Saturday, November 26, 2005

Gauguin and The Act of Creation

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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!


redsneakz said...

You know, until I learned more about Gaugin's life, I really admired his work; then I learned about his indiscriminately and thoughtlessly infecting dozens of women on Tahiti with syphillis. Is it possible to separate the artist from his or her art?

dreaminglily said...

"I shut my eyes in order to see."
--Paul Gauguin

My favorite quote.


TiAnKa said...

Hi Theresa,

Have you read the book "Theo"? You'll find it interesting in regard to Van Gogh's relationship with Gaugin when they cohabitated.

Gaugin is also one of my favorite artists, perhaps I relate to his sense of perfectionism or passion for life. He was truly a ladies man...Only I don't believe he was aware that he had syphillis until the end. I just can't imagine a man like that intentionally infecting anyone with a disease, but I could be wrong. I've been wrong about men before in my life.

Is there a book somewhere that tells the story of his indiscriminately infecting women with syphillis?

We have a new Rocker...come on by and say hello when you get time.



Ayn said...

Hi Theresa,

I came by to begin coming by, if I don't become too intimidated. I have no art or literature credential. Ok, perhaps a couple of fiction classes, however, that is it. I like how in V's journal you ask or respond with the most sincere reaching thoughts.

I was in Scandinavia once and saw an exhibit of Munch's work. The only one that stuck in my memory was "The Scream." I related to that picture. I related to one other portrait in a Washington Museum of perhaps David? Not sure, but he was surrounded by lions and praying.

When I see Gauguin's picture and match it to the words of color, I see the severe criticism of religion. It feels similar to the abstracted fear I saw and felt in Salem, MA at their original witch visitariums. For such bold bright colors, Gaugin does not seem too warm and friendly a believer stoic middle-class religion. :)

*Sigh* That's it first impression! Thanks for allowing us this space to be.


Theresa Williams said...

Is it possible to separate the artist from his or her art?
I've struggled with these issues in the past. I'm coming to believe more in an artist's vision than in the artist's life. We are all flawed creatures, achieving our highest calling through various means. I believe Gauguin achieved his higher purpose through his art. I've also come to believe that if I push away beauty because it comes from a tainted source, there will be precious left for me to experience. I like what you said, "Redsneakz," because I believe this is one of the great inner battles we all face. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

V said...

Ah, Theresa.
This is my 3rd pass by this entry, as usual. Both your blog & ckays` usually require additional pondering.

A perfect example is Wagner, one of my favorite composers, yet a blatant anti-Semite and womanizer. He was like a God to Hitler!

Aww, but the operas! The genius!

He was so important to Hitler`s thinking that it wasn`t that many years ago that one of his operas was first performed in Israel.

And yet, "The Ring Cycle", "Tristan und Isolde","Tannhauser"........


ckays1967 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ckays1967 said...

Art is an extension of one’s true self; I think a vain attempt to lure the audience deeper into their mind’s realm.

The artist tries to flavor the world with his or her own brand of insanity and perhaps create clarity by that luring. How often have we been complete lost in the magic of a true artist?

Lost forever in the flair and majestic talent? I can get lost each day in the blues and greens of VanGogh or in the billowy skies of Rembrandt. Put on Mozart and I am gone....or cook really good Mexican food and it is heaven.

Or take me to the Ballet.

Or Paris.

Or read me poetry.

Or a very good movie.

Or modern art.

Or Hemingway...anything.

Or even remind about the wind blowing in the trees and I am lost in art.

I digress.

Art is subject and the artist can not be subjected.

It is an age old question age teacher; how does one see without a heart, how does one feel without a soul?

(Yes I think that is right.)

Judith HeartSong said...

I can always breathe a little better after being here.



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