Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The vision of Paul Gauguin #3. The birth of Venus.

‘The idea is the form of things outside of those things.’ Emile Bernard.

‘Gauguin demonstrated that the most disparate types of art - not to speak of elements from metaphysics, ethnology, symbolism, the Bible, classical myths and much else beside - could be combined into a synthesis that was of its time yet timeless. An artist could also confound conventional notions of beauty, he demonstrated, by harnessing the dark Gods ( not necessarily Polynesian ones) and tapping into a vital new source of divine energy...’
David Sweetman. ‘Gauguin. A complete life.’

‘Emotion first! Understanding afterwards! My dream is intangible, it comprises no allegory’. Paul Gauguin.

For my second ‘translation’ I decided to leap in with both feet and chose a complex synthesis to work with. Once again I found that the pencil drawing opened the painting up to me: my hands were brighter than my frontal lobe. My reading of the notes that accompanied the colour reproductions I was working from showed me that no one had more than skimmed the surface. The various elements could be identified to some degree, but Gauguin`s painting was more than a collection of its parts and the ultimate ‘meaning’ seemed purposely shrouded in mystery. Its quite possible that even he was not completely aware of what he was creating. There was plenty of room for me to wander in and do my own exploring.

I am partially red-green colour blind so have always tended to view the world from its shapes rather than its colours, and yet I was stepping into paintings that carried much of their message in their colour relationships. A remarkable part of my journey was that I discovered that if I really concentrated hard I could differentiate between blue and purple, I could see the light green leaves on a pink background. I had simply taken the easy road in the past. This was exciting! What passion there is in colour!

This painting was designed like a stage set and a ballet of sorts was being performed to the music expressed in the colour harmonies. The more I looked as I drew with pencil and oil pastels the more I discovered. I could see the waves breaking on the coral reef, the rattling pandanus palms, and the volcanic mountains of Tahiti in the background: the setting was recognizable as were the figures with the wind off the sea flapping their clothes. Other elements like the ‘savage Idol’ and the three figures in the foreground were symbols to carry what the artist felt was the deeper meaning embedded in the landscape. The interlocking colour shapes in the lagoon in the foreground were fascinating, they could represent reflections of clouds, the coral reef in the shallow water, or forms adapted from ornamental friezes from some other culture. Or all three, and more. For me it was the font of all creation, star foam, into which the central figure was still dipping her feet. As she was wringing out her hair I knew that she and the other two figures still uncurling from the fetal position had just been born from the mind of the creator. She was Venus herself, fresh out from the foam, with a numinous green halo surrounding her to indicate she was a Goddess

For Gauguin I`m sure she was also his own creative self, the slim female spirit hidden within his powerful male body who could surface and walk the earth while he painted.

1 comment:

Grateful Fellow said...

Thank you for posting and discussing this. :-)