Tag Archives: Dreamy

Marc Chagall: Something in the way she moves attracts me like no other lover

18 Dec

“Something in the way she movesAttracts me like no other loverSomething in the way she woos me”

Marc Chagall, Les Amoureux, 1928

These days I am not merely thinking about Marc Chagall’s artworks – I am living in them, and oh my, what a wonderful place to live in. In particular, I am enjoying gazing at his painting “The Lovers” from 1928. The painting, as suggested in the title, shows two lovers lost in an embrace, floating somehere in the sky, somewhere in the world of their own. The motif of lovers is something that pervades Chagall’s canvases. While the woman is gazing in the distance, the man’s head is leaned on her shoulder, as if seeking comfort. She is looking into the future and he is holding onto her. The crimson colour of the woman’s dress is echoed by the fuchsia coloured background and in the colour of the roses on the right side of the painting. A blue sky with a large full moon and a bird flying by is seen emerging from the bottom right side of the canvas.

Chagall’s lovers don’t live in the real, material, tangible world around us, no, they live in the realm of love, in the soft, feathery, fragrant and sweet clouds of love. Dancing in the sky in the rhythm of each other’s hearts, floating through the night sky like shooting stars. Even when the space around the lovers is real, with its little cottages, wooden fences, cows, goats, fiddlers and mud, this ugly banality is transformed and transcended, it is as if the lovers are completely untouched by it all. It’s like threading over the fresh snow and leaving no footprints. In Chagall’s art the “down to earth” and “dreamy” meet and collide in a perfect way. Chagall is the most tender-hearted man in the world of art and his innocent, imaginative and childlike vision of the world is obvious in his canvases. The figure that always haunts his art is the slender figure of a black haired woman; his beloved wife Bella Rosenfeld.

1917-18-marc-chagall-the-promenadeMarc Chagall, The Promenade, 1917-18

Their early days of love are captured in a series of paintings such as “Birthday”, “Promenade” and “Over the Town”. There is a playful innocence and a pure display of affections in these paintings that chimes with me so well. Chagall takes the phrase “floating in the air” quite literally because in these paintings the lovers are flying indeed; the power of their love is so strong that not even gravity can stop it.”The Promenade” shows Chagall and Bella having a picnic on a meadow outside town but then suddenly Bella is flying in the air like a pink ballon. Chagall is holding her hand but he too will quickly rise into the clouds following his darling. Painting “Over the Town” shows an embracing couple flying above the little houses of the little town which is now too small to contain the vastness of the love that they feel. The houses and the landscape under them both seem faded, as if seen in a dream or in a memory, painted in shades of grey. Only that one house is red, like a crimson red heart pulsating in the rhythm of love.

“Over the Town” is a painting which thematically and aesthetically goes hand in hand with Chagall’s painting “Birthday” painted in 1915; both paintings show lovers magically lifted from the ground by the power of love, the power against which all the mundane things in life suddently seem gray and irrelevant. When I gaze at this paintings, these lovers which all have faces like Chagall and Bella, the lyrics of the Beatles’ song “Something” come to mind;

Something in the way she movesAttracts me like no other loverSomething in the way she woos meI don’t want to leave her nowYou know I believe and how

Somewhere in her smile she knowsThat I don’t need no other loverSomething in her style that shows meI don’t want to leave her nowYou know I believe and how

You’re asking me will my love grow
I don’t know, I don’t know
You stick around, now it may show
I don’t know, I don’t know…

Marc Chagall, Birthday, 1915

I can imagine Chagall gazing at Bella and musing to himself “something in the way she moves attracts me like no other lover, something in the way she woos me…” In the painting “Birthday” it is Chagall who is flying above Bella though she too is about to join him soon. Again we see the everyday transformed into the wonderful; a simple room, Bella in her everyday clothes, yet there is magic, the magic of love which transforms everything. Bella wrote about this feeling which Chagall so beautifully portrays in his paintings: “I suddenly felt as if we were taking off. You too were poised on one leg, as if the little room could no longer contain you. You soar up to the ceiling. Your head turned down to me, and turned mine up to you… We flew over fields of flowers, shuttered houses, roofs, yards, churches.” In most paintings Bella is portrayed as wearing the same clothes she would have been wearing everyday and on the photos which exists of her, and the town we see is their hometown of Vitebsk in Belorus. Both of these elements bring a domestic kind of familiarity which becomes magical and sweet when Chagall portrays it.

