Saturday, July 11, 2015

Finger paint

(Portrait of Adeline Ravoux by Vincent Van Gogh)

Standing in front of a painting by Van Gogh is different than standing in front of a painting by anyone else. 

Time becomes viscous. Your insides turn wobbly. Your eyes turn wet. Like a child, you want to touch his wiggles, his crosses, his splotches. You want to touch him. The artist. The man. Vincent. 

I don't feel quite the same compulsion to connect with Picasso, with Matisse, with Cezanne. Sure, in a print, at home, I might like any one of them better. But when confronted by the hot topography of paint-on-canvas, I'm not as unmoored by their work. I'm not as moved. It's not the ear-cutting, either. It's not our societal obsession for romanticizing the eccentric, the different, the troubled. 

It's simply that, more than any other artist, Van Gogh seems both bracingly there in his work and most profoundly not. There it is—the primacy of an impulse stationed by the pigments of the past. Such frenetic, bubbling life! Such a quietude of death. This is the contradiction coursing through all of our fates, but rarely do we feel it as viscerally, like a swipe of neon through the gut. 

So I stand, for as long as I can, letting the current go through me.

And what does the girl in the painting—young Adeline Ravoux—look toward, so piercingly and true? 

Not at us, I'm sure.  


Charles Gramlich said...

Never seen one in person.

the walking man said...

Having handled more than 1 Van GOgh I know your gut speaking while your mind is trying to reach the thought of the artist as he placed every stroke.

I love the works of his I have seen live and hung, but for me Rembrandt Peale a 19th century portrait artist in American realism does it for me. his use of color and stroke so subtle it is near photographic in his ability to build depth and passion.

Sarah Hina said...

Charles, get right on that.

Mark, I just looked up Peale. Great stuff. I especially like his self portrait.

Aniket Thakkar said...

I don't have a favourite artists. I haven't followed the works of many to have an opinion.

But since The Doctor has an interest in Van Gough, I take it that he is special.

Of the ones that I do know about, I quite like the works of Claude Monnet.

Sarah Hina said...

Oh yeah, Monet's not bad. If you like that sort of thing.

No, I'm kidding. Monet is beautiful. They're all beautiful, in their own way. I need to spend more of my life in an art museum. It really opens up something in me. I think it would for you, too.