The Greek painter Stelios Faitakis has painted a mural for the Danish Pavilion in the 54th Venice Biennale.

It is not just a mural. It is a mural with the style and colors of Byzantium. In addition, it is beautiful. You can seat for a long time in the garden outside the Danish pavilion, enjoying the mural.

I had seen photos of it in the newspapers prior to my visit, but could never anticipate the impact the mural had on me.

Another Greek, Katerina Gregos, has been put in charge of the Danish kiosk after a lengthy and transparent selection process. Faitakis was one of the artists selected by Gregos. The mural builds on the tradition of Diego Rivera, but like any good piece of art, it goes beyond it. It tells many stories and it does so in pictures.

The mural comprises six panels. In the remainder I will present each panel, starting from the left to the right.

Panel 1:A photographer in the December 2008 events in Athens, Greece

Panel 2: President Mao in a garden of flowers with human faces

Panel 3: The crowd and the winged smart phones

Panel 4: Wilhelm Reich and the burning of the books

Panel 5: Gas Chamber and Oven

Panel 6: The violin – playing Saint

Above the door: Nikola Tesla

Epilogue: The themes on Faitakis’s mural are political, in the sense that they deal with the community, the society, the individual, and power. I do not get a sense of an all encompassing harmony in his synthesis. Most likely there is none. Likewise, there is no universal “message”. Which distinguishes the work from Rivera’s where there was a loud and clear message about the good workers, the bad capitalists, and so on. Faitakis’ world is far more complex. And this is why he can survive his playing with fire. Well done Mr Faitakis!!!! Thank you!!!

Postscript

Right across from the Danish kiosk is the one representing the United States. There, an art duo from Puerto Rico, Allora & Calzadilla, have placed a tank from the Korean War upside down and on top of it there is an exercise machine, a belt on which an athlete with the USA shirt is running. The noise is horrible, and the sight is nothing to write home about. As for the inside of the USA pavilion, I better not say anything.

Takashi Murakami: Mr Superflat in Palazzo Grassi, Venice

Πέμπτη, 27 Οκτωβρίου, 2011

Palazzo Grassi, Venice

Some time ago I wrote about Makoto Aida’s Harakiri Schoolgirls. The great modern Japanese masters appeared in front of me again, in the face of Takashi Murakami. During a recent trip toVenice, I visited Palazzo Grassi’s exhibition “The World belongs to you” where I saw Takashi Murakami’s  masterpiece 727-272 (The Emergence of God at the Reversal of Fate). Takashi Murakami is indeed one of the modern Japanese Masters.

Takashi Murakami

“Blurring the traditional lines between art, commerce, pop, and subcultural concerns, the range of Murakami’s creative pursuits are seemingly boundless. In addition to producing some of the most iconic paintings and sculptures of the past two decades, his “business-art” activities span from designing a full gamut of consumer merchandise (either for his own Kaikai Kiki label or for fashion houses such as Louis Vuitton and Comme des Garçons) to running a gallery that promotes young Japanese artists to hosting a weekly radio talk show in Tokyo—to name just a few of the many preoccupations that keep him working on a legendarily nonstop clock.” (Source: Interview Magazine)

Takashi Murakami and Francois Pinault

Quoting from the Exhibition’s web site:

“(The work, especially commissioned for the space it occupies today in the Palazzo) draws on traditional sources ranging from Buddhist images, Zen painting, and 18th c. Edo-period compositional techniques that inspired Murakami to coin the phrase “superflat” to characterize the tendency throughout Japanese art history to eliminate threedimensional depth by arranging subjects non-hierarchically on a solid background. Murakami modernizes these traditions by combining them with contemporary Japanese popular culture, in the form of anime and manga (comic books), for instance in the central figure, Mr. Dob, Murakami’s own alter-ego depicted with a typically manga-style face. Mr. Dob’s figure contrasts with that of the legendary Chinese emperor Shennong, the deity of agriculture and medicine, who lived around 2700 BCE. This work illustrates how Murakami deftly links the traditional with the contemporary, Western with Japanese, high art and mass culture”

Front panel - Mr Dob

“The starting-point for this pictorial narrative is the central figure of “Mr Dob”; a sort of alter ego of Murakami himself, this character is depicted with a typically manga-style face, a sly smile and three eyes that seem to look far into the distance. The narrative starts on the right, with the flow of color, comparable to that one finds in Warhol’s Oxidation paintings, bringing us to the second figure of the work. This is an old wise man inspired by the legendary Chinese emperor Shennong, who lived around 2700 BC.”

