Showing posts with label art. Show all posts
Showing posts with label art. Show all posts

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Unforgettable female

I'll never forget that splendid woman. It's true that her facial features have become a little blurry in my aging memory. But not the rest of her being. If her fabulous image were to reappear magically in front of me today, I would mistake her for no other female creature I've ever known. Her beauty has remained forever the source of all my passions, the origin of my world of desire.

                                     — photo afp.com/Pascal Guyot

An expert in females at the Paris Match weekly, Jean-Jacques Fernier, has alleged that I never knew that woman as a whole. So he insisted upon revealing intimate features of her body that I had supposedly neglected. For example, he showed me a face. And that face had an expression.


But it had nothing in common with the sensual expression that had remained in my mind for so long. Maybe the specialist thought he was going to reveal a secret: the naked truth behind the vision. On the contrary, I had the impression that he showed me nothing more than a dull image of pink flesh, parted lips and a mass of dark hair.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Potter's heritage

Friends and family members know that I've been an adept, for ages, of genealogy. This fascination blends in with my passion for genetics. Recent Skyvington and Walker ancestors were humble folk, nothing to do with our fabulous Skywalker namesake.

Over the last week or so, I've been fascinated by a genealogical book with a strange title: The Hare with Amber Eyes. And in this family history, unlike my own, all the ancestors are extraordinary individuals.

It's the family history of a young English potter, Edmund de Waal.

He's a descendant of the famous Ephrussi family: Russo-Austrian Jews who made their fortune on the international wheat market. The central personage of Edmund's book is Charles Ephrussi [1849-1905], who spent his life in Paris. I've assembled the following fragment of a family tree showing the relationship between the potter/author and his celebrated ancestral relative:

Using the family's immense wealth, Charles Ephrussi collected works of art, and became a benefactor of French painters. At that epoch, boater-hatted oarsmen and associated revelers would gather together on the banks of the Seine and the Marne to eat, drink, dance and talk about business of all kinds. The Luncheon of the Boating Party by Pierre-Auguste Renoir [1841-1919] evokes this lifestyle.

Charles Ephrussi appears in the background, wearing a ridiculous black top hat: surely some kind of humoristic and symbolic artistic license on the part of the painter.

And where does the lovely hare with amber eyes enter this story?

It's a specimen of a 19th-century Japanese form of sculpture called netsuke. In the beginning, these tiny pieces of sculpture were designed to be used like sliding beads, to fasten the ends of cords around robes such as kimonos. But they soon became precious and priceless collectors' items. And the ivory hare belonged to Charles Ephrussi's collection of a few hundred netsuke items, finally inherited by the English potter, author of this family-history book.

This delightful book, sent to me by my ex-wife as a birthday gift, has been written by an English potter, disciple of the great Bernard Leach [1887-1979]. Behind Christine's invitation to read the marvelous book by Edmund de Waal, I sensed constantly, in a vague way, the spirit of two exceptional individuals who were present in the lives of Christine and me: the potter Maurice Crignon and the editor/benefactor Albert Richard. At times, curiously, knowing full well that there were no wealthy Ephrussi people among my humble Skywalker ancestors, I had the impression that I had received nevertheless, in a way, the same kind of human heritage as Edmund de Waal.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fitzroy's works of natural art

In my blog post of 11 March 2011 entitled Fitzroy art collector [display], I drew attention to the fact that my dog appears to be a cultivated collector of interesting naturally-occurring wood objects. He's still engaged in this preoccupation, more than ever. Since Fitzroy has now evolved into a powerful animal, accustomed to twilight excursions into remote corners of Gamone Creek, the exceptional objects that he discovers and brings back to the house are becoming more and more sizable and significant.

I refer to them naively, in my inexpert language, as "works of natural art" because these objects appear to have been shaped and textured solely by Nature, with no creative interventions by man or beast. But Fitzroy might not be happy with this terminology, because I have reasons to believe that my dog considers that supernatural cosmic forces of a spiritual kind may have played a role in fashioning the objects that concern him. I would like to glean expert explanations on this vast subject from Fitzroy himself, but he's generally totally enthralled by the delicate handling and contemplation of his precious objects, and prefers not to talk too much about them. He tends to be somewhat elitist, and surely thinks of me as a Philistine. Let's call a spade a spade: Fitzroy's a nice guy, but he's a kind of art snob.

