In their silence they speak…

I wander aimlessly through those winding streets, accompanied only by the sound of my steps over the cobbles, the air carrying the distant murmur from people in cafés mixed with the joyous sound of a late-afternoon musical party, when these sculptures stop me. Serendipitous instances at the turn of streets, usually occupying a humble corner are lovers forever engaged in a passionate kiss; kids forever lost to their frolic play; a thinker eternally contemplating; a fair lady forever in waiting for her loved one to return, her eyes carrying all the melancholy of the world.

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Fussen
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Koln

 

In the flowing, intangible experience of a city, in its winding streets, varied roofs and drawn windows these sculptures, propping out at the most humble and unassuming places, stop me and make me wonder. They make me wonder at the world to which they are eternally lost; at the world they dispassionately see go by, detachedly surrendering themselves to the stream of photographs with the tourists or to the empathy of a lonely traveler such as me.

They engage me, in their frozen instances, as mnemonic reminders of a place, fixing their essence to my mind’s eye, to haunt me later with nostalgia. I find such sculptures to play an important role in fixing the place in our memory, in trying to make tangible the intangible character of a place.

But above all, sculptures such as these, have the ability to slow us on our way, make us pause and remind us to our immediate existence. They demand from the passer-by their empathy and their imagination, the two under-used of human faculties, to see through their eyes, the world that was, the world that is, and the world that will be.

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Eindhoven, 16 April 2016

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A walk with the giants… @ the Rijksmuseum

The works of Rembrandt were a fascination to me ever since I had the opportunity to see a documentary of his works on one of friend’s house, six years back. Seeing the hyper-realism of each brush strokes on screen was one thing and seeing the paintings in person, packed with such drama was completely another experience! Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-69) was a genius who had in his brush light for paint! His most radical use of light to emphasis the subject (fully evident in the Night Watch) and his most dynamic compositions held me in its sway.

01_cover
The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis, 1661-62

 

Rembrandt A
Portrait of man in Oriental garment, 1635
Rembrandt C
Old Woman reading – Prophetess Hannah, 1631
Rembrandt B
Portrait of Maria Trip, 1639

I was observing Rembrandt using the position of the painting to suggest the composition; light to signify the subject ( the hand and book in the Woman Reading, the captain and the little girl in The Night Watch); dark shadows to fuse the surroundings highlighting the subject and making sure they do not some in its way; and brush strokes and paint thickness (as in the turban of the Man in oriental garment) to suggest texture.

Rembrandt D
The Night Watch, 1642
Rembrandt_1
The Night Watch, study on composition

If Rembrandt created a drama through his paintings, there was Johannes Vermeer (1632-75) who created a very different kind of tension in his paintings. Usually within the stability of a square canvas, he paints a seemingly tranquil moment from everyday life, only the centre of focus betraying the tension around which the whole painting revolves. Vermeer’s brilliance was in creating this tug of war between calm and force that charges the painting with an emotion that extends beyond the canvas. If Rembrandt was enacting a drama through his dynamism, Vermeer was showing us a drama in its seemingly still contemplative but highly charged paintings!

Vermeer 1
The Milkmaid, 1657-58

The works of Pieter de Hooch (1629-84), first introduced to me by my design professor, appealed to me greatly for their architectural content – the careful orchestration of overlapping frames and layering. Architecturally, the overlapping of frames and axes, a concept favorite to Le Corbusier and many other architects, create a richness of experience. The works of Pieter de Hooch is a study in that richness especially his proportion of the frames in simple ratios and the frames themselves overlapping with each other successively creating a spiral.

Pieter Hooch 1
Mother’s Duty, 1658-60
Pieter Hooch 2
Man handing a letter to a woman, 1670
Rijks museum
The wonderful world of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Having not completed even one-third of the museum in a whole day, I left as one of the last to leave the museum. So I had to hop on to another great party location – the Van Gogh museum during Friday evenings, with drinks parties, DJs and drawing events all within the museum, alongside Van Gogh!

The atmosphere inside the Van Gogh museum was so unlike a typical museum. If only all museums can inculcate such an atmosphere of ease and pleasure! Also the recognition and the culture of museum as a place of learning and discourse is an idea that I would like to take back with me. Hours went like minutes as I was absorbed into the multiple worlds the canvas enticed me to enter.

I had a peep into the fantastical world of some of the great paintings ever produced! Not all the time in the world is enough for me to satisfy my hunger for admiring such works of beauty. As hungry and greedy as I am for such experiences, many such visits will continue. In the works that I’ve seen, I didn’t see paint on canvas but the brush wielded to create emotions that are timeless!

 

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 29 January 2016

The man who loved much…van Gogh

My recent visit to the van Gogh museum in Amsterdam has in fact left me speechless with such a positive effect. While I have always been inspired by the works of Vincent van Gogh, to see them in real has had an effect that words could hardly describe.

Some of the emotions I’ve tried to capture, but words fail me. I am limited by my language trying to describe the works of a man who saw the world in its most beautiful and vivid self. Of course, the digital reproductions themselves do no justice to the actual colours that shine in all their brilliance! (none of the images that I saw prepared me for the actual experience!)

Some words with which I tried to capture the experience in futility,

02
Almond Blossom, 1890

“Here I am,
I stand before the works of a man who loved life as much as it can be possibly loved,
so much so that his love, earning and pain seeps out of his canvas to hold me in a heartbreakingly beautiful trance.
Here is a man who painted love in all its innocent beauty.
Van Gogh!
Oh! how would it be to live inside one of his paintings?!”

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The Pink Peach Tree, 1888

His was a world that added beauty to beauty, a different more sensitive way of looking at the world around. Each brush stroke, I could feel, was a splash of emotion.

06
Wheat field with a Reaper, 1889

“The beauty of van Gogh’s paintings are so intense such that its beauty was radiating as the golden rays of the Sun at dawn that made everyone, everything basking in its radiance as lovely and beautiful as the paintings themselves”.

03
Garden of the Asylum, 1889

What am I seeing in front of me? Emotions! Not views or visions, but emotions and feelings given birth by brush and paint! Before these paintings I stand naked and innocent!

04
Wheat fields under thunderclouds, 1890

“I could almost be there, inside the painting. The storm brewing. I could feel the wind unsettling the dust, ravaging the wheat. A lone bird hastily flying past to her nest and a distant silhouette of a farmer hurrying to his hut all the more accentuates the loneliness of the position.

I could feel the loneliness of van Gogh himself deeply affecting my heart. There are no signs of the peasants whom he admired so much. Is this paradise? ”

 

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Field with crows, 1890 – one of his last paintings!

 

“…. And it does me good to do what’s difficult. That doesn’t stop me having a tremendous need for, shall I say the word — for religion — so I go outside at night to paint the stars, and I always dream a painting like that…”

Vincent van Gogh,  letter to Theo van Gogh, 29 September 1888

05
Self portrait with straw hat, 1887

“…. and up from my rotting corpse, trees and plants and flowers will grow,  

and the Sun will warm them and I will be in them,

and nothing will perish, 

that is immortality”

-Edvard Munch, 1890

van Gogh museum, Amsterdam, 24 January 2016

Image References