Front panel - Emperor Shennong

“Considered the deity of Agriculture, his name actually means “heavenly peasant” – Shennong would invent the plough and teach his people how to cultivate wheat and cereal crops. He is also celebrated as a deity of Medicine: according to legend, he would test hundreds of herbs to evaluate their curative properties; if of beneficial properties, the herb was said to light up his stomach – which was transparent – if harmful, it would blacken it. This is the role in which Murakami depicts Shennong, with a blade of grass in his mouth.”

Front panel

The work from the spectator’s view comprises three panels, forming an open rectangle. The front panel has Mr Dong and the Emperor.

Murakami must not be taken lightly because people call him “pop”, or because he likes “manga”, or because he has the tendency to be also in the fashion business.

Front Panel - Upper Left side - detail

As you can see in this detail of the front panel, he knows his painting and he creates some staggering compositions within compositions.

Left and Central Panels

The left panel has among other things, a stunning swirl, and some ideograms.

Left panel detail - swirl

The swirl, making direct reference to a tempest, appears often in Japanese art.

A painting by Shoga Shohauku

As to the ideograms, I have no clue about what they are, but I will find out.

Left panel detail - ideograms

Moving to the right panel, we are faced with a hollow mountain of skulls on top of which is a manga tiger.

Right and Central Panel

It should be clear by now that we are not talking about a single painting here, but a mix of paintings all coming together in the three panels.

Right Panel detail - skulls

In addition to the multiplicity of themes of this “collage”, one must also notice the changing texture of the paint and the colors, and the ruptures, or discontinuities that mark the shift from one to another.

Bruce Wallace of the Los Angeles Times, notes:

“Murakami’s art speaks to the sensibilities of the generation born in the 1960s, those who grew up with the reverberations of World War II’s disaster pulsing through the culture. They were raised on a media diet of anime and manga, with their anti-technology, antiwar story lines and themes. And they came of age in an era when Japan could throw up little more than Marxist jargon in resistance to the deluge of imported American culture.”

Right Panel detail - Tiger

“Surface is everything to Murakami—it’s all there is. I don’t know if you’re allowed to say this, but like a lot of contemporary Japanese artists Murakami is a craftmaster-whiz of flawless visual effects. He draws on traditional Japanese themes like flatness, pattern, and ornamentation. His kaleidoscopic paintings of Hokusai-like waves, his Lichtensteinian splashes, and DOB, his big-headed Mickey Mouse–like creature, are so immaculate you will think a machine made them.” (Jerry Saltz, Village Voice, 1999)

Cy Twombly, one of my favourite modern artists, has died on Tuesday, 5th July 2011 in Rome, Italy, losing a long battle to cancer.

His work “The Rose” was the object of a previous article. In another article on this blog I presented his sculpture “Thermopylae” in relation to C. Cavafy’s poem. Today I want to travel with Twombly in the Sea.

I have somehow visualized Death, more precisely the departure from this life, to embarking, to getting on a boat and sailing in the sea. This is no crossing of Acheron, the river of Hades. This is becoming one with the Sea, taking his boat out to the sea, and then sinking with it.

In order to do this, I will use his “Poems to the Sea”, a series of 24 works done in 1959, a photograph of the Sea that the artist took, and his monumental work “Lepanto”.

Twombly in 1958, the year after he moved to Italy from the US. Photograph: David Lees/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Poems to the Sea

‘As Twombly told the critic David Sylvester, “the Mediterranean is always just white, white, white”: in the 24 drawings called Poems to the Sea the colour blue barely appears, and yet the cursory lines and spots create a sea of the mind’s eye – hours of contemplation transformed into a few cryptic marks. With their textured, creamy backgrounds, the paintings inspired by Procida are also extremely evocative: parched cliff-tops in the Bay of Naples; crumbling plaster; the heat – it’s all there if you look for it, though without that act of the imagination the charm quickly fades.’ (source: Christopher Masters, the Guardian).