Marc Chagall, Over the Town, 1913

The love at first sight between Bella and Chagall started in 1909 when a beautiful daughter of a rich jeweller met the poor and aspiring painter who worked as an apprentice for Leon Bakst and it lasted for thirty five years until Bella, sadly, passed away three months shy of her forty-nineth birthday in 1944. In his autobiography “My Life”, Chagall writes of Bella: “Her silence is mine, her eyes mine. It is as if she knows everything about my childhood, my present, my future, as if she can see right through me; as if she has always watched over me, somewhere next to me, though I saw her for the very first time. I knew this is she, my wife. Her pale colouring, her eyes. How big and round and black they are! They are my eyes, my soul.”

Bella, although seemingly a quiet, pale and withdrawn girl, was enthusiastic about Chagall as well, and later wrote about being mesmerised by his ethereal pale blue eyes: “When you did catch a glimpse of his eyes, they were as blue as if they’d fallen straight out of the sky. They were strange eyes … long, almond-shaped … and each seemed to sail along by itself, like a little boat. She also wrote of their first meeting: I was surprised at his eyes, they were so blue as the sky … I’m lowering my eyes. Nobody is saying anything. We both feel our hearts beating.

Marc Chagall and Bella in Paris, 1938

Marc Chagall and Bella, c 1920

Chagall’s paintings reflect his way of thinking, he said; “If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.” These are painting created from the heart, indeed. There is no logic, rationality or coldness about his art. Even when he paints in the Cubist manner, his squares and rectangles are not harsh but somehow still coated in the colour of dreams. Chagall had no interest in Cubism and Impressionist and was of an opinion that art is the “state of the soul.”

Marc Chagall, Lovers in Pink, 1916

Marc Chagall, Grey Lovers, 1917

When I am in love I live not in real world but in Chagall’s paintings. I am flying in the night sky and I am bathed in that gorgeous blueness. I am smiling at the stars and they are smiling back at me. Their golden dust is falling all over my white tulle dress. I am floating above the bridges, forests, meadows, flower fields, little houses with red roofs. I hear the violins, and flute, and the guitar, and I am carried away by that sweet music. I smell the violets, the roses, the lily of the valley; what sweet scents fill this warm summer night. Love is a warm summer night. My heart is overflowing with love and bursting into a thousand ruby red rose petals, and the petals fall and fall like a never-ending waterfall. I am melting into shapes, sounds and colours. I am the lilac, I am the crimson, I am the blue. I am the bird and the star. I am a rose petal carried by the wind, travelling far and far beyond. The coldness, dreariness and bleakness of winter Can.Not.Touch.Me. To live always in this way ahh that would be a life well lived. Is it possible? Is it really possible? Gazing at Chagall’s paintings makes me believe that it indeed is.

Andrea Kowch: A Beautiful Sense of Melancholy and Nostalgia Permeates Everything

4 Nov

A beautiful sense of melancholy and nostalgia permeates everything as the natural world prepares to surrender itself over to winter.

(Andrea Kowch)

Andrea Kowch, Knolls Edge

Andrea Kowch is one of my favourite contemporary artists. All of her paintings possess a dreamy and mysterious mood that is bound to make one curious. The everyday plain banality of the countryside is transformed into a scene out of some magic realism novel. Without a doubt, Kowch possesses a rich imagination and she has the artistic skill to match it. I mean, her technique and the detailed approach are impessable. In one interview she said that painting was something meditative for her, she even calls it a “self-therapy”: “The process of being a painter has served as a form of self-therapy for me, in that all the hours I spend painting, I also spend thinking and allowing myself to fully feel my deepest emotions and know myself. I come out of each piece transformed in a new way each time. People need encouragement to get in touch with their realest emotions and embrace them. What some may see in my work as “intense” or “disturbing”, others may see as beautiful and liberating. It happens all the time, and neither interpretation is correct or incorrect.

A landscape with two women and a tree in the background, so simple in visual motives and yet so mysterious in the mood it conveys. The ordinary becomes extraordinary under Kowch’s brush. Scenes of magic realism indeed, but an interesting thing is that in novels such as Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” no matter the magic realism the plot and the characters still needs to be explained and it needs to make sense to the reader. On the other hand, Kowch doesn’t need to explain anything in her art; why are these ladies sitting here so near to the jumping frogs, why are they dressed so lightly considering the cold weather indicated by the bare autumnal tree behind them? This is all left to us to interpret and this is the beautiful but also the mysterious side of visual art.

