Art enables us to find ourselves
Everything you can imagine is real.
A zoom call in which I took part prompts this Reflection.
I volunteer at my local museum. The call was to re-introduce volunteers to the processes to follow as the museum reopens. We also received an insight into up-and-coming exhibitions.
One of those is an Art exhibition (museums aren’t just for ancient artefacts). The presenter mentioned that many people seem intimidated by displays of Art. It’s as if they feel Art is for the highbrow or those who have in-depth knowledge of the subject. The presenter noted that he’d also seen people move through earlier museum Art exhibitions at pace rather than taking the time to linger on what’s on display.
You might recall that I reflected on my enjoyment of music a while ago even though I can’t play a single note on any instrument. The same is true of Art. I can draw the curtains or a conclusion, but otherwise, my artistic ability is zero.
I found art lessons at school a nightmare. I could fake playing a musical instrument but not drawing or painting. One of the pieces I produced still lives in my mind. It was a painting of a giant bright red budgie that could well have featured in one of those 1950s horror movies in which enormous creatures invade the earth.
Yet, I’ve always appreciated Art and envied those who have talent. Again, in an earlier Reflection, I wrote of being mesmerised by Dali’s, ‘Christ of St John of the Cross’ when eight years old. My love of Art has lasted all through my lifetime. I find galleries havens of peace. Places to rest the mind and calm the soul. I recommend them as great therapy when troubled.
One of my favourite artists is Caravaggio because of his atmospheric use of dark and light. Another is Artemisia Gentileschi for the passion in her paintings of classical scenes from a female perspective. I much enjoy the work of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists with their mastery of light, colour, and movement. Most will think of Monet when they read that, but I prefer Manet, Cezanne, Renoir, Van Gogh etc. Then there is Turner, who once said, “I paint what I see, not what is there”.
I’m fortunate to have seen many striking paintings in many different galleries in the UK and abroad. I also much enjoy stumbling over an exhibition. On one occasion, I came across such in the central railway station in Rome. On another in a library in Milan. On both occasions, it was of works by Caravaggio.
My favourite gallery is the Courtauld in London that holds Manet’s remarkable ‘A Bar at the Folies-Bergère’. The reflected perspective of Suzon, the barmaid, and you, the viewer, fascinates me. As does the detail such as the bottle of Bass recognisable from its famous triangular trademark.
One painting that I have always wished to see ‘in the flesh’ is Landscape with the Fall of Icarus by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. I have tried on three occasions to see it in the Musee des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Thwarted each time by renovations or the painting being ‘on tour’. One day….
I also much enjoy reading the back story of a painting or painter. It’s easy with van Gogh, as he wrote so many letters in which he discusses his paintings. Except, of course, which is his final painting. Arguments still rage about that one. The drama of Caravaggio’s paintings matches the drama of his life. He appears in some as the main character and in others as an ‘extra’. I’m always surprised by the volume of information that exists about the background of a painting. Even those painted some five hundred years ago.
I am untutored in Art and look at the work with an untrained eye. As with music, A person takes from a painting what they bring to it. Their experiences, current mood, emotions etc. We all differ in that regard. The same artwork will offer different reactions from two people because of those different perspectives.
You don’t have to be an expert for art to move you. it’s about having a feeling for, and appreciation of, the form. There is nothing scary in taking the time to look upon a painting.
So, what music matches this week’s reflection? Well, it just must be this, doesn’t it? A beautiful song of a magical artist, sung beautifully ….