Poems to the Sea, 1959, Collection Dia Art foundation, New York

‘What order of poems, punctuated with numerals and question marks, are these? The sea is reduced to horizon line and word, scribblings and veils of paint against the stark white of paper. A persistent compulsion is invoked in the viewer, the desire to read what is there, but not fully manifest in the artist’s scrawled script. Two words in these drawings emerge into legibility, “time”and “Sappho”, as if washed up on the beach alongside sudden, subtle gem-flashes of colour – blue, orange-yellow, pink – gleaming all the more because of their discretion. In these pages, meaning is endlessly frustrated and pursued. It settles only in the distance, figured perhaps by the horizon lines that move across the top of each of the drawings – in fact, simply grey or blue lines made with a straight edge, but suggesting seascapes at the vanishing point. The flat planes of sea and page have been collapsed. Writing comes in waves, rolling funnels of cursive script, crossed out, erased, enfoamed in satiny greyish-white paint. The signs are given as nascent forms, as gestural indications of “the hand’s becoming”, as Roland Barthes so aptly phrased it.’ (source: Claire Daigle on Cy Twombly, Tate Gallery, London).

Cy Twombly: Miramare 2005

Miramare

‘Cy Twombly photographs the subjects that he encounters in his studio in Gaeta, in Bassano, Rome or in Lexington, on the beach at Miramare or in botanical gardens, using an instant camera. By means of a special pigmenting process that involves dryprint, these one-offs are enlarged and printed in limited editions. Not only the special saturation of color, but also the fact that the shots are strikingly out of focus account for their unmistakable nature and extraordinary appeal. The consistent lack of focus is reminiscent of the photographs of the late 19th-century Pictorialists. Hubertus Von Amelunxen, however, discerns photo-historical references to the early days of photography, namely to early calotypes, first paper photographs permeated in “light and emulsion”. Indeed, with their aesthetic effect, Twombly’s photographic images exhibit a sense of both astonishment and entrancement with the (new) technology. The unusual and the new is of a quite singular beauty.

Using his particular technique, Cy Twombly manages to concentrate on the textures of surfaces which, removed from the flow of time, generate visual orders of an over-arching world of perception. Hubertus Von Amelunxen calls them “musical, rhythmical positions in an ineffable syntax” – as the focus is not on representation but on the unmistakable nature of things or the clarity of motifs. Finding the invisible in the visible, retaining the purportedly excluded in the image and at the same time sensing the intangible dimensions of time and space, that is what constitutes the great appeal of Twombly’s photographs. The eye is always very close to things, the direct view suggests an almost intimate proximity – of tender tulip blooms, of everyday objects such as glasses and bottles, of the artist’s slippers, his brushes and painting utensils, and not least his paintings themselves.’

(Source: La Lettre de la Photographie)

Cy Twombly: Lepanto

Lepanto

The work consists of 12 large canvases that looks back to one of the most important naval battles of early modern history. Lepanto was shown in September 2008 in the Museo del Prado prior to its permanent installation in the Brandhorst Museum in Munich in October of the same year. I saw the work in Brandhorst in 2010 and was deeply moved by it.

‘When Cy Twombly was offered a gallery dedicated to his work at the 2001 Venice Biennale, he chose to create a new work especially for the space, a work that he describes as one painting in twelve parts. For his concept of the project, Twombly turned to the genre of history painting. Before the advent of Modernism in the late 19th century, history painting, which encompassed images from mythology, the bible, and the lives of the saints, as well as scenes from ancient to contemporary history, was considered the highest achievement of the painter´s art. Responding to the exhibition´s locale adjoining the Arsenale shipyard, Twombly chose of his subject the famous 1571 naval battle of Lepanto.

Cy Twombly in front one of the "Lepanto" panels in the Venice Biennale of 2001

Venice, then an immensely powerful city-state, instigated the formation of an alliance against the Ottoman Empire, which had been attacking its colonies in the eastern Mediterranean and defiling their churches. Brokered by Pope Pius V, the western European alliance consisted of Venice, the Papal States, and Spain, three major Catholic powers of the post-Reformation period. The battle of Lepanto has always been viewed as a turning point in the history of Europe. The Ottoman Empire had heretofore seemed invincible and its fleet was far larger than the alliance´s armada. With more manageable Venetian-designed ships and superior deployment of artillery, the alliance vanquished and burned the Ottoman fleet. Lepanto was the last major sea battle that involved ramming and hand-to-hand fighting on deck. It was the first triumph of Christian Europe over the seemingly all-powerful Islamic Ottoman Empire. It also marked the end of the Mediterranean as the locus of shipping and trade; henceforth, the Atlantic routes to the riches of the American colonies dominated naval activity.

Twombly arranged Lepanto in a way that is at once symphonic and cinematic with four images of flames and falling leaves presaging, interrupting, and concluding his highly abstract narrative of the battle. The maritime scenes, with their stick-figure images of fighting galleys, become increasingly dense with the final triad drenched in the colors of his rich, limited palette. The lushness of the reds and yellows counterpoints their depiction of flames and blood.’