The models for all of Kowch’s paintings are her friends. These two women are sitting casually on the meadow; their bodies are turned to different sides but interestingly they are both looking on the left. What is so interesting over there that we cannot see? The frogs are also casually jumping around but the women don’t seem to mind it the least bit. They appear to be fixated on that something which is beyond our sight. Kowch’s female figures always appear frozen, spellbound even, and this just serves to further the mystery. They are wearing their petticoats, tights and boots but their shoulders are bare. How are they not cold and shivering?

The tree in the background, completely bare and its spooky branches reaching towards the “skies that are ashen and sober” are a good indication of the autumnal weather. And this doesn’t appear to be the golden sunny autumnal day, no, this is the portrait of deep autumn’s doom and gloom. The crows in the background flying around the tree and the fireflies dancing and flying around the women further perpetuate the painting’s mysterious, dreamy charms. I like the line which marks the end of the meadow and behind it we see faint traces of vanilla yellow sunlight coming from afar. It creates a beautiful contrast between the lightness coming from the background and the swampy, frog and fireflies laden meadow bellow.

The tree is a definite ominous element and makes me think of something we would find in Edgar Allan Poe’s stories. I also love the way Kowch paints blades of grass; she almost gives individual identity to every single piece of grass or wheat or whatever else she is painting. She truly creates a sense of texture. Perhaps a little bit this meadow and the girls bring to mind Andrew Wyeth’s painting “Christine’s World” from 1948, but the atmosphere is different.

Kowch’s painting style may perhaps even be described as “dark fairytale” because both elements are all-pervading in her canvases; the dark, gloomy, almost Gothic vibes with the elements of fairytales and storytelling. In her own words: “I loved fairy-tales as a girl, and still do. They were an escape into a romantic, mysterious, and magical world. The classic tales of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm were the first to charge my imagination as a child. I later discovered and fell in love with the art of Arthur Rackham and Howard Pyle… I’ve always been drawn to and intrigued by stories that are a bit twisted; the ones containing strange characters and a prevailing sense of impending danger. Perhaps that’s why my paintings often carry a similar feeling. There’s always an aspect of something unknown about to happen. The story is never fully revealed, it simply continues on, each painting serving as the next page or chapter.

Some motives that are bound to be seen in nearly all of Kowch’s paintings are the countryside setting, whether it’s the fields of corn, wheat or barley, or the meadows littered with dandelions and other flowers, strange trees with bare and twisted branches, old barns or cottages; women, often with pale wistful faces, messy hair and strange, old-fashioned clothes, then animals such as ravens, seagulls, frogs, turkeys, dogs, roosters, crickets, grasshoppers, rabbits, even a guinea pig in one painting. The colours she uses are distinctly autumnal. She weaves the dreamy tapestries of her imagination in shades of fern and moss green, garnet red, cider, amber and marmalade orange, mustard yellow, ash grey, cinnamon brown, boysenberry purple…

Kowch is not shy when it comes to admitting her love for autumn: Autumn is my favorite season. The scents in the air, changing landscapes, colors, mood of the sky, air of ominous foreshadowing… It’s when the earth begins to truly bare its soul. It’s when I can feel the bones, core, and essence of nature. There is also a cozy and mysterious quality that inspires me to turn inward and relish solitude and explore deeper feelings. The heavy, rolling clouds spark moods in me which translate into the work. A beautiful sense of melancholy and nostalgia permeates everything as the natural world prepares to surrender itself over to winter. All of those things are very poignant, and speak to my soul in many profound ways.

All the quotes in this post are from an interview which you can read here.

J.M.W.Turner – Sunset over a Ruined Castle on a Cliff

3 Sep

“Autumn approaches and
The heart
Begins to dream.”

(Bashō, from The Sound of Water: Haiku by Bashō, Buson, Issa, and Other Poets)

J.M.W.Turner, Sunset over a Ruined Castle on a Cliff, 1835-39, bodycolour on paper

The last true month of summer – August – has not even passed yet and already my end-of-summer-blues has started sinking in. I awoke the other day not welcomed by golden rays of sweet sunshine but with a gust of colder breeze. I sneezed… And I realised at that moment that summer is fleeing. A succesion of rainy days is a further reminder and now I cannot escape the realisation. Surely there will be more sunny days in September, but it is inevitable: the clock is ticking the last minutes of the summer of 2022. It’s back to scarves and jackets, cloudy skies, lighted candles, hot teas, wet streets and falling leaves. I feel a huge wave of blue sadness overwhelming me… A poetic kind of sadness and the only way to soothe it is to immerse myself in all things beautiful, poignant, melancholy and with a touch of the sublime.

