Not Being Afraid of Love

As mentioned in my previous post here is a poem by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi which Maurizio Cattelan named his exhibition after at Monnaie de Paris. Enjoy x

Not Being Afraid of Love

Sitting opposite him in a cafe and realising it’s over.

Standing up and walking slowly away.

Walking down the street, distraught.

Unable to bear the sky being so blue and the trees in bloom.

Calling, late at night. Nothing.

Calling, at daybreak. Nothing.

The nothingness of the empty apartment.

Thinking of the other woman as white cloud.

Going into the bathroom.

Silently screaming.

Curled up.

Numb.

A shadow of your former self.

A tiny, inconsolable baby.

Telling yourself that nothing is ever lost.

Telling yourself over and over again, for years, hidden away from the world, through thick and thin.

Smiling this way and that way.

Thinking of the other woman life you might pick at a wound, painfully and with hateful euphoria.

Sleeping around here and there.

Sleeping alone.

Growing old alone.

Seeing him again.

Laughing at his jokes, just like in the good old days.

But actually, no.

Checking, and checking again, endlessly checking, that it’s over.

Thinking that the world is a desert without flowers or water.

That the night has lost its stars.

Having a house, water, flowers on the balcony, and a shriveled heart.

Not being afraid of love.

And if I had to start over, I would do it all again.

For these pieces of eternity.

For paying tribute to eternity.

Burn in the fires of hell instead of regretting.

Pick up your bag, stand up and walk away slowly.

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Enjoying art and Maurizio Cattelan


What influences our opinions of art? Generally it’s our own taste, our first reaction when seeing it; is it aesthetically pleasing or displeasing, or even uninteresting? However enjoying art is not always about aesthetics. Since Duchamp’s Fountain, 1917 we have paid more attention to the idea behind art rather than how it would look on our wall at home. Duchamp’s upside down urinal is not necessarily a beautiful object to look but it changed our perception of how art can now transcend everyday life.

But what about the artist? The more infamous or interesting the life of the artist, the more their artwork is appreciated and even sold for. And in a similar fashion, with today’s society, the more one reads about or sees an artist’s work online, the more interest it culminates. Artists these days have a ‘following’, whether it’s on Instagram, Facebook or blogs, before people have even seen their work in a gallery. Surely this changes the way we first perceive artwork? Are we excited because of its beauty, its subject matter or because of its Internet fame? When I visited Maurizio Cattelan’s exhibition, ‘Not Afraid of Love’ at Monnaie de Paris, it was the latter. He is an elusive character and an outcast to the art world, making his career all the more exciting, but also all the more posted, reposted and blogged about.

Having stumbled across Cattelan’s artwork multiple times online, I was very excited to find out he was exhibiting only ten minutes away from where I study. Cattelan has new art on show, which has been produced after a five year break from the art world. He said in relation to his new artworks, ‘I don’t want to lead the audience in a specific direction, I want to provoke a spontaneous reaction’. In other words, his artwork can be rather strange and leave the viewer questioning its purpose. The best example of this is probably the very realistic sculpture of Pope Jean-Paul II lying on the ground having been hit by a meteor; more formally known as Nona Ora. The sculpture is amusing to some and offensive to others. MC doesn’t care. Cattelan’s exhibition is displayed in the form of a dialogue, with pieces of writing from various known or unknown people all talking about his work. Starting with a poem Not Being Afraid of Love, by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (this poem is too important to take out one quote so I will post it separately on my blog).

Cattelan’s other startling works include a taxidermised horse, Untitled, 2007. A life-size horse caught mid-leap by the wall, displaying a large corpse of a horse’s body hanging mid-air, halted mid-leap. This is one of Cattelan’s more famous pieces, and having seen it on Instagram, it was all the more exciting to see it displayed in real life. There are other works that provoke similar reactions of discomfort, interest or awe, for example a sculpture of Adolf Hitler reduced to the size of a small innocent boy kneeling down looking up at the viewer. The objects provided in the exhibition may seem to be a rather random selection of his work, but according to Cattelan himself everything he makes ‘has an autobiographical resonance’.

