Sunday, 8 June 2014

Happy Birthday Gaugin

Paul Gaugin, born on June 7, 1848 [another Gemini!] happens to be my favourite Master's [Van Gogh] best friend. I should address the Masters with better reverence but that is an issue… completely personal though. Only when it is in a casual manner that I can offer my due attention/respect to anyone. I don’t connect well with people who demand it [dead or alive]… and for the same reason they don’t connect with me. Wasted line there sorry!

I admire Van Gogh beyond words. If not for him I would have never been fascinated to pick oil paint with knife – my favourite technique till date. I would not have otherwise saved to travel to Denmark... to study the twisted branches of olive tress, field full of dancing sun flowers and golden rolls of hay dotting pasture lands.

Yesterday, I was at Artery art space, a new gallery in the Al Quoz area in Dubai… at its inaugural show ‘Remembering  Masters’.  The gallery exhibits prints of Gaugin’s work. They gave an engaging presentation on life and works of Gaugin at the opening.

Where do we come from? Where are we? Where re we going?
Oil on canvas

Pres de la mer (By the sea)
1896, 96 x 128 cm, Oil on canvas

1896, 96 x 128 cm, Oilon canvas

Parauapi (two women Tahiti)
1892, 67 x 91 cm, Oil on canvas

What I don’t ever approve of from the history is that most Masters became millionaires after they were gone for good. What fun! Another thing that bites me is that most were mad. Sorry for such a casual usage of the word. By using slightly over-rated/literature-friendly words like ‘lunacy’ or ‘demented’ doesn't make the situation any better… they were mad, broke… and lived and died depressing lives… except for brief instances of inspirational moments, genius-like, risk-taking, wondrous, rebellious, anti-social, movie-story-like sub-stories. Some of these make story-telling easier… or add value to curatorial notes!

My pet peeve also features Van Gogh. Not really him. His ear. I don’t understand why they make a big deal about Van Gogh’s chopped ear. Who did it? Did he chop it himself or Gaugin did that. Then what did he do with the chopped ear? Why is it such a big deal? Was tabloid gossips popular during post-impressionist era?

Nobody really cared for these artists then, nor does anybody now… unless when there was/is a need to sound all-knowing. Sorry, am tired of apologising… and hence I will skip apologising for this almost-ignorant generalisation.

Science meets art  
My reason for a particular disappointment today is a recent news in The Guardian that reminded me of the ear in concern. A German artist Diemut Strebe made a replica of Vincent van Gogh’s ear using genetic material from one of the artist's living relatives – thanks to his brother’s great-great-grandson.

The ear was grown at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, in the US, and is kept alive inside a case that contains a special concoction that could make it last for a few years. It is on display at the Centre for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany, and people can speak into it through a microphone.

“Convincing Lieuwe van Gogh, the great-great-grandson of Vincent’s beloved brother Theo van Gogh, to donate a few cells for an art project was easy. Lieuwe and Vincent share one sixteenth of the same genes, and he found the idea of creating a ‘living replica’ of his great-great-uncle’s ear simply fascinating,” said the paper.

Trivia: On December 23, 1888, Van Gogh had a very heated argument with artist and friend Paul Gaugin. Gaugin left and Van Gogh, in a fit of anger and lunacy, severed his left earlobe with a razor.

Van Gogh wrapped his ear in a tissue and then went to a brothel, where he presented the ear to a prostitute. The next day the police found him and took him to a hospital. Gauguin refused to see him again.

Van Gogh's Self Portrait with bandaged ear

The other theory 
Art historians Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans think the Dutchman didn't severe his own ear and that it was Gaugin who accidentally cut it with a sword either in anger or self-defence - Gauguin loved fencing and he has left his fencing mask and gloves in Van Gogh’s place in Arles, so their theory could be correct.  But whatever the real story, Van Gogh’s lack of ear is as popular as his art, and this 3D-printed copy of his severed earlobe is a huge deal for art lovers and pop culture aficionados. And the fact persists… everybody wants to ride on his name! Please! Let us admit how shameless we are.

“I use science basically like a type of brush, like Vincent used paint," said Strebe to the Associated Press. The artist plans to exhibit the ear in New York too — hope she brings it to the UAE as well.  So we can ask Van Gogh… to speak!

[Belated] Happy Birthday Gaugin… hope you are doing well [in your grave].

PS: 22 Ways to Kill Your Boss at Gallery of Light @ DUCTAC closed last night 10pm... lots to share... will post soon :)

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