It’s a wonderful thing then that I recently discovered yet another painting by J.M.W. Turner which I adore. This one is called “Sunset over a Ruined Castle on a Cliff” and it was painted between 1835 and 1839 in the medium of bodypaint on paper. Just the title alone catapults me into mad romantic reveries! The words such as “sunset”, “ruined castle” and “cliff” are enough to start the wildfire in my imagination. So so romantical! And the lyrical beauty of the painting perfectly justified the beauty of the title. It’s not a clickbait for sure, you know, a pretty title but a boring painting. Turner has painted many and many sketches and watercolours of castle, some half-ruined and some still intact, but this painting is something else. The rich and warm colours of the painting are warming my soul in a way only beautiful things can. I love the gradient way the colour go from the lavender sky to the pinkish-red-wine coloured ruins of the castle perched on top of the hill, over to the warm orange and yellow shades. The depths of the landscape bellow the castle with a lake I believe are painted in cooler blue and grey tones.

Considering just how abstract this painting is; the castle is not painted in a detailed manner, and there is no clear, strict, defined space such as we may find in some of Turner’s other paintings, the soft, gradient flow of colours really creates a certain vague, dreamy magic. I love how the yellow light appears out of nowhere in the middle of the lavender sky, right above the ruined castle’s highest tower. The light of the sunset is at once illuminating the castle in its warm, almost redish glow, and covering it with a veil of vagueness, mystery and dreams. Just like the castle of the Sleeping Beauty is covered with a veil of brambles, ivy and thorns, the castle in Turner’s vision is covered in a veil of sunset dreams. All of Turner’s watercolour sketches of castles have a vague, dreamy quality to them, but this one is something special or at least it fits my mood at the moment because it’s dreamy, impalpable and … just as all that is happy and beautiful, it is just beyond reach. I feel that if I stretched my arm and tried to touch the castle it would disappear, crumble into dust like a dry moth on the windowsill.

And something else crumbling into dust these days is my summer castle made out of poetry, wildflowers, moonlight and dreams. Just like the roots of a tree are encroaching the pavement or growing under the house, the cold and crooked fingers of the approaching autumn are slowly encroaching my summer castle. Soon the branches will break the windows, the winds blow off the rose wallpapers, and autumn rains soak in the soft carpets, the moss will grow over the birch hardwood floors, and the fog will hide the castle away from me forever… I need something beautiful to cling to and Turner’s paintings of castles and ruins are a wonderful choice.

But the last day of summerNever felt so coldThe last day of summerNever felt so oldNever felt so…
All that I haveAll that I holdAll that is wrongAll that I feel for or trust in or loveAll that is gone

(The Cure, The Last Day of Summer)

John Constable – Seascape Study with Rain Cloud (Rainstorm over the Sea)

22 Aug

“My greatest pleasure was the enjoyment of a serene sky amidst these verdant woods: yet I loved all the changes of Nature; and rain, and storm, and the beautiful clouds of heaven brought their delights with them. When rocked by the waves of the lake my spirits rose in triumph as a horseman feels with pride the motions of his high fed steed. But my pleasures arose from the contemplation of nature alone, I had no companion: my warm affections finding no return from any other human heart were forced to run waste on inanimate objects.

(Mary Shelley, Mathilda)

John Constable (1776–1837), Seascape Study with Rain Cloud (Rainstorm over the Sea) (1824-28), oil on paper, 22.2 × 31.1 cm

English painter John Constable painted many interesting landscapes but the most beautiful, the most majestic and awe-inspiring, to me, are his seascape studies painted in Brighton around 1824-28. The most dramatic of these seascape studies is the painting you see above called “Seascape Study with Rain Cloud” or sometimes simply called “Rainstorm over the Sea”. The painting shows the sea and the vastness of the sky above it in the moment of a rainstorm. The rough, sketchy look of the sky attests to the quick manner in which the painting was executed, but still there is precision and confidence in the way the dark, threatening clouds were captured so as to inspire awe and the feeling of the sublime. The sea here takes up very little space of the canvas while almost the majority of it is dedicated to the portrait of the roaring clouds heavy with anguish and rain. It is in these moments, very much loved by the Romantics, that nature reveals its raw power. The clouds are black at parts and the vertical motion of the brushstrokes helps to convey the wildness of the transient moment of the summer rainstorm over the sea. Constable had a particular penchant for observing and portraying clouds, in all their shapes, colours and moods, and this is evident in these seascape studies.

