι ὁ μπαρμπα-Στεφανής εστενοχωρείτο, μὴ δυνάμενος επὶ παρουσία του παπά να εκχύση ελευθέρως τας αφελείς βλασφημίας του, τας οποίας εμάσα κι έπνιγε μέσα του, ὑποτονθορύζων: «Σκύλιασε ὁ διαολόκαιρος, λύσσαξε! Θα σκάσης, αντίχριστε, Τούρκο! Το Μουχαμετη σου, μέσα!» Κι ἡ θειὰ το Μαλαμώ, ποιούσα το σημείον του Σταυρού, έλεγε το «Θεοτόκε Παρθένε», κι επανελάμβανεν: «Έλα, κ᾿στὲ μ᾿! Βοήθα, Παναΐα μ᾿!» Και τα κύματα έπληττον την πρώραν, έπληττον τα πλευρὰ του σκάφους, και εισορμώντα εις το κύτος εκτύπων τα νώτα, εκτύπων τους βραχίονας των ἐπιβατών. Και ὁ ήλιος εχαμήλωνεν, εχαμήλωνε. Και ἡ βαρκούλα εκινδύνευε ν᾿ αφανισθή. Και η απορρώξ βραχώδης ακτὴ εφαίνετο διαφιλονικούσα την λείαν προς τον βυθὸν της θαλάσσης».
Αλεξανδρος Παπαδιαμαντης, Στο Χριστο στο Καστρο
“Through thunder and storm, from distant seas
I draw near, my lass!
Through towering waves, from the south
I am here, my lass!
My girl, were there no south wind
I could never come to you:
ah, dear south wind, blow once more!
My lass longs for me.”
Richard Wagner, The Flying Dutchman
“Driven on by storms and violent winds,
I have wandered over the oceans –
for how long I can scarcely say:
I no longer count the years.
It’s impossible, I think, to name
all the countries where I’ve been;
the only one for which I yearn
I never find, my homeland!”
Richard Wagner, The Flying Dutchman
The hero is the symbolical exponent of the movement of libido. Entry into the dragon is the regressive direction, and the journey to the East (the “night sea journey”) with its attendant events symbolizes the effort to adapt to the conditions of the psychic inner world. The complete swallowing up and disappearance of the hero in the belly of the dragon represents the complete withdrawal of interest from the outer world. The overcoming of the monster from within is the achievement of adaptation to the conditions of the inner world, and the emergence (“slipping out”) of the hero from the monster’s belly with the help of a bird, which happens at the moment of sunrise, symbolizes the recommencement of progression.["On Psychic Energy," CW 8, par. 68.]
All the night sea journey myths derive from the perceived behavior of the sun, which, in Jung’s lyrical image, “sails over the sea like an immortal god who every evening is immersed in the maternal waters and is born anew in the morning.["Symbols of the Mother and of Rebirth,"CW 5, par. 306.] The sun going down, analogous to the loss of energy in a depression, is the necessary prelude to rebirth. Cleansed in the healing waters (the unconscious), the sun (ego-consciousness) lives again.
(Source: Lexicon of Jungian Terms)
Βγάζει η θάλασσα κρυφή φωνή —
φωνή που μπαίνει
μες στην καρδιά μας και την συγκινεί
και την ευφραίνει.
The secret voice of the Sea
enters our heart
it moves and rejoices it.
Τραγούδι είναι, ή παράπονο πνιγμένων; —
το τραγικό παράπονο των πεθαμένων,
που σάβανό των έχουν τον ψυχρόν αφρό,
και κλαίν για ταις γυναίκες των, για τα παιδιά των,
και τους γονείς των, για την έρημη φωλιά των,
ενώ τους παραδέρνει πέλαγο πικρό,
Is it a song, or the complaint of the ones that sunk? -
the tragic complaint of the dead,
whose shroud is the cold foam,
and cry for their wifes and their children,
and their parents, and their empty nest,
while the bitter waves batter them,
σε βράχους και σε πέτραις κοφτεραίς τους σπρώχνει,
τους μπλέκει μες στα φύκια, τους τραβά, τους διώχνει,
κ’ εκείνοι τρέχουνε σαν νάσαν ζωντανοί
με ολάνοιχτα τα μάτια τρομαγμένα,
και με τα χέρια των άγρια, τεντωμένα,
από την αγωνία των την υστερνή.