I would recommend going to the exhibition, however I feel it is important to point out that Cattelan himself understands how artwork these days is understood predominantly ‘through photos and reproductions’. He tells us that ‘in the end it almost doesn’t matter where the actual piece is. Sooner or later its gonna end up in your head, and that’s when things get interesting’. So maybe there isn’t the need to see art in the flesh anymore. If it isn’t the thickness of the paint, or the intricate details of the brush on the canvas, then can’t we just find out everything we need to know from pictures online?

Foundation Louis Vuitton: Icons of Modern Art


After a long wait, I finally managed to find a day to visit the exhibition ‘Icons of Modern Art’, on display at the Louis Vuitton Foundation. The building itself is worth visiting alone. It was a pleasant suprise to come across something so modern and vast. If I was to describe the bulding, I would ask you to imagine that someone has dropped a colourful stained glass window and left the smashed pieces on the ground. Or maybe a colourful glass vase. Anyway I think Frank Gehry would probably have something to say about this description, however it is clear he wanted to create a building that stands out from the typical style of Parisian architecture.

This exhibition is the first time Shchukin’s collection has been gathered as a single entity, and it is little known by the general western public. The collection, prizing of hundreds of pieces, is an artwork itself, and can now be enjoyed in it’s entirety. It proved to be a fully engaging insight into the development of European modern art.

I knew there would be a large amount to look at, so I gave myself a lot of time to spend there. However the collection still managed to surprise me. It spanned both the late 19th and 20th century, creating an ambitious and historical experience. Sergei Shchukin, who is described as a ‘visionary collector of French modern art’ provided a collection that contained 37 Matisse paintings alone. In fact a highlight of the exhibition is the room dedicated wholly to Matisse’s work, all of which were individually chosen by Shchukin in the painter’s studio in the summer of 1914. Shchukin had the rare talent of appreciating art as it was being created, rather than neglecting the idea of contemporary change of the artistic cannon.

His admiration and interest in art permeates the exhibition, with multiple artists making appearances, from Henri Rousseau to Degas and Malevich. The exhibition shows pictures hanging on his walls at home, which are packed with canvases, leaving little space to see the wallpaper. His walls looked like a large modern, vibrant fresco; an iconostasis of paintings. The exhibition aimed to reimagine the rooms in Shchukin’s house, and this is what determined the way the paintings were displayed. The Pink Room for example housed all of Matisse’s paintings, and as pointed out by Yakov Tugendold, the rooms in Shchukin’s house seemed to have a dialogue with the paintings hanging in it. This brings about the question ‘the room for Matisse or Matisse for the room?’ Shchukin after all bought these paintings for his own pleasure, and therefore the way one views them on display is still very important.

Not only does Shchukin’s collection contain an array of artists, but also a timeline of their movements. From Impressionist landscapes, to Van Gogh’s Post Impressionism, Matisse and Derain’s Fauvist canvases and Picasso and Braque’s Cubist paintings. The collection is an iconic mix of the history of art through the 19th and 20th centuries. The Fauvist works stood out for me the most. The vibrant colours and attack of the canvas mirrors directly where their name originates from: ‘wild beast’ in French. It was also interesting seeing the devlopement from Monet’s landscapes and seascapes to Picasso’s cubist and linear depictions of space; ‘if with Claude Monet, everything flows, Picasso’s hand makes everything solid’. Shchukin’s collection of French painters influenced the Russian avant-garde movement, consisting of Tatlin and Rodtchenko’s suprematism and constructivist art. Alexandre Benois described Shchukin as a ”collector-hero”, not only because he managed to secure some of the most expensive and sought after artworks in the world, but because he let his love for art control his own inhibitions.

Le Musée des arts Décoratifs: L’Esprit de Bauhaus


The exhibition is named ‘The Spirit of Bauhaus’ and aptly so; the design of the exhibition as well as the abundance of information gave me a detailed insight directly into this exact ‘spirit’ they ignited. I knew nothing about it as a movement apart from a slight recognition of its architectural style in Germany. I discovered however that it is neither classed as a ‘style’ or solely an architectural movement. It is a lot more. The format of the exhibition was very reflective of the subject itself; practical while enjoyable. The space, which was in the middle of Musée des Arts Decoratifs was used effectively, with a chronological spiral leading the viewer through the Bauhaus journey. The word ‘Bauhaus’ actually derives from the German words Bauen, to build and Haus, house. There is no doubt that these artists were straightforward in their approach