John Constable, Seascape Study: Brighton Beach Looking West, ca. 1824-28

Another seascape study painted in the 1824-28 period is the painting called “Seascape Study: Brighton Beach Looking West” which shows two tiny female figures standing on the desolate beach and looking out at the sea. Their dresses are windswept as they admire the breaking of the waves. Our eye stretches from the soft seafoam in the shallow sea in the foreground all the way to the dark blue deep sea in the background. The diagonal line which visually separated the beach from the sea slightly curves in the background and, again, more than the half of the canvas is occupied by the sky with the delightful white clouds. Their whiteness is echoed by the whiteness of the sea foam and it is just so exciting to see touched of white colour here and there, they enlived everything. These beach scenes make me think of the film “Me Without You” (2002) which is set in Brighton in the early 1980s, in some scenes the girls are seen walking on the Brighton pier or walking by the sea.

John Constable, Seascape Study: Boat and Stormy Sky, 20 July 1828

Above we can see yet another wild and untamed portrayal of a stormy sky over a raging sea. This is a little less known painting by Constable but interestingly we know the exact date it was painted, the 20 July 1828, which is amazing.

The reason behind Constable’s constant visits to Brighton was the frail health of his wife Maria. They all hoped she would find peace and serenity in the melliflous music of the sea waves and the fresh, salty sea air. Maria and their six children stayed in Brighton for lenghtly periods of time on and off in the period from 1824 to 1828; she gave birth to their seventh and last child in January that year and finally succumbed to consumption in November. Constable would split time between London and Brighton and, interestingly, he had mixed feelings about Brighton. At times he wrote that Brighton was “perhaps no spot in Europe where so many circumstances conducive to health and enjoyment are to be found combined“, and other times he complained at how touristy and hectic it was, offering no serenity for his artistic endeavors: “Brighton is the receptacle of the fashion and offscouring of London. The magnificence of the sea, and its (to use your own beautiful expression) everlasting voice is drowned in the din & lost in the tumult of stage coaches – gigs – ‘flys’ etc – and the beach is only piccadilly …. By the sea-side … in short there is nothing here for the painter but the breakers – & the sky – which have been lovely indeed and always [various].

John Constable, Brighton Beach, 1824, oil sketch

The third seascape study I’ve chosed fro this post is this simple but fascinating oil sketch called “Brighton Beach”, painted in 1824. The canvas is distinctly elongated which gives the painting a panorama-like view of the beach. The mood is definitely daker in this painting than in the previous one; the sky and the clouds are a much darker shade of blue and this stormy mood brings to mind the hypnotic sounds of the Echo and the Bunnymen’s album “Heaven Up Here” (1981) which is my go-to rainy day album.

Winslow Homer – Sunset Fires

9 Aug

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”

(Rabindranath Tagore, Stray Birds)

Winslow Homer, Sunset Fires, 1880

I am a big fan of Winslow Homer’s watercolours and there is always a watercolour which is my particular favourite at that particular moment. Sometimes my favourite Homer watercolour is the one that I discover or rediscover at that moment, and other times it is the watercolour that speaks to me in some way, through the mood or the colours… At the moment, in these watermelon and crimson red late summer days of August my favourite is the watercolour titled “Sunset Fires” which dates from 1880. I am immensely attracted to its rich shades of red and orange. August is a red month for me. I see it red in my mind’s eye; the blood of dying summer. The watercolour shows the sunset at sea, a ship and a smaller boat with loosely sketched human figures of sailors on it. These simple motives; sea, boats, sky, sunsets, is something that we find often in the works of the Romantic painter such as Caspar David Friedrich. So the interesting thing here isn’t the originality of the motif, but rather the manner in which they were captured by the artist’s brush. Homer uses a very limited colour palette; only reds, oranges and greys, but they work in such a wonderful harmony where one colour feeds and kisses the other. The red would not appear as vibrant were it not for the lead greyness to contrast it, and without the warm orange tones the painting would not have its vibrant magic, its fireworks, its explosion of energy and joy. I also love the tiny empty spaces between the brushstrokes where the white paper underneath reveals itself to it; this is an interesting thing about watercolours. Homer loved the American landscape and travelled all over the country to capture the most beautiful spots, but also he travelled across the border, to the Caribbean, constantly seeking new landscapes to explore and capture in his artworks. It is in the Caribbean that the sea, the sky and sailors would become his main motif, but, as much as I adore his Caribbean watercolours, no sky in them compares to the fiery beauty of the sky here in “Sunset Fires”.

