Tag Archives: paris

Troubled Art – Chaim Soutine

He was that kind of a difficult snotty kid, who appeared from nowhere as if fully formed, then, like a meteor glowing with dark, perpetual fire he flashed through life fulfilled with struggles, suffering, torment and passions. He left one of the most compelling collections of paintings in the Modern Art; despite of the quite ferocious competition from Matisse, Picasso, Modigliani and many others…

Chaim Soutine was a painter of his own obsessions. Only. Buying his place in the art world at a high price of the family rejection, exile, extreme poverty, illness and the life-long emotional disturbance he remained an outsider in Paris of Modernists; moody, clumsy Jewish oddball from funny-sounding village (Smilovitchy) in Belarus.

He painted like a man possessed, staining canvasses with his own guts and each time risking that he won’t survive his own probe. He handled paint like one handles a chunk of meat – he penetrated it deeply as if with a knife in order to spread it thickly across the canvas in violent patterns. An ultimate, genius painting animal – no real training, no theory or concepts behind, no alternations or preparations – only the creative act, urgent, necessary, exhausting and virtuoso at the same time.

He was often called ‘the painter of death’ due to his eccentric fancies for smelly carcasses and hanged turkeys; yet – I cannot agree with that. For Soutine’s perpetual greed and hunger for life is much more stronger than his apparent melancholic flirting with the extinction forces… His forests and fields, dead birds and fish seemed to be endowed with life simply because they  breathe with Soutine’s own fever, intensity, complexity and beauty of the character. His admired master – Rembrandt has taught him that – that reality is there to be respected; the materiality, sensuality of things is at the foundation of a spiritual strength. That’s why Soutine was probably the only major painter in Fauvists and Cubists’ Paris having painting only from life and with no interest at all in participating in the revolution going on in art at that moment.

I have a strange fondness for that dirty Jewish kid, I envy his purest, unadulterated ‘gut feeling’ of paint and creative experience; and when I was looking for his grave at Montparnasse Cemetery (it took me a bit – the grave itself is a very simple, horizontal tombstone in a small, Jewish part of the place) I had in mind the words of a distinguished Polish art historian (Waldemar Lysiak) – that Chaim Soutine was forever a banished child – the one thrown out of a nest, who has never fully managed to exorcise his childhood and to grant the world his absolution… And he painted, again an again, the most poignant images of little children (just like the one featured above) – alone on a road, with ominous, stormy world towering over them… Little exiles, at home in no place; so sad yet so truthful – and with no sentiment or self-pity at all…

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Death as an eternal form of Art…

Back to Paris again…

Pere Lachaise is probably one of the most beautiful cemeteries of this world. Like a ghostly, melancholic city within the city, living its own dignified, mysterious life… Its ancient, highly decorative tombs, sculptures, corners and paths where one can easy spent long minutes lost in reflection… The history and spirit behind it… As a whole and in dozens of its aesthetically seductive spots it appears to exist as a perfect, frozen image of Art ‘par excellence’; frozen and devoted to dead ones – yet strangely alive with its inner pulse of a ticking clock – the one that ticks in us…

I hear you saying: “Let it all be, but – why – on Earth – to bother with that at all? ” The same question was in my colleagues’ eyes when I was leaving their joyful company to realize my plan of seeing Paris great graveyards. I came to the city of Chopin, Proust, Piaf, Delacroix, Sartre and others with a packet of candles having a strong notion in my mind that it wouldn’t be fair – not to visit them after all those incredible moments of spiritual delight and challenge their work has brought to my life… Just like seeing friends in a cafe-shop, where a table and a cup of hot fluid becomes a ground when one may build a bridge of communication and intimacy – the same happens when one treats a grave of someone loved as a vehicle of potential spiritual meeting…

Photos I made serve as an inspiration to celebrate death as the eternal form of art… Because life is art – just like everything else…


Louise Bourgeois – Centre Pompidou 5March08-2June08


I am going to be a big advocate of this Bourgeois’s exhibition, and generally – her art. What I knew about this artist, before going to Paris, was shamefully little. I admired her insight when she made a reflection on the modern artist’s condition, and which thought expresses my own struggle – I’ ll repeat it with pleasure (since I’ve already quoted it in one of my posts):

What modern art means is that you have to keep finding new ways to express yourself, to express the problems, that there are no settled ways, no fixed approach. This is a painful situation, and modern art is about this painful situation of having no absolutely definite way of expressing yourself. This is why modern art will continue, because this condition remains; it is the modern human condition. (…) [Modern art] is about the hurt of not being able to express yourself properly, to express your intimate relations, your unconscious, to trust the world enough to express yourself directly in it. It is about trying to be sane in this situation, of being tentatively and temporarily sane by expressing yourself.