For those with as little knowledge about Bauhaus as I had, I will provide a little background. It was an art school that was established in 1919 by architect Walter Gropius. He wrote in the manifesto, ‘the ultimate of all visual arts is the whole building’ and this permeates the ultimate aim of the school and the work produced; affordable, practical and beautiful. Everything they made served to make life easier and better, particularly in the difficult times Germany were facing after the first world war. 14 years later the Bauhaus school was closed down by the Nazis in Berlin. Despite its relatively short life span, the Bauhaus movement had a huge amount of influence in it’s time and bought together multiple talented architects, artists and craftsman, all with different ideas and opinions. It was this freedom of thought and the tension of their ideas that held the organisation together so effectively. Artists such as Kandisnsky, Mies van der Roche and Paul Klee were also part of the movement.

Gropius wanted to bring together the quickly expanding machine industry and modern aesthetics to create a new form of trade and a new way of living. It was therefore a movement that appreciated the importance of art, while remaining loyal to the modernity in which it worked. Similar to the arts and crafts movement, members of the school were trained to weave their own books and make their own frames so they were able to then sell their works and make a living from it. Practicality reined the Bauhaus school with a traditional format of three or four years studying there. This was followed by a final exam before gaining a qualification. Student’s during their training would create their own style of furniture which reflected the teaching of the school; for example Marcel Breuer’s chair, which is a stripped back frame of a chair, with minimal materials but maximum space to enjoy when sitting on it.

The objects on display ranged from a Tea Infuser and Strainer, which was a very geometric and simple design, to Kandinsky’s paintings (“Kleine Welten I”, 1922). The variety which permeates the rooms shows the importance of the movement, in terms of converting a large part of everyday life. A colourful, almost musical painting by Kandisnky is different to Breuer’s Stacking Tables, but both are relevant to audience’s still. There were also pictures of the students at the Bauhaus school, enjoying each other’s company and in the midst of reflecting on their artwork. For example, ‘Marcel Breuer dans sa premiere chaise en acier tubulaire’. Another form of artwork was their posters, that they would often design for upcoming exhibitions; Herbert Bayer’s lithography from 1923. Bayer creates an  abstract pattern that could be interpreted as the side profile of a face, but also a block of buildings.

The exhibition embodies the mood and experimentation of the movement, and justifies art as being more than just aesthetically pleasing. This in mind, and the period of history in which the movement took off, I think it is a very important moment in art, particularly for Germany. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone.

 

Musée national Gustave Moreau

Visiting Musée Gustave Moreau was a very different experience to any of the galleries I have been to so far. Presumably because it is set in Moreau’s own house. The many paintings, drawings and sculptures (8000 to be precise) ornate the walls of his bedroom, boudoir and other impressively large studio rooms. There is not an empty space on any of the walls. The ornate furniture, frames and collectables of Moreau’s, all mirror the richness of his paintings, which are often packed with magical symbols, halos, gemstones, blue skies and dark caves. None of Moreau’s paintings depict the normal or the mundane. The rooms are filled with scenes drawn from the surreal, therefore providing an experience rich with imagination as one moves from one room to the next.

Moreau was a symbolist artist. He rejected movements such as realism and impressionism and took a lot of influence from literature, which is where the symbolist movement originated (Jean Moreas manifesto in 1886). His big paintings, which were mostly found in his studio on the second and third floor, have a magical brilliance, packed with energy and sensuality. The literary background of the symbolist movement is carried through in most of Moreau’s paintings, which often contain biblical or mythical characters, such as St John the Baptist and Salomé, c.1876. Similarly there is a repetition of the theme of light, halos and the nude female form, all referring back to the some of the classical works which were mostly religious. However Moreau throws a lot more into his work creating a vast comparison with the balances and restrained works of the 16th century.

This house proved to be the perfect setting for set his dramatic works. The busy walls, packed with his paintings reflected the business of the works themselves. Many of which were hung in large ornate frames, adding to the opulent and traditional manner of the studio. A seemingly personal approach to showcase one’s artwork, however successful in creating the overall magical atmosphere.