Homer’s watercolour can be seen in two ways; as mere sketches, or studies which were intended to serve as the basis for the oil-on-canvas painting, or as independent works of art. In my view, they are the latter because I don’t think one art medium should be seen as better or more important than the another. Why should only oil-on-canvas artworks be deserving or admiration and respect, and other mediums be seen as sketchy or less serious?

“Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgandy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries.”

(Jack Kerouac, On the Road)

Film Saawariya (2007) and Art: Carl Krenek, Maurice Prendergast, Edmund Dulac

19 Mar

“I am going to dream about you the whole night, the whole week, the whole year.”

Carl Krenek (1880-1948), A fairy tale scene: a dark lake, boat, weeping willos, blossoms, tempera on paper, 14,3 x 17,3 cm, c 1900s-1910s

It’s been almost a decade since I’ve first seen the Hindi film “Saawariya” (2007), directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and I still find myself captivated by the songs and the setting of the film. What is especially interesting about the film’s plot is that it is inspired by Dostoyevsky’s short story “White Nights”, which was published in 1848, rather early in the writer’s career. In the story, the nameless narrator is a lonely and dreamy young man who lives in Saint Petersburg. One night, whilst wandering the cold, winter streets, he meets a pretty young girl called Nastenka who is also lonely. Of course, he is a dreamer and suddenly Nastenka is hope personified for his lovelorn, lonely existence. The two start talking but Nastenka makes it clear that she doesn’t want romance, and eventually she returns to her lover. In the film “Saawariya” the young man Ranbir Raj (played by Ranbir Kapoor) is the nameless narrator and the Dreamer from Dostoyevsky’s story. Raj’s Nastenka in the film is a young Muslim girl called Sakina (played by Sonam Kapoor) whom she meets one night. But Sakina is in love with her grandma’s tennant, a man called Imaan. Raj is also a musician and he spends a lot of time with the local prostitutes, trying to cheer them up and brings some hope to their sad lives, so he is a warm and kind-hearted man. That aspect is diffent from Dostoyevsky’s story, but the ending is, sadly, similar. Sad for the Dreamer that is.

Scenes from the film “Saawariya”

Now, another thing I love about the film was the aesthetic. The nocturnal, fantasy setting is gorgeous, with no real indication of time, place or the passing of time; a truly dream-like setting for the story because it is told from Ranbir’s memory. One of the most beautiful scenes, for me, is from the song Masha Allah when Ranbir and Sakina encounter each other at night; she is frightened and alone, her veil falls off and the moonlight reveals a beautiful face and Ranbir is instantly smitten and proclaims: Masha Allah! The scene, like the film itself, is bathed in indigo-blue light, and the two are gliding on a boat adorned with flowers over a lake and pass under a bridge where, for a mere second, Rabir can get close to Sakina. The light of the lanterns and neon signs on the buildings is showing them the way. The boat, the water, the bridge, all made me think of Venice and the nocturnal scene really has a magic about it. Here is an interesting commentary on the film’s aesthetic, from an article “The socio-political mutation of Dostoevsky’s White Nights in Hindi Cinema through the ages” written by Eshan Parikh here: “Bhansali created a real dreamscape, one that seemed to exist in a timeless space and was inspired by Indian and European architecture. There is no sense of day/night and seasons. There are shots where you see the dome of a Rajasthani fort like building inside the arch of the replica of Champs-Élysées. There are walls with graffiti in Urdu and shops with English names which were reminiscent of Colonial India. No real year is mentioned where this story may have been set and even the way people dress up is a mix of modern urban styles and more vintage styles of the Colonial era.

This scene from the film captivated me so much that I started looking for similar examples in art; paintings whose mood and motif fits the mood of the scene in the film, and I found three. The first one is a tempera on paper called “A fairy tale scene: a dark lake, boat, weeping willows, blossoms” by an Austrian painter Carl Krenek. The intense blue and green shades are absolutely stunning! In the foreground of the painting there is a row of semi-abstract flowers which look really groovy and behind them is the vibrant blue lake. I especially love the strokes of lighter blue on the dark blue background; they are so flowing and free. In the middle of the lake is a couple on a boat, gliding towards infinity. We can even see a little bit of the sky – the starry night.