In Pompidou that ‘painful situation’ became a battlefield for bourgeoisanyone who managed to have even an averagely sensitive reception. Bourgeois’s work presented there is like one of her famous spiders: it’s quiet and unpretentious, yet gives you shivers from top to toe. Like a purebred horse – one may be a layman and in a hurry to see ‘the rest of Paris’ – but just has to sense the character, beauty and flair of this art ( ‘Art’ par excellence truly) and to admire it, even without any understanding. It consists of her early paintings and fetish-like wooden sculptures, then a series of absolutely weird and absolutely thrilling installation-like sets constructed out of huge metal cages, old doors and home objects, tapestry heads anda clumsy-looking little pink rag-dolls… One had the impression of being unintentionally and undeservedly a participant in a poignant modern mystery play, which evokes images of sacred places and times when a smile of mum was like a touch of god and celebrating home-ness, sexual life, giving birth meant living to the point of a perfect communion with one’s immortality.

One piece possessed my imagination in a special way – Nature Study (1984-94) – middle-sized sculpture from a series of hybrids, Sphynxes and monsters. Not being able to photograph it I spent some time in drawing it, thend I bought a postcard of it (photo presented to the right has been found on the Net). The headless animal-monster with two pairs of huge breasts, claws and a tail-like curled around genitals was meant to be a representation of the artist’s father – as she stated: As I was demolished by my father, why should I not demolish him?… This disarming honesty just put me to my kneels. What sort of a character, how many years of an inner struggle it takes to be able to reflect on so profoundly intimate, so traumatically hurtful matters in such a free-spirited way?

Anyone interested? Just go to see this compelling show.


Few not-modern notes on humanity…

Quite recently I’ve got an interesting, half-an-hour talk about nothing. It happened to be focused on modern art, modern human condition, place for beauty and ethics within it and, after making a heroic round in escaping its inbuilt vacuum it came to the point of an inception – to a rather corny remark that ‘nonsense’ seems to be a surname of today’s existence. How to make art in the modern chaos and to remain sane? Although Louis Bourgeois wrote in her painting that Art is the warranty of sanity she wrote also I’ve been in Hell and back, and let me tell you – it was wonderful. Going to Hell is the condition of the modern artist, whether s/he comes back and is ready to admit that it was wonderful is a quite another, usually very personal story.

Since my partner in the above-mentioned chat was far from being just an average, junior, intelligent guy who finds ‘fashionable’ to talk post-modern slogans (no matter how out of place they are), we’ve managed to make a way for some deeper observations. Yet everything seemed to slip through our fingers – any sense, any understanding of each other. Why is it so difficult to communicate on a level, where any social game must to disappear in the presence of truth? Why in the age of gutsy exhibitionism, omnipresent ‘display’ of human ‘values’ we are mute and/or extremely amateurish when it comes to formulate, understand and convey basic reflection on our existential condition? I wonder what was that ancient Greek spoke about, or people of 18th century France, or even contemporaries of Hemingway, Kafka, Dostojewski? Have they been taught the art of communicating oneself to others or maybe times they lived in encouraged it in the most natural fashion?

So we talked about beauty which became something terribly old-fashioned, neglected and misunderstood. After Picasso and the modern rest ridiculed classical rules of harmony and pleasure it seems to be quite trendy to make art that disturbs, wipes out smile and joy; art of dark colours, sad faces and deliberately nonchalant in appearance. Even if beauty occurs it’s very often accidental, has nothing in common with beliefs and aspirations of an artist. Majority of work in my college is like that, my own work oscillates between ‘blue’ and darkness of being alive here and now… What a waste of a pair of healthy hands. Why not to aspire to be the next Cezanne or Canova? Why not to aspire to make the happiest, the most beautiful paintings/sculptures ever? Why even these questions sound ridiculously?

