sâmbătă, 18 octombrie 2014

Wandering spirit

I sometimes think that writing and wandering are alike. Writing is wandering among streets and words until an unsual spot is discovered: it may be a street, or a mood, or an idea, or maybe just a trace of oneself... I am a wanderer, an urban wanderer, trying to sense how life feels elsewhere.

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I sometimes think that self discipline is crucial. And there is no time for wandering. I panic. I restrain all my words from pouring themselves on paper and I stop. I stop and look around where those wanderers lose their souls. But I am here. I hang on a wall, on a chair, on a lightful room. I hang on, I just hang on.

joi, 16 octombrie 2014

Despre eternul feminin si alti demoni

Pe cand eram inca studenta si cochetam cu ideea de a face o profesie chirurgicala, o persoana pe care o apreciam foarte tare mi-a atras atentia ca toate femeile chirurg pe care le cunoaste si-au 'pierdut feminitatea'. Cred ca imaginea asta mi-a modelat foarte puternic asteptarile de la identitatea de gen.

Este destul de interesant sa cititi pe wikipedia definitia feminitatii ca si construct social. Citind-o mi-am dat seama ca este foarte posibil sa nu fi impartasit deloc aceeasi idee a feminitatii cu persoana despre care va vorbesc, cu toate ca am utilizat acelasi limbaj, acelasi concept. Si este posibil ca propriul meu construct asupra feminitatii sa fie diferit de ceea ce mi s-a sugerat. Si-apoi, cum sa o pierzi?

In mintea mea, feminitatea este un fel de alura. Este mult mai puternic legata de fizic si imaginea pe care o lasa femeia in mintea celorlalti, decat de responsabilitatile sale. Cand vorbesc despre feminitate, ma gandesc mereu la un anumit tip de atitudine, la gratie, la caldura, la un fel de lumina interioara dar si la un fel de erotism insinuant, nu extrem de ostentativ, ma gandesc la o anumita textura a epidermei si la un anumit parfum.

Poate ca ideea asta nu se suprapune prea mult peste ideile mele feministe (subliniez diferenta feminitate - feminism) :) Dar poate ca tocmai prin asta le confirma... Imi plac femeile frumoase si inteligente, ale caror prezenta iti sugereaza ca sunt femei. Admir cand duritatea profesiei nu le modifica deloc consistenta si cand reusesc sa evite toate stridentele.

Nu stiu de ce mi-a venit sa va povestesc despre asta... Cred ca datorita acestei melodii a Mariei Tanase, preluata si de Pink Martini, al carei tempo mentinut in suspans imi evoca fiorul pe care il produce o femeie frumoasa cu o alura feminina intr-o incapere. Imperceptibil si totusi persistent.

Asa ca am o intrebare simpla: pentru voi ce inseamna feminitate? Si cu ce melodie o asociati?


marți, 14 octombrie 2014

Three characters in Lyon (III)

Today you will find the last part of three episodes about the characters that troubled me in the Musée des Beaux Arts in Lyon. Previous articles concern a gentleman and Lucretia.

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Francesco Furini - Sf. Ioan Evanghelistul


Composition

This work is also conceived on a dark background but, when compared with the previous two pieces, it has more than light, it has colour and density. Its structure is built as a pyramid as you can see in the  scheme below. It is a typical construction where the center of the painting corresponds to the center of the composition. Its ascending form is balanced by the horizontal line drawn by the hand lied down on the table. It constitutes the basis of the pyramid, its solidity (the writing hand of the Gospel that is the basis of Christianism). The light comes from the left of the viewer. The garment is painted on a deep hue of vermillon that brings contrast to the neutral shades in the rest of the painting. 




Character analysis

John the Evangelist is the youngest of Christ's apostles and the author of the Gospel of John. There are two hints in the painting: at a closer look to the real painting one can read on the pages of the manuscript: "In principio erat verbum" (At first there was the word) which points to the first words of the Gospel of John. In the little yellow circle at right you can see the ink and the pen that also hint to the writer qualities of John. The character is young as one can most frequently see this John represented in art. He does not look at us, he gazes elsewhere in a meditative posture most likely uncommon for young men of his age enhancing our feeling of watching a special persona.