Scene from the film Saawariya (2007)

Now, here is a lovely passage from Dostoyevsky’s story where the nameless narrator talks about himself and his relationship with Nastenka:

I am a dreamer. I know so little of real life that I just can’t help reliving such moments as these in my dreams, for such moments are something I have very rarely experiened.

I am going to dream about you the whole night, the whole week, the whole year.

I feel I know you so well that I couldn’t have known you better if we’d been friends for twenty years. You won’t fail me, will you? Only two minutes, and you’ve made me happy forever. Yes, happy. Who knows, perhaps you’ve reconciled with me, resolved all my doubts.

(…) If and when you fall in love, may you be happy with her. I don’t need to wish her anything, for she’ll be happy with you. May your sky always be clear, may your dear smile always be bright and happy, and may you be forever blessed for that moment of bliss and happiness that you gave to another lonely and grateful heart. Isn’t such a moment sufficient for the whole of one’s life?

The second painting which made me think of the scene from the film was Maurice Prendergast’s watercolour “Feast of the Redemeer”, painted in 1899. I have already written a longer post about it here, but esentially what reminded me of the film was the nocturnal setting, the dark waters, the magical ambience created by the plethora of lanterns and the the boats of course. I can imagine Ranbir and Sakina on one of those boats; he is mesmerised by her beauty, she is daydreaming of her lover, both are enjoying the fleeting dream-like moments while above them is a dark cloud of unrequitedness and an inevitable separation and ending.

Maurice Prendergast, Feast of the Redeemer, c 1899, watercolour

The third and the final painting I found is Edmund Dulac’s watercolour “The Fisherman – The Nightingale”, date unknown but probably early twentieth century. The watercolour shows a nocturnal scene with a fisherman in his little boat gliding on the waters of a river or a lake. The blueness of the water is kissing the blueness of the sky and it is hard to tell the line between the water and the sky. Instead of a fisherman I imagine Raj and Sakina on that boat. The crescent moon, half hidden by the tree branches, is a romantic touch, and I also really love how the trees are almost imposing their way into the painting, forcing their branches into our sight. There is ever so soft light of the moon falling on the water but it is subtle detailing such as that one that bring magic to the scene.

“Among these trees lived a nightingale, which sang so deliciously, that even the poor fisherman, who had plenty of other things to do, lay still to listen to it, when he was out at night drawing in his nets.”

(Hans Christian Andersen, The Nightingale)

Edmund Dulac, The Fisherman – The Nightingale, no date

My Inspiration for February 2022

28 Feb

This month I really enjoyed gazing at the dreamy and magical Oriental illustrations by Edmund Dulac and Warwick Goble, some of my favourites are featured here in this post. My other favourites were the Japanese inspired postcards by Raphael Kirchner. I enjoyed rereading Natsume Soseki’s wonderful, meditative and poetic novel “The Three-Cornered World” and also the poetry of Kobayashi Issa and Tagore. Here is a poem by Issa which struck me the most because it conveys such a lovely image:

“In spring rain

A pretty girl

Yawning.”

(Kobayashi Issa)

Picture found here.

Picture found here.

Picture found here.

Picture found here.

Picture found here.

Picture by Laura Makabresku.

Two pictures above found on liberty.mai Instagram.

Yayoi Kusama — Self Portrait  (collage with pastel, ballpoint pen, and ink on paper, 1972)

Picture found here.

Vogue 1971

there… by Jane Ha

Tagore: When I called you in your garden mango blooms were rich in fragrance

21 Feb

A poem I recently discovered, called “Unyielding” by the Bengali poet Tagore. The mood of the poem reminded me of many lovely illustrations by the French artist Edmund Dulac such as the one bellow from his series “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam” from 1909.

Edmund Dulac, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, “Hour of Grace”, 1909

Unyielding

When I called you in your garden

Mango blooms were rich in fragrance –

Why did you remain so distant,

Keep your door so tightly fastened?

Blossoms grew to ripe fruit-clusters –

You rejected my cupped handfuls,

Closed your eyes to perfectness.

In the fierce harsh storms of Baiśākh

Golden ripened fruit fell tumbling –

‘Dust,’ I said, ‘defiles such offerings:

Let your hands be heaven to them.’

Still you showed no friendliness.

Lampless were your doors at evening,

Pitch-black as I played my vīnā.