One painting that stood out for me was ‘Jupiter et Semele’, 1895, which depicts the mythological character of Jupiter on a throne, with a nude Semele, who has just been struck by lightning. The painting shows little restraint in terms of drama, romanticism and energy that is put into the scene. It is packed with figures; symbolism and allegory often disguised as biblical characters. There is a lot to discover in the painting. The Moreau museum itself even called it a ‘pictorial testament’ and a complete synthesis of all of Gustave’s work. I found myself experiencing the painting completely differently when I stood up close, as opposed to standing far away. There is so much detail to explore when standing closely, for example the detailed elements of architecture and flowing allegorical figures, including one with large black wings. However when taking a step back the whole scene has a much grander effect.

Moreau’s visionary style is worth giving the museum a visit in itself. He was a very important painter in his time, and was classically trained at l’Ecole des Beaux-Artes, notably under the artist Jaques-Louis David. It is interesting to compare his work with those of his contemporaries such as Courbet and other realists, who focused on painting scenes as they really were. His watercolours are also worth having a look at, mostly found on the walls of the smaller rooms, often showing an abstracted side of his artwork.

 

The Louvre; Edmé Bouchardon (1698 – 1762) A Sublime Idea of Beauty

After some deliberation about how to tackle the glorious depths of the Louvre, I decided to start with an exhibition they have on; Edmé Bouchardon (1698 – 1762) A Sublime Idea of Beauty. I didn’t know much about Edme Bouchardon before the exhibition, and I still want to go back and take in more of his sculptures but for the time being I have learnt a lot about him as a draughtsman.

Bouchardon, little did I know was a very important artist in the 18th,  and still celebrated today. Cochin even coined him ‘the best sculpture and draughtsman of the century’. He took influence from the great Renaissance artists (Bernini in particular), while also incorporating an element of modernity that allowed for his portraits to remain noble but also personal. Bouchardon it seems was not interested in over idealising. He appreciated the importance and beauty of classical art but was also a man of his own time. Not too late into his career, around 1730 he was commissioned to create a bust of Pope Clement XII; a huge privilege for someone who isn’t from Italy. The bust is an example of Bouchardon’s attention to detail and likeness of the individual. The bust exudes the Pope’s importance through the heavy chiaroscuro of his detailed cloak, however it is the face which showcases a close reflection of his character. His slight frown makes him seem more thoughtful and humble as a character.

The rooms in the exhibition developed from his busts (first neoclassical busts ever produced) to sketches, book illustrations, monumental sculptures and collections of drawings such as ‘Cries of Paris’ and Nude portraits. From these vast amounts of material to admire I took a particular interest in his drawings.Vasari once said ‘Rough sketches, which are born in an instant in the heat of inspiration, express the idea of their author in a few strokes’. This isn’t to say that Bouchardon’s drawings are ‘rough sketches’ but I do agree that by looking at them one gains a better insight into him as an artist. There seems to be more intimacy in the act of pencil to paper compared longer process of creating a more visually impressive work, such as the bust of Baron Phillipe von Stosch, 1727. I was almost surprised that Bouchardon had so many modest sketches in his repertoire. He shows an unparalleled interest and observation in the human body, as well as the human self. It is also interesting that Bouchardon’s sketches were not always preparatory work for a bigger, grander painting or sculpture. He would often draw for the sake of it.

The Cris de Paris contains 60 sketches each depicting men and women individually at work, either carrying food to be sold or cleaning pieces of their equipment after a long day’s work. The figures are depicted with nobility and often strength, with a close observation of their body language, costume and facial expression. One sketch shows a woman carrying many heavy logs on her back. Despite the working class subject matter, they are not shown to be dirty or ugly, but clean and noble. One sketch that caught my eye was of a woman bending over a metal tub, cleaning it. The dignified manner of their work and their posture reminds me of Millet’s The Gleaners, 1857. Millet’s focus was pure realism in his case, but it proves an interesting comparison. Bouchardon manages to merge a sense of realism with classical beauty.

The nude sketches were another collection of drawings, which held a weight of intimacy. The nude element relates back to the classical ages where one’s true beauty was reflected in the idealization of the body, and this seems to be Bouchardon’s pure focus. He often used red chalk, which allowed for greater dexterity in his drawings. This is visible in the elegant and detailed shading that accentuates the male nude’s torso and legs. The men in the paintings are depicted in complex positions, but each explores a different element of the muscular body. The sketch Nude Looking Down to the Left for example, is a celebration and observation of his body and its movement. His arms twist while his left foot steps forward, almost like a dance caught mid action.