Comments

There is an astonishing purity on the character's face that is even more reinforced than contrasted by the colour of the garment. The use of vermillon here is associated with the idea of clerical function and it has very little to do with the sin innuendo it produced in the XIXth century. John the Evangelisth looks like an extremely serious child and gives viewers an instinctive inclination of asking him questions about vocation and evolution.


duminică, 12 octombrie 2014

Three characters in Lyon (II)

Here I go, continuing the small series I started yesterday. As I put it on Facebook, it represents my attempt to decrypt art portrait analysis for non-professionals answering basic questions such as: How do you engage in conversation with a character? How do you infer who he/she is? How much do you love details?

I am often asked why I love art and how I interpret it. Therefore my plan is to start with the classics and, if everything goes well, continue with some contemporary pieces.

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Guido Cagnacci - Lucretia 


Composition

This barocco painting is all shades, almost no color. Unfortunately the present reproduction does not convey the entire sense of beauty the original would. It also does not show all the shades since there is dark blue in Lucretia's hair. But let us take a closer look. The center of the painting and the spotlight is not on Lucretia's face, but on her chest. It is a double focus: her white desirable flash with bursting virginal breast and her heart, the spot where she will stub the dagger. She is still wearing a ring on her right hand finger (masked here)  although she is completely naked. It may be interpreted as a sign that the suicide is related to the offense brought to her marriage. While the right hand stands very decided on the dagger, the left hand shows grace. It is another example of a simple portrait on a dark background with a very scarce chromatic, except that, when compared to the gentleman we discussed yesterday, in this scene something is happening. And the density of the moment is shown on the characters expression, not on the mere interpretation of a glance.

Character analysis

Unrighteously called Lucretia Borgia, the present work is actually about Lucretia, a legendary figure that attached her name to the founding of the Roman Republic. She was the wife of a Roman consul and, while hosting the Etruscan emperor' son in their home, she was raped by the latter. As a consequence she asked her husband and her father for revenge and committed suicide. It raised awareness among the people of Rome that started to deny privileges to the rich which eventually led to the installation of the Republic. We can infer from the significance of the character that we are in front of a scene of moral sacrifice. However the closed eyes, the open mouth with full lips add lust to the scene.

Comments

In spite of the historic truth, I would be prone to asking myself more questions about the passion of the character than about her morality. In my personal interpretation (just do not jump with the psychanalytical term of projective test right away), I see more of a voluptuous woman than a purely moralist one. That is where Cagnacci brings complexity to the character since it opens the gate to much more interpretations. For instance, what if our heroin actually enjoyed lust and death is more of an obligation than of a moral duty? What if Lucretia is more passionate and impulsive than moral as fury (take a look at her eyes) and disgust (her mouth can also be interpreted as such) drive her to perform the supreme gesture? Anyway, what held me in front of this painting for quite a while was the passionate, suffering look on the character face that contrasts with the established, deliberate positioning of the dagger in her hand. What do you see?

sâmbătă, 11 octombrie 2014

Three characters in Lyon (I)

It is an ideal morning for writing as the sun is up but the streets keep the smell of the rain. So here I go trying to introduce to you three characters I met on my trip to Lyon. First one today

Unlike the real characters I share with you sometimes, unlike the real emotions I joggle with, this one is a story about painted characters not less impressive, nor less intense. In one interview, the Romanian painter Stefan Caltia used to say that he would not want his works on the walls of people who have nothing to talk to his characters. I kept this one in mind as I often talk to the characters on display in my home.

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Federico Barocci (1532-1612)- Portrait d'un gentilhomme



Composition

It is a standard composition with a man bust, dressed under the fashion of that century, placed in the middle of the paiting, on a dark background. In a relatively common posture, the man is not completely facing us, he is slightly turned under a 15-30° position which can be considered as a typical way of representing men. That is because male characters were supposed not to be defenseless in front of those looking at the portrait and keeping a reserved attitude in their posture was considered a hint of their social status. The white collar and his face are the only two elements enlightened in the painting thus completely imposing a direct dialogue with the central character. To be noted: there is a fine light aura interposed between the character and the background.

Character analysis

As in real life, analyzing others shifts from external to internal details. As I said above, his clothes are relevant for that period when contrasting fabrics, slashes, embroidery, and applied trims where meant to imply oppulence. However we might be tempted to infer that he is not one of the richest since no golden details dettach as it is the case in other paintings of that century or that this particular gentleman prefers a life of measure and rigor. The latter is reinforced by the monchromatics of his garments although it was not uncommon for men in the 16th century to wear more colours in their costumes, including white, grey, red.  His front is wide, his eyes are sparking and powerful, his nose is slightly dilated and his lips are thin. He wears a beard which was also common in the 1500, under a variety of models, but which can also be interpreted as a further sign of malehood and strength.