and pushes them on to sharp rocks and stones,
tangles them in weeds, pulls them, pushes them,
and they run as if they were alive
with eyes scared wide open,
and their hands tense, spread,
full of the tension of death.
Κ. Καβαφης, Αποσπασμα απο τα Αποκηρυγμενα, Ικαρος, 1983
C. Cavafy, Excerpt from the Denounced Poems, Icaros, 1983
(The interpretation in English is mine)
«Όχι! Όχι! Δεν βρίσκεται η χαρά στην άλλη όχθη μόνον! Είναι εδώ, μεσ’ στις ψυχές μας, μέσα σε τούτες τις καρδιές, είναι παντού για όσους μπορούν να σπάσουν τα δεσμά των, αφού και μέσα μας ο ήλιος ανατέλλει και δείχνει την πορεία μας παντού όπου πηγαίνει, φως εκ φωτός αυτός, πυρσός λαμπρός του υπερτάτου φαροδείκτου, που όλοι τον παραλείπουν οι άλλοι, του φαροδείκτου, σύντροφοι, που είναι ο ουρανός!»
“No! No! Happiness does not exist only on the distant shore! It is here, inside our souls, inside these hearts, it is everywhere for those who can break their chains, as is the sun that rises inside and guides us wherever we go, light out of light, a shining torch of the supreme beacon, which we tend to forget, the sky! ”
Έτσι ελάλησα και κάθε αμφιταλάντευσις απέπτη απ’ τις ψυχές μας. Η αγαλλίασίς μου στους άλλους μετεδόθη, και, όλοι, κοιτάζοντας τον ήλιο, πετάξαμε τα σύνεργα της πλοιαρχίας – χάρτες, διαβήτες, εξάντας και φακούς – και αρπάζοντας τους σκούφους μας, εμείς, οι ναυτικοί εκ ναυτικών, τρέξαμε στο καράβι μας (το λέγαν “Άγιος Σώζων”) και όλοι, φλεγόμενοι από την νέα μας πίστη, χωρίς πλέον να ψάχνουμε το “πού” και “πώς”, τα παλαμάρια λύσαμε και υψώνοντας τα πανιά μας, αδίσταχτα σαλπάραμε με μια κραυγή:
«Κύριε των δυνάμεων μεθ’ ημών γενού».
Thus I spoke and every doubt flew away from our souls. My uplifting was transferred to the others, and all, watching the Sun, threw out all the instruments of navigation – maps, compasses, sextants and lenses – and snatching our caps, we, the mariners, the mariners of mariners, run to our ship (it was named “Saint Saviour”) and all, burning in our newly found faith, without any more searching for the “where” and “how”, we released the mooring lines and raising our sails, sailed without hesitation with one cry:
“Lord of the powers be with us”.
Ανδρεας Εμπειρικος, Οκτανα
Andreas Empeiricos, Octana
(The interpretation in English is mine)
‘God, he said quietly. Isn’t the sea what Algy calls it: a great sweet mother? The snotgreen sea. The scrotumtightening sea. (Πλεων δ’<ε>) Epi oinopa ponton (We’re sailing upon the wine-dark sea). Ah, Dedalus, the Greeks. I must teach you. You must read them in the original. Thalatta! Thalatta! She is our great sweet mother. Come and look.’
James Joyce, Ulysses
Note: Homer’s “πλεων δ’επι οινοπα ποντον επ’ αλλοθροους ανθρωπους” is in-scripted on The Iron Footbridge in Frankfurt. It is therefore fitting to conclude with a poem of Frankfurt’s famous son,
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
CALM AT SEA.