(Source: The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, USA)

As the ship disappears in the horizon, where sky and sea merge, I quote from Roland Barthes (The Wisdom of Art by Roland Barthes 3):

‘If we wished to locate this ethic, we would have to seek very far, outside painting, outside the West, outside history, at the very limit of meaning, and say, with the Tao Te King:

He produces without appropriating anything,
He acts without expecting anything,
His work accomplished, he does not get attached to it,
And since he is not attached to it,
His work will remain.’

Farewell Cy Twombly

 

Introduction

“An artist is an artist only because of his exquisite sense of beauty, a sense which shows him intoxicating pleasures, but which at the same time implies and contains an equally exquisite sense of all deformities and all disproportion.” C.Baudelaire ( I thank “Paintisnotdead” for the quote)

Today I publish more of my favourite depictions of the female in sculptures, paintings and photos, accompanied by a song or an aria. Beaudelaire’s saying epitomizes what is the sense of beauty I am looking for. I am looking for all deformities and disproportions at the same time that I am captivated by the formal elements of beauty.

These are fragments, in the sense that Female Characters and Images and Music, all come together without a coherent Totality. Fragments, moments in times gone, characters in the course of history, real or imaginative.

Fragmenta

1. {Alma Mahler} 

The golden hair of Venus, her eyes contemplating the fate of whoever meets her gaze. She is confident, she is on top of the world, she is unbeatable in the game of Love. Tackling her is suicidal, but this type of death, under her gaze is a sweet death.

Liebst du um Schönheit,

O nicht mich liebe!

Liebe die Sonne,

Sie trägt ein gold’nes Haar!

If you love for beauty,

Oh, do not love me!

Love the sun,

She has golden hair!

(Detail from Botticelli’s “The birth of Venus, Ufizzi in Florence.)

2.(Mimi, La Boheme}

Golden brown hair, contemplation on the mirror, the bluish landscape offering a retreat from the heat of the internal scene. The confidence of Venus is gone. The young woman tries to see into her future. What does the mirror hold for her?

O soave fanciulla, o dolce viso
di mite circonfuso alba lunar,
in te ravviso il sogno
ch’io vorrei sempre sognar!

Oh! sweet little lady! Oh sweetest vision,
with moonlight bathing your pretty face!
The dream that I see in you
is the dream I’ll always dream!

(Young Woman in her Toilet, by Giovanni Bellini (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum)).

Gerhard Richter, Betty 1988

3. Everybody is talking at her, but Betty is looking away.

Everybody’s talking at me.
I don’t hear a word they’re saying,
Only the echoes of my mind.
People stopping staring,
I can’t see their faces,
Only the shadows of their eyes.

I’m going where the sun keeps shining
Thru’ the pouring rain,
Going where the weather suits my clothes,
Backing off of the North East wind,
Sailing on summer breeze
And skipping over the ocean like a stone.

I’m going where the sun keeps shining
Thru’ the pouring rain,
Going where the weather suits my clothes,
Backing off of the North East wind,
Sailing on summer breeze
And skipping over the ocean like a stone

(Almost five centuries later, Gerhard Richter’s daughter, Betty, poses unusually in this 1988 portrait. I have published this portrait for the first time in the blog in my 2010 post honoring women.)

David Schoerner, Martynka

4. Run Away, Turn Away

You leave in the morning
With everything you own
In a little black case
Alone on a platform
The wind and the rain
On a sad and lonely face

Mother will never understand
Why you had to leave
But the answers you seek
Will never be found at home
The love that you need
Will never be found at home

Run away, turn away, run away, turn away, run away.
Run away, turn away, run away, turn away, run away.

Pushed around and kicked around
Always a lonely boy
You were the one
That they’d talk about around town
As they put you down

And as hard as they would try
They’d hurt to make you cry
But you never cried to them
Just to your soul
No you never cried to them
Just to your soul

Run away, turn away, run away, turn away, run away.
Run away, turn away, run away, turn away, run away.

Cry , boy, cry…

You leave in the morning
With everything you own
In a little black case
Alone on a platform
The wind and the rain
On a sad and lonely face

Run away, turn away, run away, turn away, run away.
Run away, turn away, run away, turn away, run away.