Comments

Of course, it is an opera aperta. Everybody is free to project in him whatever they like. As far as I am concerned, if he was a real life character, he would seem to me bright (see that aura I told you about earlier on? it acts as a sort of enlightenment of the spirit), fierce, a bit proud and a bit rigid. I infer unflexibility from his closed mouth and dilated nose. It tells me "I am a man of few words and strong convictions" but it also promises an openness towards dialogue concerning measure, free will, religion and principle. That is what I would talk to him about... The little veins slightly perceivable on the left rim of his front suggest me that he likes to impose his opinions and his glance suggests that he is thoroughfully considering his conversational counterpart before engaging as he is reluctant to the merits of others until proven.


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Please stay tuned to see... Lucretia.

joi, 9 octombrie 2014

Spikes

A few years ago, I used to teach my students about communicating bad news. The algorithm I presented them with, called SPIKES, survived all other fashion up to now. At the time I had not communicated anyone a bad news. I have done it several times since then.

I think I can take every step of the algorithm as I should do it, I know it by heart, I apply it by instinct. And it is still not enough. One is still lying unarmed against sadness, and pain, and denial. One is still projecting and still feels suffocated when imagines oneself on the other side of the table. One knows by heart all the hopes that are still true, and all the disappointments that should never be heard. I do not know how to say "take care of all your administrative stuff, you should do it now" but I answer gracefully 'yes' when being asked if they should do so.

I have invented comparisons with marathons although I have never run one and I am still thinking whether I should try to just to be able it to say it "from the inside", thus diminishing my external view on the subject. I am sometimes protecting myself and that is immediately apparent in my voice and it should not be there. And I still do not know what to answer to the basic question: "Already? So quickly? Why?"

Today she told me "we were preparing a trip. What am I going to tell my grandsons now...?" His husband who stood next to her took her hand: "Don't worry. You'll just have that chemo and then we will go on the trip".

miercuri, 8 octombrie 2014

The faces of Faith




Dolorosa - Murillo
Art is usually about playing the game, as I like to put it, and 99% of the times I am quite a gamer. There is one single space where I still have to struggle to reconcile my personal imagination with the historical collective imaginarium or with the huge range of artists' personal imaginations. That is religion.

Religion is something intimidatingly personal in spite of my capacity to argue about whether or not to belive, about whether or not to search for answers when a believer and so on. I might want to get involved with a good partner in any of those conversations but I am quite incapable of negotiating that much: my personal visual imaginarium attached to religion.

I have been walking up and down the corridors of many famous museums since I was a child. But I still find it difficult to  attach to a painting with religious contents for more than admiring the perfection of the transparent veil, the incredible shadows of the dress, the ethereal materia of the Dolorosa's tears, the surgical precision of the human anatomy. I might have less expectations in what concerns most saints but I make a difficult juror whenever Christ or the Virgin are shown.

I expect beauty, purity, overwhelming superiority of reason and emotion, light, pain, comprehension, faith... and the whole painted neither in too luxuriant colours, nor in colours too dull.  And, with such high expectations, I have not been oftenly pleased. I remember one day in Italy, after ten days of Uffizi, palazzi, musei, galerie, I saw this small painting and I was finaly able to hum "this might make it" in front of a painting with Virgin Mary whose author I do not  remember any longer.


Have you ever noticed that the Holy Child is almost always distinctively ungracious, too fat, too serious, too not so bright, too greedy? That the woman representing the Virgin often looks superficial, evil-speaking, limited, vulgar, egocentric or disappointingly house-maid-ish. I know that we are talking about cultural ideals of beauty and their evolution in time. However when you take an Italian Renaissance portret, chances are that you would be able to recognize in the character the very same human attributes that the painter initially wanted to convey to you. In most religious paintings, you don't. Or I don't.

Therefore, the are still very few alternatives I can accept. One of them in The heads of Christ by Rembrandt. Another is Murillo's Dolorosa up here.

Do you have the same kind of idiosyncrasia? How's yours?