Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sonnet 29: In disgrace with fortune and men's eyes
Last week, I wrote about my first straightforward study of an individual painting of Marc Chagall's, "The Birthday".
This painting is, in many senses, a continuation of the same study, although technically it belongs to another series, "Sonnets in colour". It is a preliminary photo, and I am not sure the painting is complete, but it is essential to illustrate what I've learned from Marc Chagall, and "The Birthday". 

Vincent Van Gogh. Vincent's bedroom in Arles
When I was approaching the study of "The Birthday", I saw, in my sleep, a connection, a fundamental similarity between Chagall's depiction of his bedroom and Van Gogh's depiction of his. The link was much more prominent in my dream than it seems to be in reality, but I could not really shake it off. 

Marc Chagall. The Birthday
There is this distinctly claustrophobic geometric grid of the mundane in both of them, and similarly skewed perspectives in how this environment is represented. But, of course, there is also the striking difference: for Chagall, this skewed grid is broken by the fluid, floating figures of Bella and himself (and even by floral ornaments on various household items). Van Gogh had no Bella, his is a solitary room of an outcast and hermit – no graceful curves breaking through the geometric grid of its space. 

Both the similarity and the contrast, the very merging of two paintings in my dreaming mind, were highly relevant to me because I was also thinking of how to paint Shakespeare's sonnet 29. The set-up of the sonnet is this very same claustrophobic space, colored by depressive thoughts about the speaker's "outcast state". And, like with Chagall, the grid is broken by a fluid lark-like upward movement of the speaker's "state" inspired by love. Except, of course, my hero, the speaker of Shakespeare's sonnet, is nowhere as happy in love as Chagall, and he is still alone. It's only the remembrance of love, the very thought about his beloved, that lifts his mood. 

This meant, for me, that there can be no people in my painting; flying like Marc only works with Bella around. And yet I still needed the explicit contrast between the depression of an outcast and the joy of a lover, and it still translated into the contrast between a grid of claustrophobic space and a fluid upward movement, effectively breaking this space. 

(To be continued...)


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