(Taking the lead from Richter’s unusual position for a portrait, David Schoerner, an American photographer, took this photo “Martynka (after Gerhard Richter’s Betty)”, honoring the oblique unusual pose of Richter’s Betty. I found this Martynka thanks to “Eloge de l’ Art par Alain Truong“).)

5. {Cio – Cio San (Madama Butterfly)}

Un bel dì, vedremo
levarsi un fil di fumo
sull’estremo confin del mare.
E poi la nave appare.
Poi la nave bianca
entra nel porto,
romba il suo saluto.
One good day, we will see
Arising a strand of smoke
Over the far horizon on the sea
And then the ship appears
And then the ship is white
It enters into the port, it rumbles its salute.

Cio-cio San asks the mirror the eternal question of beauty. This question is at the same time eternal and astonishingly temporal. She wants to know whether she is beautiful now, the very moment she is looking at the mirror. Tomorrow is too far away. “Am  I beautiful now?”

(The Japanese Master Hokusai painted a woman in front of her mirror. I like the somber background and the restrained tone of the colors.)

Alison Brady: Untitled 2006

6. Alice? Who the fuck is Alice

Brown hair covering the face, painted body inviting. Living painting, the canvas is now the human flesh.

Sally called when she got the word,
She said: “I suppose you’ve heard -
About Alice”.
Well I rushed to the window,
And I looked outside,
But I could hardly believe my eyes -
As a big limousine rolled slowly
Into Alice’s drive…

Oh, I don’t know why she’s leaving,
Or where she’s gonna go,
I guess she’s got her reasons,
But I just don’t want to know,
‘Cos for twenty-four years
I’ve been living next door to Alice.
Alice, who the fuck is Alice

Twenty-four years just waiting for a chance,
To tell her how I’m feeling, maybe get a second glance,
Now I’ve got to get used to not living next door to Alice…
Alice, who the fuck is Alice

Grew up together,
Two kids in the park,
Carved our initials,
Deep in the bark,
Me and Alice.
Now she walks through the door,
With her head held high,
Just for a moment, I caught her eye,
As a big limousine pulled slowly
Out of Alice’s drive.

Oh, I don’t know why she’s leaving,
Or where she’s gonna go,
I guess she’s got her reasons,
But I just don’t want to know,
‘Cos for twenty-four years
I’ve been living next door to Alice.
Alice, who the fuck is Alice

Twenty-four years just waiting for a chance,
To tell her how I’m feeling, maybe get a second glance,
Now I gotta get used to not living next door to Alice…
Alice, who the fuck is Alice

Sally called back, asked how I felt,
She said: “I know how to help -
Get over Alice”.
She said: “Now Alice is gone,
But I’m still here,
You know I’ve been waiting
For twenty-four years…”
And the big limousine disappeared…

I don’t know why she’s leaving,
Or where she’s gonna go,
I guess she’s got her reasons,
But I just don’t want to know,
‘Cos for twenty-four years
I’ve been living next door to Alice.
Alice, who the fuck is Alice

Twenty-four years just waiting for a chance,
To tell her how I feel, and maybe get a second glance,
But I’ll never get used to not living next door to Alice…
Alice, who the fuck is Alice

Now I’ll never get used to not living next door to Alice…

(The portrait is now mixed with the nude body. Coming to think of it, the face, the object or subject of the portrait, is always naked. But we do not say “this is a naked face”, because the face – even when made up – is always naked. Therefore we do not say it as it would be a tautology. In the rather elaborate photo taken by Alison Brady, the face is not only naked, but hidden. In Schoerner’s Martynka the face is not shown, but is not hidden. In Brady’s untitled woman the face is hidden on purpose, as if what matters most is the naked breasts that have been elaborately covered by a paint pattern. Therefore we have a juxtraposition not only of the portrait with the naked body, but of the photo with a painting, as the depicted body is painted.)

Roy Lichtenstein: Crying Girl

7. Rigoletto’s daughter Gilda

Cry, cry girl!!!

Piangi, piangi faciulla!

(Roy Lichtenstein’s crying girl brings pop art to the post. The face in this portrait is not naked, as it is dressed by tears.)

RB Kitaj: Sandra Fisher

8.  Love

I wanna be loved by you
just you and nobody else but you
I wanna be loved by you – alone.
Boo boo bee doo

I wanna be kissed by you
just you and nobody alse but you
I wanna be kissed by you – alone.
Boo boo bee doo

I couldn’t aspire
to anything higher
and to feel the desire
to make you my own.
Badum badum bee doodily dum ! Boo !