SILENCE deep rules o’er the waters,
Calmly slumb’ring lies the main,
While the sailor views with trouble
Nought but one vast level plain.
Not a zephyr is in motion!
Silence fearful as the grave!
In the mighty waste of ocean
Sunk to rest is ev’ry wave.
Happy New Year!
Σάββατο, 27 Νοεμβρίου, 2010
Cy Twombly is today one of my favorite living painters. He is an American, living in Europe and USA, and I must confess that I was not very impressed by his work, until I visited a year ago the Bandohrst Museum in Munich, Bavaria, where a lot of his paintings are exhibited, along with a few of his sculptures.
In the Brandhorst there is a room with huge canvases depicting roses. It is these pictures that started the process of my reconsideration of Twombly’s work.
The paintings in the Brandhorst are untitled, with the word “Roses” in parenthesis following the untitled.
The artist has produced another series of Roses paintings, this time with the relevant title. They were exhibited in the Gagosian Gallery in London in early 2009, with the title “The Rose”.
This is a set of five large panels, with the painter having scribbled over the paint fragments from Rainer Maria Rilke’s poems in the “Les Roses” cycle.
Titian and Twombly: the most youthful of old masters (Jonathan Jones, The Guardian, February 2009)
Pressing you, fresh bright rose,
against my eyelid closed—
one might say a thousand
against my warm one.
A thousand nights’ sleep
against my one pretended sleep
in which I roam
through the scented labyrinth.
Rose (Rilke’s epitaph)
Rose, oh pure contradiction, delight
of being no one’s sleep under so
Rose, so ardent and so bright
that one should call her
Saint Rose’s Reliquary…,
rose that emits this troubling scent of naked saint.
Rose nevermore tempted, disconcerting
for its internal peace; ultimate lover
so far removed from Eve, from her first awareness—
rose that infinitely possesses the loss.
I was not the only one who was and still is (even more) enthusiastic about Twombly’s work after having seen the rose, titled or untitled.
The quote from the Guardian is indicative.
Twombly is up there, with the old masters!
We are talking about a color master who takes us back to the Venetian School.
Abstract Expressionism comes of age and in a cyclical never ending, almost spiral pattern, joins up with Titian!
The huge canvases absorb the vicissitudes of the world, filter out the bad stuff and exhume only the aroma of the essence of life.
La vie en rose.
Merci Mr. Twombly.
Κυριακή, 15 Αυγούστου, 2010
Today we are celebrating the Dormition of the Mother of God, Theotokos, and I want to share with you some of my favorite images of Her. I will start from the North of Europe, and the turn from Gothic to Early Renaissance. The direction is from North to South.
The North begins with Jan van Eyck, the Master who opened the way for the rejuvenation of art in the north, for the decisive transition from the Gothic to the Renaissance. His influence is visible in the works of all the Masters who succeeded him.
Rogier van der Weyden was an Old Master who following the lead of van Eyck, pioneers Early Renaissance in Northern Europe (second half of 15th century).
This extraordinary study of the head of the Virgin is one of very few surviving drawings that can be attributed with any certainty to the early Flemish masters, and one of an even smaller number of drawings with a generally accepted attribution to Rogier van der Weyden. Its extreme sobriety and intensity of expression are utterly characteristic of van der Weyden’s work.
Source: Louvre Museum, Prints and Drawings, Head of the Virgin
Martin Schongauer was a follower of van der Weyden and a superb engraver. He was born and worked in the town of Colmar in Alsace. The Madonna in a Rose Garden is his masterpiece. It can be seen in the Dominican Church, in Colmar.
Matthias Gruenewald was one of Schongauer’s students. His masterpiece is the Isenheim Altarpiece, to which I have dedicated a separate post. In this post I want to present another of his major works, the Stuppach Madonna.