It was the eternal beauty of art in Paris that grabbed my mind and heart. Who knows – maybe it’s the right time for a new Renaissanse, for rediscovering once again value and sense in our human condition? That could be even interesting…

Just for the classical taste, few shots of The Louvre’s treasures I took during my trip to Paris:


Paris, Paris (3)…

Today I would like to share my delight with you since, while visiting those marvelous Parisian museums, I’ve got a privilege and great luck to not only see Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse, van Gogh, Picasso, old Dutch or Italian Masters (and Others) ‘live’ but also to make detailed photos of them. The pictures came out really fine, I still see them like a sort of a revelation… One can never find fully satisfying reproductions of those paintings, which – on the other hand – seem to be familiar to us just like some family shots… that’s a sort of an obvious thing to admit. But, to meet ‘Them’ an eye-to-eye – just as they really are – it’s an unforgettable experience. You just know it, straight away, that despite ‘seeing’ Picasso, Matisse or Leonardo dozens times in books, movies, slides you’ve never, in fact, seen them and that this is that very first time – when you make your way to them to face their formidable and beautiful presence. Above that, one has a glorious opportunity to observe and to document the technique, the actual colours, the brushwork – for a would-be painter it’s like to see a trembling heart in a human body for a would-be cardiologist…

So here they are, more or less (‘perfectly’ is an impossible world to use) as I’ve seen them (click on those ‘cut’ by this page design to obtain the full view). Please note that I’ve edited the photos only in their ‘sharpness’ to convey better the sense of an actual brushwork, I didn’t touch any ‘colour’ make up (some of the repro-s presented on the Net are terribly over-enhanced in terms of colours, brightness etc.) :


Paris, Paris (2)…

Five days passed since I returned from my first truly aware and art-focused trip to Paris and that place still lives in me as vibrant and beautiful as in reality. Just a bit above an hour flight from a quiet Irish city, from this still quite wild, romantic and half-empty landscape right to the utterly modern, imperialistic-looking metropolis – that was a sort of a cultural shock that I experienced. Right from an airport to a smelly, shabby-looking Metro station, and the commuters appearing to be like zombies in a panic-run – just cutting the space in front of them without the slightest care for the others. I merely managed to make a thought: ‘Oh, c’mon – slow down people’ when I was forced to join them in order not to be stampeded.

But quickly Paris revealed its innate pure magic due to my evening visit to the Montmartre district – those little streets, fancy displays, romantic candles-lit restaurants, then people engaged in making ‘live’ art right on the footpaths, ambient lights, locals lost in their lazy ‘carrying on’ (since their finished their daily ‘job&metro’ battle), angelic songs sung by the Basilique du Sacre Coeur nuns and – above all – that difficult to define yet quite intense ‘flavour’ of the French-ness around… Delightful melody of the language, proud presence of those dark-haired, pale, strong-minded individuals, elegance and superiority in architecture and decoration, charm and challenge. Yet- without being naive or all-too-positive – ‘French’ experience is probably one of the most commercialised, over-priced phenomenon of this world. French charge you for the air you breathe in, for the privilege of walking their streets and visiting their businesses, they charge art students for seeing the masterpieces (which belong to the human race in general) in the public museums, quite often they serve imitations, fakes and simply kitsch as a ‘Parisian’ treat. But – let’s just forget about all that…

On one day I’ve been caught right in the middle of a street protest, hundreds of very young people dressed mostly in dark clothes (seem to be all-national fashion) with banners and flags seemed to advocate their right to a better education. I was thrilled by an immense energy and power of that crowd – power of showing discontent, even anger without the slightest pretense or an attempt of a self-creation. One could just feel it – they sensed injustice so they got together and filled up the streets shouting their: ‘Resistance’! ‘Resistance’! mantra. For some strange reasons I couldn’t imagine similar thing in Ireland, or in many modern European cities, even in those with rebellious history, like some places in Poland are… It seems to remain an uniquely French privilege – to exercise the public freedom of the 60s-like expression of ‘No’ on almost daily basis without losing anything of their superbly contemporary spirit.

P.S.

To avoid a cheesy relation I will split it up in few articles. All photos presented have been shot by the author with Canon EosD between 08-12 April 2008.


Paris, Paris…

Just a quick ‘Hello’ from one of the cultural centers of this world. Paris exists to blow your mind away no matter what   time the grace of fate directs your steps here… Paris is the modern civilization embodied. It’s extremely busy and sophisticated, smart and beautiful; yet at the same time it can be cruel, indifferent and even inhuman… Parisians appear to be just like that – determined and self-confident,  looking  just gorgeous in their favourite blacks and greys… But – there is something deeply sad in the air where they stop for a moment (like in a Metro or in a cafe-shop) – they look lost, pale and withdrawn. I wonder if Sartre conceived his existential ideas looking at them… You have to be here – to reach the social, cultural roots of this philosophy to experience more or less the same what its ‘fathers’ went through. At it can be scary, I must say – in Paris – this enchanting modern jungle – you make a wrong step and you are in a big trouble – you are obliged to live – to really exist, be alert, be aware, be smart – live to the point of a discovery, to the point of an authentic ‘wake up’, to the point of tears if you need them…

Next time I hope to include some photos. Salut!


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