(No female portrait collection would be complete without RB Kitaj’s portrait of his beloved Sandra Fisher.)

RB Kitaj: Marynka smoking

9. Marynka, aka Lulu

You keep saying you’ve got something for me.
something you call love, but confess.
You’ve been messin’ where you shouldn’t have been a messin’
and now someone else is gettin’ all your best.

These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do
one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.

You keep lying, when you oughta be truthin’
and you keep losin’ when you oughta not bet.
You keep samin’ when you oughta be changin’.
Now what’s right is right, but you ain’t been right yet.

These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do
one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.

You keep playin’ where you shouldn’t be playin
and you keep thinkin’ that you´ll never get burnt.
Ha!
I just found me a brand new box of matches yeah
and what he know you ain’t HAD time to learn.

These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do
one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.

Are you ready boots? Start walkin’!

RB Kitaj: Marynka on her stomach

10. Lay lady lay

Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed
Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed
Whatever colors you have in your mind
I’ll show them to you and you’ll see them shine

Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed
Stay, lady, stay, stay with your man awhile
Until the break of day, let me see you make him smile
His clothes are dirty but his hands are clean
And you’re the best thing that he’s ever seen

Stay, lady, stay, stay with your man awhile
Why wait any longer for the world to begin
You can have your cake and eat it too
Why wait any longer for the one you love
When he’s standing in front of you

Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed
Stay, lady, stay, stay while the night is still ahead
I long to see you in the morning light
I long to reach for you in the night
Stay, lady, stay, stay while the night is still ahead

(Kitaj also painted Marynka lying on her stomach.)

Aneta Bartos, untitled

11. Stairway to Heaven

There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold
And she’s buying the stairway to heaven.
When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for.
Ooh, ooh, and she’s buying the stairway to heaven.

There’s a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure
‘Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.
In a tree by the brook, there’s a songbird who sings,
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven.
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it makes me wonder.

There’s a feeling I get when I look to the west,
And my spirit is crying for leaving.
In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees,
And the voices of those who stand looking.
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it really makes me wonder.

And it’s whispered that soon if we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason.
And a new day will dawn for those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter.

If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now,
It’s just a spring clean for the May queen.
Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on.
And it makes me wonder.

Your head is humming and it won’t go, in case you don’t know,
The piper’s calling you to join him,
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow, and did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind.

And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul.
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold.
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last.
When all are one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll.

And she’s buying the stairway to heaven.

(Another photo by Bartos)

Gerhard Richter: Ema - Nude on a staircase

12. Ema

And I would do anything for love,
I’d run right into hell and back.
I would do anything for love,
I’ll never lie to you and that’s a fact.

But I’ll never forget the way you feel right now, oh no, no way.
And I would do anything for love,
Oh I would do anything for love,
I would do anything for love,
But I won’t do that,
No I won’t do that.

And some days it don’t come easy,
And some days it don’t come hard,
Some days it don’t come at all, and these are the days that never end.

And some nights you’re breathing fire.
And some nights you’re carved in ice.
Some nights you’re like nothing I’ve ever seen before or will again.

And maybe I’m crazy.
Oh it’s crazy and it’s true.
I know you can save me, no one else can save me now but you.

As long as the planets are turning.
As long as the stars are burning.
As long as your dreams are coming true, you’d better believe it!

That I would do anything for love,
And I’ll be there till the final act.
And I would do anything for love,
And I’ll take the vow and seal a pact.

But I’ll never forgive myself if we don’t go all the way, tonight.

And I would do anything for love,
But I won’t do that.
No, I won’t do that!

I would do anything for love,
Anything you’ve been dreaming of,
But I just won’t do that.
[x2]

[Solo]
And some days I pray for silence,
And some days I pray for soul,
Some days I just pray to the god of sex and drums and rock ‘n’ roll!

And maybe I’m lonely,
That’s all I’m qualified to be.
There’s just one and only, one and only promise I can keep.

As long as the wheels are turning.
As long as the fires are burning.
As long as your prayers are coming true, you’d better believe it!

That I would do anything for love,
And you know it’s true and that’s a fact.
I would do anything for love,
And there’ll never be no turning back.

But I’ll never do it better than I do it with you, so long, so long.
And I would do anything for love,
Oh, I would do anything for love,
I would do anything for love,
But I won’t do that.
No, no, no, I won’t do…..

I would do anything for love.
Anything you’ve been dreaming of.
But I just won’t do that!
[x3]

But I’ll never stop dreaming of you,
Every night of my life.
No way.