Around 6 km/4 miles from Bad Mergentheim’s old town in the suburb Stuppach is a small, unremarkable chapel that houses a remarkable painting, the Stuppacher Madonna. This painting of Mary with Child was removed from the Maria Schnee Kapelle in Aschaffenburg during the 1525 Peasants’ War. It remained in the hands of the Teutonic Order until it came to this chapel in 1812.The Stuppacher Madonna was long thought to be the work of Rubens. Only in 1908 was it recognized as one of the pieces from the Marienaltar (Mary Altar) and the 1519 work of the great German Renaissance painter Matthias Grünewald. (A second piece of the altar is in Freiburg, while Aschaffenburg only has copies.)
Source: European Traveller, Top Sights in Bad Merghentheim
And in order to remember the Isenheim Altarpiece, here is a detail from the Nativity panel.
We are now going south, to meet the Italian Masters, and a Greek who became Spanish.
I begin with Lorenzo Monaco, whose brilliant colors make him one of the pioneers of Renaissance in Italy. See in the picture below how wonderfully the pink becomes the dominant color of the picture, eliminating the black. The picture is practically flat, maintaining in this respect the Byzantine tradition.
Giovanni Bellini, the Venetian Master, with his solemn Madonna is next. I love the use of green in the painting, it becomes the center of the harmonies and works superbly with the pale blue of the sky and the ultramarine of Madonna’s dress.
Young Rafaello, with his Madonna del Granduca, gives us a masterpiece in the study of black. In this he anticipates Caravaggio and chiaroscuro.
Titian, turns the tables and presents a dark haired pale woman as his Madonna, named the Gypsy Madonna. She is like a an ordinary girl carrying a huge burden. You notice the green curtain in the background, tribute to Giovanni Bellini.
Rafaello a few years later gave us the Madonna of the Chair, a much more vivid and “alive” painting, where the faces almost jump out of the canvas to reach us.
El Greco, the Greek, Dominikos Theotokopoulos, started his life in Crete, and via Venice ended in Toledo, Spain.
El Greco lifts us up in the skies and the clouds and the greyness of the storm that is about to come. El Greco does not use the domestic environment used by the other artists. He belongs in the sky, and this is what he paints.
Back to where it all started. the most fitting end of all.
We traveled from the North to the South, from the Earth to the Skies, from the simple, ordinary faces of everyday women, to the incredibly beautiful faces of sheer perfection. Next trip will be from the West to the East.
Δευτέρα, 9 Αυγούστου, 2010
This is a tribute to the great Greek Writer and Painter, Niko Gabriel Pentzikis. He was born and lived almost all his life in the city of Thessaloniki in the north of Greece.
Σημερα τιμω τον μεγαλο Ελληνα Συγγραφεα και Ζωγραφο, το Νικο Γαβριηλ Πεντζικη.
Ο Πεντζικης γενηθηκε και εζησε στη Θεσσαλονικη.
Most critics classify him as a member of the “30′s Generation” group of Greek Writers and Artists, who developed the concept of “being Greek” in a modern 20th century context. In my view, Pentzikis stands somewhere by himself, pure and authentic, a visionary and a mystic at the same time, a lover and believer in the internal dialogue.
Τον εντασσουν στη γενια του 30, ομως για μενα στεκει καπου μοναχος του, ολοκαθαρος και αυθεντικος, ενας οραματιστης και μυστικιστης ταυτοχρονα, ενας μυστης του εσωτερικου διαλογου.
His paintings are equally important with his writings. Many times he comes to my mind as the “Paul Klee of the European East”.
Οι ζωγραφιες του ειναι εξ ισου σημαντικες με το συγγραφικο του εργο. Πολλες φορες τον φερνω στο νου μου σαν τον Παουλ Κλε της Ανατολης.
“My Saviour, I see your House in all of its glory, but I have no proper clothes in order to enter it. You, the Bearer of Light, enlighten the armoury of my Soul, and Save me! “
«Τὸν νυμφῶνά σου βλέπω, Σωτήρ μου, κεκοσμημένον καὶ ἔνδυμα οὐκ ἔχω, ἵνα εἰσέλθω ἐν αὐτῷ· λάμπρυνόν μου τὴν στολὴν τῆς ψυχῆς, Φωτοδότα καὶ σῶσόν με». Ἱερὰ Σύνοψη
“The good news always hide their presence.”