I will go back to this exhibition, and then maybe do another post focusing more on Bouchardon’s sculpture. But I think I will again end up finding myself distracted by his wonderfully delicate drawings.

René Magritte – The Pompidou Centre

My first blog post is dedicated to the hugely celebrated Belgian Surrealist artist René Magritte (1898-1967). The Pompidou Centre are currently showing his work in an exhibition called ‘La Trahison des Images’ (21 septembre 2016 au 23 janvier 2017), which I visited last week. I was very excited to discover that my apartment is just around the corner from the fantastic Pompidou.

I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition. It offered a vast amount of Magritte’s artwork in a structural format that enabled the viewer to gain a better understanding of his often incoherent paintings. The exhibition was distributed over 5 rooms, each dedicated to a different theme that permeates his work – fire, shadows, curtains, words and the fragmented body. Being a Surrealist Magritte challenged our conceptions of reality and played with the idea of dreams and the meaning of language; hence the title of the exhibition ‘the treachery of images’.

An element that struck me when walking through the gallery is the consistency of his style. Despite his development in ideas and subject matter, his meticulous style of painting remains the same. There is often little sign of brushwork on his canvas, indicating the paintings are not spontaneous musings but more thought out than other surrealist artists, for example André Masson’s ‘automatic drawing’, 1924. This clear articulation on the canvas contrasts with Magritte’s complex ideas, which often defy the laws of physics and have a dream like element involved. For example ‘Time Tansfixed’ from 1938 shows a steam train coming out of a fire place.

The painting ‘Time Tansfixed’ is perplexing and almost unappealing in my opinion. The room it depicts feels eerie, due to the lack of ornaments and the empty reflection of the mirror. This is exactly the feeling Magritte wanted to establish in the painting. The ‘wrongness’ of the scale of the train compared with the fireplace shows that Magritte has no intention of depicting real life. The exhibition explains that Magritte wants to create mystery here by putting two familiar objects that shouldn’t be together, together. Similar to Dali’s ‘Lobster Telephone’, 1936’. He is essentially replacing the missing smoke of the fireplace with the steam of the train. Magritte once said ‘when one sees one of my pictures, one asks oneself this simple question, ‘What does that mean? It does not mean anything’. Despite the strangeness of the pictures he is actually very straight forward.

This leads on to his arguably most recognizable work, ‘ceci n’est pas une pipe’ and is the perfect example of how Magritte wanted to challenge the relationship between word and image, as well as being explicit in his approach. The simplicity and realism of the pipe against a plain background calls for the input of the viewer. The words on the canvas say ‘This is not a pipe’, which of course adds an element of wit. Magritte commenting on this painting said ‘could you stuff my pipe? No, it’s just a representation’; again showing the straightforward approach to his works.

Since visiting the exhibition I found an old ‘Beaux Arts’ magazine which references a previous Magritte exhibition in 2003. The magazine sights Magritte’s tragic childhood; he found his mother drowned in a river when he was just 13 years old. This seems to be an important context to his artworks, because of some of the disturbing images that are carried through; ‘The Lovers II’ 1928 for example, despite it’s romantic title, is visibly distressing and claustrophobic.

The exhibition was an interesting journey through Magritte’s imagination that visibly followed recurring motifs, from men in bowler hats to curtains revealing dreams within reality. Despite the strangeness of his subjects Magritte remains truthful to the realism of colour and proportion. Therefore making his dreams feel all the more real.

beaux-artsthe-lovers

Introductions

Hello there and welcome to Galerie Parisienne.

I have recently moved to Paris and will be studying at l’Ecole du Louvre, so I have decided to do the very predictable thing and start a blog…quelle surprise.

Emile Zola claimed that as an artist he ‘lives out loud’, and I suppose (not quite to the same extent) I intend to do the same with my blog. I will focus on what I have been learning, visiting and enjoying within Paris’ art scene. Just as Picasso saw painting as ‘another way of keeping a diary’, my blog will follow a similar sentiment.

Enjoy xxx