And I would do anything for love.
But I won’t do that.
No I won’t do that.

[Girl]
Will you raise me up, will you help me down?
Will you get me right out of this God forsaken town?
Will you make it all a little less cold?

[Boy]
I can do that. Oh I can do that.

[Girl]
Will you cater to every fantasy I’ve got?
Will you hose me down with holy water, if I get too hot? Hot!
Will you take me places I’ve never known?

[Boy]
Now I can do that! Oh oh now, I can do that!

[Girl]
After awhile you’ll forget everything.
It was a brief interlude
And a midsummer night’s fling,
And you’ll see that it’s time to move on.

[Boy]
I won’t do that. I won’t do that.

[Girl}
I know the territory, I’ve been around,
It’ll all turn to dust and will all fall down,
Sooner or later, you’ll be screwing around.

[Boy]
I won’t do that. No, I won’t do that.

Anything for love,
Oh, I would do anything for love,
I would do anything for love,
But I won’t do that.
No, I won’t do that.

(Gerhard Richter’s painting )

Sarah Lucas: Nuds, 2010

13. Sweet Jane

Standing on the corner,
Suitcase in my hand
Jack is in his corset, and Jane is her vest,
And me I’m in a rock’n’roll band Hah!
Ridin’ in a Stutz Bear Cat, Jim
You know, those were different times!
Oh, all the poets they studied rules of verse
And those ladies, they rolled their eyes

Sweet Jane! Whoa! Sweet Jane, oh-oh-a! Sweet Jane!

I’ll tell you something
Jack, he is a banker
And Jane, she is a clerk
Both of them save their monies, ha
And when, when they come home from work
Oh, Sittin’ down by the fire, oh!
The radio does play
The classical music there, Jim
“The March of the Wooden Soldiers”
All you protest kids
You can hear Jack say, get ready, ah

Sweet Jane! Come on baby! Sweet Jane! Oh-oh-a! Sweet Jane!

Some people, they like to go out dancing
And other peoples, they have to work, Just watch me now!
And there’s even some evil mothers
Well they’re gonna tell you that everything is just dirt
Y’know that, women, never really faint
And that villains always blink their eyes, woo!
And that, y’know, children are the only ones who blush!
And that, life is just to die!
And, everyone who ever had a heart
They wouldn’t turn around and break it
And anyone who ever played a part
Oh wouldn’t turn around and hate it!

Sweet Jane! Whoa-oh-oh! Sweet Jane! Sweet Jane!

Heavenly wine and roses
Seems to whisper to her when he smiles
Heavenly wine and roses
Seems to whisper to her when she smiles
La lala lala la, la lala lala la
Sweet Jane
Sweet Jane
Sweet Jane

(The transfiguration of food objects into body parts was a post that brought Sarah Lucas to my blog. Her NUDS is a series of sculptures that I find intriguing. I quote from the “Auckland’s Art Festival 2011″ relevant web page:)

Sarah Lucas: Nuds, 2010

(Lucas’s new sculptural series, NUDS, consists of nylon tights stuffed with fluff and fashioned into ambiguous biomorphic forms. The coinage NUDS itself implies knots, nodes, or nudes and is evidence of Lucas’s use of puns, slang and language as elements of her sculpture.  The works brim with allusions, inviting different interpretations from the tender to the auto-erotic. Leaning towards primitivism and abstraction, they echo the work of iconic British sculptors such as Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. The sculptural approximation of the female form also links back to the gender-orientated works that defined Lucas’s early practice, in which assemblages of found objects became stand-ins for the female body.)

Harakiri School Girls: by Makoto Aida

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.

Harakiri School Girls, 2002

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.

Makoto Aida

“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)

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi - The Foxfires

“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)

Harakiri School Girls, Poster, 1999

“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.

Book Cover: "Japanese Schoolgirls Inferno"

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 )

Thesis Abstract
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.

Harakiri School Girls, 2006

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.

Poster for the movie "Uniform Sabaigaru", where innocent schoolgirls hack zombies into bloody chunks

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)

Louise Keller, Holderlin (1842) drawing

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)

Yves Klein, Blue Monochrome, MOMA, Ney York (See Note 1)

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).

Andre Butzer, Nasaheim (See Note 2)

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.

Samuel Francis, In lovely Blueness 2 (1955-56) (See Note 3)

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.

Emil Nolde, March Landscape in the evening (See Note 4)

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’?