How the starlight twanged my heartstrings!

How I set my vīnā dancing!

You showed no responsiveness.

Sad birds twittered sleeplessly,

Calling, calling lost companions.

Gone the right time for our union –

Low the moon while still you brooded,

Sunk in lonely pensiveness.

Who can understand another!

Heart cannot restrain its passion.

I had hoped that some remaining

Tear-soaked memories would sway you,

Stir your feet to lightsomeness.

Moon fell at the feet of morning,

Loosened from night’s fading necklace.

While you slept, O did my vīnā

Lull you with its heartache?

Did you Dream at least of happiness?

Syd Barrett’s Birthday: Lazing in the foggy dew, sitting on the unicorn

6 Jan

It’s Syd Barrett’s birthday today and, as most of you know, I am a massive fan of the early Pink Floyd and Syd’s two solo albums. And it is my tradition on this blog to post something Syd-related on his birthday. “Flaming” is one of my favourite Pink Floyd songs and for a while now I had this idea of posting the song’s lyrics alongside with the appropriate paintings or pictures because the lyrics are so vivid and full of whimsical, childlike imagery which instantly bring images to my mind and makes me daydream of some fairy tale land of flowers and clouds.

Henri-Edmond Cross, The Pink Cloud, 1896

Odilon Redon, Flower Clouds (c 1903), pastel

Alone in the clouds all blue

Edouard Vuillard, The Red Eiderdown, 1894

Lying on an eiderdown.
Yippee! You can’t see me
But I can you.

Art by Nissan Engel.

Lazing in the foggy dew
Sitting on a unicorn.
No fair, you can’t hear me
But I can you.

Marianne Stokes, In the Meadow (In a Field of Buttercups) (c 1890)

Watching buttercups cup the light

Burchfield, Dandelion Seed Heads and the Moon, ca. 1961-65

Ludwig Stasiak, Dandelions, 1900

Sleeping on a dandelion.
Too much, I won’t touch you
But then I might.

Wassily Kandinsky – The Singer, 1903

28 Dec

“Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.”

(Kandinsky)

Wassily Kandinsky, The Singer, 1903, colour woodcut

I decided to end the artistic year on this blog with a gorgeous colour woodcut by the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky. Earlier this month I had written about Kandinsky’s magical painting “Riding Couple” from 1906-07, and today we have another example of Kandinsky’s early artistic phase. “The Singer” is one of Kandinsky’s earliest colour woodcuts and its fluid, undulating lines and the ornamental division of the space shows the influence of Jugendstil which was popular at the time. The contours of a pianist dressed in black arise out of a dreamy blue background. His face and arms are pale as moonlight, his hair longish. Despite, or maybe because of, the stylised lines and the simple composition Kandinsky managed to convey such a deep, palpable mood which is dreamy, melancholy, poetic. Roses, piano music and moonlight. Soft, hushed tones, a whisper, a soft sigh, a rustle of red roses. Evereything watery and Neptunian; sensitive, tender, mystical…

Kandinsky deeply felt the connection between painting and music. In fact, his final decision to succumb to the voice that was luring him to become a painter was inspired, partly, by seeing Wagner’s opera “Lohengrin” in the Moscow theatre sometime in the mid 1890s. Whilst listening to the music, he saw the entire range of colours and shapes before his eyes, wild lines were creating drawings in his mind. In the end, he was a painter and not a composer, but he always sought connections between painting and music, between colours and tones. Art was a synesthetic experience for him. Many artists, such as Degas, have painted theatre and stage scenes before, but in Kandinsky’s case the choice of a motif, the singer and the pianist, is especially interesting and meaningful. And I must say, to me, this woodblock feels musical. The sounds of a melancholy Nocturne is seeping out of the black and blue tones. The lines, stylised, fluid, like water, are the medium of a melody that lives in this woodcut. There is a dynamic between the dark background and the white foreground where the singer is standing, dressed in a white dress which, strangely, brings to mind the shape of the skeleton.

I will end this post with a dreamy passage from E.T.A.Hoffmann’s essay about Beethoven’s instrumental music which first appeared in 1810 and was revised in 1813:

…(music is) the most romantic of all arts, and we could almost say the only truly romantic one because its only subject is the infinite. Just as Orpheus’ lyre opened the gates of the underworld, music unlocks for mankind an unknown realm—a world with nothing in common with the surrounding outer world of the senses. Here we abandon definite feelings and surrender to an inexpressible longing..”