The Novel of Mrs. Ersi
«Τα καλά μαντάτα αποκρύβουνε την παρουσία τους»
Το Μυθιστορημα της κυριας Ερσης
Life for Pentzikis is a study of death with Platonic touches. The humanistic ego follows and coincides with a global cosmos. The deeper meaning of existence inhabits the root of love.
(Source: Article of Athina Schina in Eleftherotypia.)
Η ζωή για τον Ν.Γ. Πεντζίκη είναι μιας πλατωνικής απόχρωσης, σπουδή θανάτου, όπου όμως, στη συνέχεια, το ουμανιστικό εγώ ακολουθεί και ταυτίζεται με τη συμπαντικής σύλληψης φυσική νομοτέλεια. Το βαθύτερο νόημα της ύπαρξης εγκατοικεί στη ρίζα της αγάπης. Μιας αγάπης ενεργητικής και διαδραστικής, μέσω της οποίας διαστέλλεται το εγώ, προκειμένου να επιτευχθεί η πραγματογνωστική του μεταμόρφωση και η μετατροπή της υποκειμενικότητας στην ανασυγκρότησή της, ως «ετέρα μορφή». Η πορεία προς το θάνατο γίνεται άσκηση αναγέννησης και παγανιστικής σχεδόν παλιγγενεσίας, της οποίας η αιτιότητα αποκτά μια εσχατολογική δυναμική, μέσα από μια διάσταση ανακυκλωτικού χρόνου, αδιάλειπτης ενδοσκόπησης και εσωτερικής προοπτικής. Το παρελθόν διαπλέκεται με το παρόν, μέσα από μια αποδιαρθρωτική συνοχή, με στόχο τη συνεχή απέκδυση κάθε ατομικής ιδιαιτερότητας, για τη συγκρότηση ενός συμπαντικού «προσώπου», μιας κοσμογονικής persona, όπου αφηγητής, ήρωας και συγγραφέας ταυτίζονται ή εναλλάσσονται κάτω από τον ίδιο παρονομαστή. Τα πρόσωπα και τα πράγματα, οι μεταφορές και οι αλληγορίες, οι σχέσεις και οι συνειρμοί, ο φυσικός και ο μεταφυσικός ορίζοντας γίνονται σύστοιχα αντικείμενα και η μορφή, κατ’ αυτήν την έννοια, γίνεται σχήμα, κέλυφος ζωοδότησης μιας «αναστάσιμης», λυτρωτικής ουσίας, που αποκαθηλώνει το στιγμιαίο γεγονός προσδίδοντάς του μνημειακή διάρκεια.
(Πηγη: Αρθρο της Αθηνας Σχινα στην Ελευθεροτυπια)
Τὰ ἄνευ οὐδενὸς περιεχομένου γεγυμνωμένα ὀστᾶ τοῦ πατέρα μου, ποὺ ξεθάψαμε κατὰ τὴν ἀνακομιδή, ἐν Χριστῷ ἐνδύονται φῶς ζωῆς. Ζοῦν οἱ προσφιλεῖς ὑπάρξεις, ποὺ καμιὰ λογικὴ ἀνάλυση καὶ ψυχολογία δὲ μπορεῖ νὰ τὶς ἀναστήσει. «Ἀδελφοί, οὐ θέλω ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν περὶ τῶν κεκοιμημένων, ἵνα μὴ λυπῆσθε καθὼς καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ οἱ μὴ ἔχοντες ἐλπίδα»
…Στον “Πεθαμένο και ανάσταση”, το απαλλοτριωμένο και νεκρό εγώ ανασταίνεται χάρις σε στοιχεία επαφής με τον τόπο…. (αποσπασμα απο αυτοβιογραφικο κειμενο).