BREAKING NEWS (Thursday midday): My dog seems to be following me (as they say in Internet jargon). No sooner had I started to write this addendum than Fitzroy raced up the stairs, sat down on the floor alongside my desk, and reached up with his left paw and scratched my arm. What I wanted to say was that I had the impression, when I walked outside this morning, that Fitzroy had read the above blog post, and wished to confirm that my opinions were spot on. During the early hours of the morning, he went out on a search expedition and brought back an even bigger stick than the one in the above photo, and laid it down alongside the first one. Then the post woman Martine pulled up, in her little yellow van, and said to me spontaneously (as Fitzroy jumped up on the door of the vehicle to greet her): "I often notice half-burnt sticks in the middle of the road, left there by your little black dog." I really must start looking around for an academy of fine arts (maybe in nearby Provence) that would be prepared to accept my artistically-gifted dog as a student.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Big Banksy is watching you

This is the most recent and probably biggest ever work, on a post office wall in central London, of the secretive British graffiti artist Banksy [about whom little is known]:

[Click the image to visit Banksy's fascinating website.]

It depicts a small boy on a ladder who is finishing a huge sign—whose message is "one nation under closed-circuit television"—while a security agent and his dog stare up at him. Banksy created this painting in April. He worked so rapidly and stealthily—first erecting three-story scaffolding during the night, and then concealing himself behind a plastic sheet while he did the painting—that nobody was aware of the artist's presence before the work was completed and unveiled. The most amusing aspect of the affair is that the area is watched over by a TV surveillance camera, which can be seen in the middle of the wall.

Unfortunately, dullish London authorities consider that such a work must be thought of as vandalism, and Banksy's masterpiece will therefore soon be painted over.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Fascinating painting

People at Google must be aficionados of the Spanish painter Diego Velázquez [1599-1660], because they've celebrated his birthday by creating a graphic Google banner based upon the famous painting called Las Meninas [Maids of Honor].

Here's a fragment of the original Velázquez masterpiece:

The intriguing nature of this painting was first brought to my attention back in 1966 when I read a popular work of modern philosophy, Les mots et les choses by Michel Foucault [translated into English as The Order of Things], which starts with an in-depth analysis of the Velázquez painting. Foucault suggests that this painting demonstrates, or at least symbolizes, the existence of an invisible emptiness at the heart of the world that we attempt vainly to circumscribe... not by images, but by language. So, let us see rapidly what is so upsetting about this painting.

At first sight, one has the impression that the subject of the painting is the blonde child between the two maids. Her name is Margarita, and she's the eldest daughter of the Spanish queen. When we examine the individuals more closely, however, we find that the artist Velázquez himself is present, standing behind the left-hand maid, and that he is looking directly, not at the little princess, but at us, the viewers. Then a blurry mirror on the rear wall, just to the right of the painter's head (as we see things), reveals the true subject of the painter's work: the barely-recognizable king and queen of Spain, Philip IV and Marianna.

The painting is inverted in such a way that we see, not the true subject, but rather the regard of those who can see this subject. In the antipodean sense that I evoke often in this blog, the painter has turned his world upside-down and inside-out. At a visual level, the two most prominent subjects in the foreground of the painting, from our viewpoint, are a bulky pet dog and a plump male dwarf in female attire (said to be an Italian jester). Meanwhile, supposedly major individuals such as the royal couple and a noble man are seen as mere images on rear-wall mirrors, suggesting that Velázquez himself was not overly preoccupied with the task of reproducing their image on his canvas.

This complex work of art (designated by many admirers as the greatest painting ever made) is an excellent symbol for Google. We throng to Google in the hope of receiving profound knowledge about our world... whereas Google, in reality, is simply throwing back at us, through its endless lists of websites of all kinds, our own imperfect image. Maybe a vast but essentially empty image.