No. Holderlin is just one of my main heroes and he is my favorite poet in my private library. He is my choice and therefore I myself am Holderlin, I can call myself N-Holderlin, which means NASAHEIM(*)-Holderlin, a self-fullfilling prophecy of abstract art. There is no form of art without a relation towards utopia and therefore abstraction. The show is called Kommando because it was a very high or a very low order from heaven that initiated the show. Within the world of art, which is a completely useless world, a Kommando can be a group of people, or an individual that tries to find a way out of this world.

(*) “Nasaheim” – the outerspace station of Anaheim/Disneyland.

(Source: An Interview With Andre Butzer, Artist And Curator Of ‘Kommando Friedrich Holderlin’ At Max Hetzler, Berlin, Saatchi Online Magazine)

(3) This at once airy and expansive composition by Sam Francis brilliantly demonstrates the artist’s unique combination of Abstract Expressionist and late Impressionist influences. With its soft pastel palette, the monumental abstract work creates the sensation of standing before a vast and boundless space. Francis, who often found his inspiration in literary sources, titled the painting after a poem by the German Romantic writer Friedrich Hölderlin which begins with the narrator looking to the sky: “In lovely blue the steeple blossoms/ With its metal roof. Around which/ Drift swallow cries, around which/ Lies most loving blue.” (Source: Art Institute of Chicago)

(4) Nolde’s landscape is a landscape dominated by the sky of North Germany, near the Danish borders, Nolde’s home.

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.

The creators:

El Greco, The Burial of Count Orgaz, Self-portrait (Detail)

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.

Source:El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos) (1541–1614) | Thematic Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

El Lebrijano

El LebrijanoJuan 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 works:

The Burial of Count of Ortaz

El Greco, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz

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.

Who is the artist who should immortalize Monica Bellucci?

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)

Cathy Wilkes, Selective Memory

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.”

Cathy Wilkes, We are pro choice

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.

 

Ron Mueck, Mother and Child

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.)

 

Ron Mueck, Couple

 

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.

Jeff Koons, Pink Panther

 

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”.

 

Eric Fischl, Japanese Bath

 

I then turned to another canvas, that was atmospheric and almost menacing. The Living Room Scene 3 of the Krefeld Project.

 

Eric Fischl, The Krefeld Project, Living Room Scene 3

 

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.)

 

Eric Fischl, The travel of romance I

 

The travel of romance is a set of four paintings.

 

Eric Fischl, The travel of romance II

 


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.

 

Lucian Freud by Lucian Freud

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.”

Lucian Freud, Naked portrait with reflection

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….

Lucian Freud, Closed Eyes

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.”

The verdict

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.

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.

In my view the best is the interpretation by the sublime brush of Caravaggio.

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.

Umayyad Mosque: St John's Shrine

The mosque holds a shrine which still today may contain the head of John the Baptist(Yahya), honored as a prophet by both Christians and Muslims alike. (Source wikipedia).

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.

Birgit Nilsson as Salome

“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).

The Sea – Η Θαλασσα

Δευτέρα, 3 Ιανουαρίου, 2011

C.D. Friedrich - Monk by the Sea

And then went down to the ship,
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…
Ezra Pound, Canto I

C.D. Friedrich – Moon descending on the sea

«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

Emil Nolde – North Sea

“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

Emil Nolde – The Sea

“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

Max Beckmann – North Sea

Night sea journey
An archetypal motif in mythology, psychologically associated with depression and the loss of energy characteristic of neurosis.The night sea journey is a kind of descensus ad inferos–a descent into Hades and a journey to the land of ghosts somewhere beyond this world, beyond consciousness, hence an immersion in the unconscious.["The Psychology of the Transference," CW 16, par. 455.]Mythologically, the night sea journey motif usually involves being swallowed by a dragon or sea monster. It is also represented by imprisonment or crucifixion, dismemberment or abduction, experiences traditionally weathered by sun-gods and heroes: Gilgamesh, Osiris, Christ, Dante, Odysseus, Aeneas. In the language of the mystics it is the dark night of the soul.Jung interpreted such legends symbolically, as illustrations of the regressive movement of energy in an outbreak of neurosis and its potential progression.

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)

Panayiotis Tetsis - Sunset

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.

C.D. Friedrich - Wreck in the Sea of Ice

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,

C.D. Friedrich - Sea of Ice

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)

Nikolaos Lytras – Boat with Sail

«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.

Goethe 1795

Happy Travelling!

Happy New Year!

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