«Aγωνίζομαι να συμπεριλάβω ασήμαντες
λεπτομέρειες που σημείωσα, γιατί μονο έτσι
“O Nίκος Γαβριήλ Πεντζίκης ταυτίστηκε με τη «μητέρα Θεσσαλονίκη», αλλά γοητεύτηκε απο το «άχροον θαύμα» του Aγίου Oρους. Oι δεκάδες επισκέψεις του στην Aθωνική Πολιτεία τροφοδοτούσαν τον πνευματικο του κοσμο, τη βαθιά του πίστη στην Oρθοδοξία, που εκρφράζεται στα συγγραφικα και εικαστικα του έργα.” (Πηγη: Αφιερωμα της Καθημερινης).
Και σε αυτό το αφιέρωμα πολύτιμη μαρτυρία για την πολυδιάστατη προσωπικότητα του Ν. Γ. Πεντζίκη δίνει ο επί 54 χρόνια «μαθητής» του, Κάρολος Τσίζεκ. Οταν πρωτογνωρίστηκαν ήταν εκείνος 31 και ο Τσίζεκ 17 ετών. Το κείμενο του Κ. Τσίζεκ καταλήγει με μια παρατήρηση που νομίζουμε πως απαιτεί βαθιά συλλογή: «… μια διαφορά, που προκύπτει από τη σύγκριση μιας προσωπικότητας σαν του Πεντζίκη (ή σαν του, έστω και τόσο διαφορετικού, φίλου του Στρατή Δούκα) με την αντίληψη που επικρατεί σήμερα για τον λογοτέχνη, τον καλλιτέχνη και τον πνευματικό άνθρωπο γενικά, είναι ότι εξέλιπε η επιδίωξη μιας πνευματικής τελείωσης… Σήμερα η δημόσια προβολή και η εμπορική επιτυχία έχουν υποκαταστήσει την άσκηση, που αδιαφορώντας για τα παραπάνω έχει ως αποκλειστικό σκοπό τη βελτίωση του εαυτού μας, την ανύψωση της πνευματικής μας στάθμης και την ποιοτική τελείωση του έργου μας…».
(Διαβάστε περισσότερα: http://www.tovima.gr/default.asp?pid=46&ct=47&artid=105967&dt=04/06/2000#ixzz0w2kT2GSM)
Μια νεροποντή με αστραπές, βροντές κι έναν κεραυνό που έπεσε σ’ ένα από τα σπίτια, μας παγίδεψε για λίγες μέρες στη Νέα Σκιώνη, στο τέλος εκείνου του καλοκαιριού. Οι χωματόδρομοι είχαν γίνει αδιάβατοι. Οι βροχές αποκάλυπταν συχνά στα οργωμένα χωράφια αρχαία νομίσματα, ανατιμημένα από τους αιώνες στο πολλαπλάσιο της ονομαστικής τους αξίας. Η γλυκιά και φτωχή γη της Κασσάνδρας έμοιαζε με τεράστιο καρβέλι ζυμωμένο με πανάρχαιο προζύμι. Το φυσικό και ιστορικό περιβάλλον ήταν για τον Πεντζίκη ένα ανοιχτό βιβλίο. Γι’ αυτό και η συναναστροφή μαζί του, οι ατελείωτες περιπλανήσεις μας και οι συζητήσεις που πάντα καταλήγανε σ’ έναν δικό του μονόλογο, που στην Κασσάνδρα μετριούνταν και με διανυόμενα χιλιόμετρα, με πλούτιζε αφάνταστα. Η καθημερινότητα αποκτούσε μια μεταφυσική διάσταση, που χωρίς αυτήν η ζωή, κυρίως ιδωμένη από το τέλος της, περιορίζεται σ’ ένα άθροισμα περιστατικών που μάταια αναζητάει κανείς το νόημά τους.
(Πηγη: Αρθρο του Καρολου Τσιζεκ στην Ελευθεροτυπια)