Paul Gauguin, The Joy of Rest
I've recently been rediscovering the work of Paul Gauguin. Of course I've been familiar with his work since art school days, but I focused more on Van Gogh then, and Edward Munch. I think I wasn't ready for Gauguin. At the time, I didn't relate to the spirituality of his paintings. For instance, look at this painting, how the two women are divinity itself--one sports a halo and the other eats fruit (an apple?)
When I say "I'm rediscovering" something, that means I get rather obsessed with it. I do Internet research, and then I go to the library. I just finished ordering a bunch of books from Ohio Link about Gauguin. I also ordered a book for myself to keep, a book with Gauguin's journals.
I'm particularly drawn to the spiritual element of his work, so I'm interested to see what the artist said of his own work and his own work habits. I did find on the Internet that he said:
Do not paint too much from nature. Art is an abstraction; extract it from nature while dreaming in front of it and pay more attention to the act of creation than to the result.
I rather like this because it relates to the way I'm coming to think of the act of creating. If I focus too much on the product, it destroys the essence of the message. It destroys the "dream." This quote from Gauguin reminds me of something John Gardner said. He also equated creating with dreams. Gardner said that writers create a "vivid and continuous dream" on the page, and if the writers do their work correctly, readers dream along.
In my previous entry, I showed how I used Gauguin's Vision After the Sermon to create my own little piece of artwork. Of Vision, Gauguin said:
I have just painted a religious picture, very clumsily; but it interested me and I like it. I wanted to give it to the church of Pont-Aven. Naturally they don't want it. A group of Breton women are praying, their costumes a very intense black. The bonnets a very luminous yellowy-white. The two bonnets to the right are like monstrous helmets. An apple tree cuts across the canvas, dark purple with its foliage drawn in masses like emerald green clouds with greenish yellow chinks of sunlight. The ground (pure vermillion). In the church it darkens and becomes a browny red. The angel is dressed in violent ultramarine blue and Jacob in bottle green. The angel's wings pure chrome yellow.1 The angel's hair chrome2 and the feet flesh orange. I think I have achieved in the figures a great simplicity, rustic and superstitious.
Well, for one thing, I never realized the tree in Gauguin's painting is an apple tree. I didn't know this, either, when I created my own image with the apple as the central image.
For another thing, I just love reading what artists say of their own work. I love it that Gauguin calls his creation, "clumsy." I believe that many artists feel this way about their own work. Reading Gauguin's words help me, because the words embolden me to try. If we, as Gauguin says, pay more attention to the creation rather than the result, we will get much more out of the process of creating, and so will those who look at our pictures or read our poems, stories, or blogs.
For my next little art project, I'm going to work with this Gauguin painting, focusing on the idea of "rest." We'll see what happens!