Before attempting to organize an exhibition around the subject of beauty, I would need to define my concept of beauty. A simple route would be to define beauty as ³art², but that is a rather cliché idea. Such vague definitions come to mind, however, because beauty for everyone is different. According to Cambridge dictionary, ³Beauty is the quality of being pleasing, especially to look at, or someone or something that gives great pleasure, especially by being looked at.² To this definition, I would add the idea that beauty is that which is inspirational, and creates a sense of awe in the beholder. In addition, beauty is not only that which is pleasing to the sense, but also that which evokes emotions such as fear, eroticism, and other challenging emotions. Each piece that I chose for this exhibition will add another dimension to the meaning of the word of beautyı.
The beauty of an object can lie in what it describes. Carl Larssonıs Series Ett Hem (One Home) describes my Swedish heritage. His painting Britta and Lottaı shows what the typical Swedish home looks like. This image evokes nostalgia in me for my childhood. Britta and Lotta has a beautifully simplistic quality to it, on account of its muted colour palette. Larrson has constructed his image in a natural setting, one that is pleasant, and with which I am familiar. We see two young girls in the room, which are Larrsonıs daughters. On the floor, he includes the detail of clothes lying about, which we understand to be ones that his daughters have not cleaned up. The painting makes me feel as if I could walk into the room and speak to these children. Someoneıs home symbolizes where they come from and what they represent. The home represented in this painting is quintessentially Swedish. Even the Swedish furniture store IKEA has admitted using Carl Larssonıs style, because it defines the Swedish home beauty.
Keeping in line with the theme of Swedish heritage I would also include Ernst Josephonıs Nakenı. Here we see a mythological nude man portraying Loki, playing a violin front of a stream. The northern mythological theme is expressed in the runic writing that we see inscribed on the fiddle. This connection to my ancestry has a strong appeal to me. When I hear mythological stories, they have a sexiness to them. Many images of mythological gods have perfect voluptuous bodies, like our Naken subject here. Nakenı has a sensual pose and seductive facial expression. The Deity here has become a sex object. This eroticism is particularly effective due to the trancelike state induced by Josephıs brush strokes. When looking into this painting, I can hear the music playing and the water pouring.
Expanding in to the whole of Scandinavia, I would also include Edvard Munchıs painting of Madonna. In this painting, Munch emphasizes the erotic aspect of beauty by adding swimming sperm cells around the composition frame, in addition to an embryo in the corner. Womanhood here is both elevated and abased. As a Madonna with the red halo of martyrdom, she is an object of religious devotion, yet at the same time she is man's sex object. Munch defines beauty by deep human emotion
Further pursuing the idea of eroticism, I would include Francisco de Goyaıs Diptych of the Clothed Maja and Nude Majaı. I find it this piece striking and humerous, because it is an early idea of a striptease. This is arousing because we can see that Goya has painted the ideal womenıs body for his taste, and only then has he added the subjectıs head to it. The humor inherent in this work also serves to bring out its beauty. The opposition between the clothed form and the nude form is essential to its success as a beautiful object.
It is often said that eroticism and death are linked. Thus, the next piece I would choose for this exibit would be Vincent van Goghıs Wheat Field with Crows.ı We know that this was the last piece that Vincent van Gogh painted before shooting himself. This knowledge give the painting a mysterious aura of death. In Sweden, people believe that death gives one the chance to start over. For example, Albert Pictor painted The Wheel of Lifeı as a representation of reincarnation. When looking at the van Gogh painting, we witness the whirlpool of emotion mixed into his brush strokes, and feel as if we can almost see his death coming.
After this contemplation of death, we can turn to the similar theme of fear. Alfred Melinıs painting of Lust Around the Cornerı shows a gay couple that has been suddenly frightened by noises outside of their hut. They cling to each other in fear. Melin employs hyper realism to allow us to identify very closely with that fear and that environment. We can see every hair, the indentions in the skin where the men are grasping each other, and how the sheets fold over. In addition, Melin has added a soft focus as our eyes travel back into the painting. This level of detail and perfection draws my attention to the emotion captured in this work, which in itself is beautiful.
Just as the threat outside of the hut is unknown to us, so is the face behind the apple in Magritteıs The Great Warı. This piece embodies the beauty of mystery. The well dressed subject of this painting wears a tea hat and faces us, though we cannot see his face. I find the curiosity that such a hidden subject inspires to be beautiful. This rather simplistic painting in terms of subject matter has me staring at it for ages trying to understand the meaning of this face behind the apple. Knowing that the viewer would respond in this way, Magritte has made a painting about the human condition of hopeless curiosity. No matter how long we look, we will never know what lies behind the apple.
Another painting with hidden meanings in green is Salvador Daliıs A Chemist from Figures who is not Looking for Anythingı. This piece shows women that have drawers that make up the shapes of their bodies. I am attracted to household objects that represent other objects in painting. For example, Michiko Kon takes fish parts and pieces of furniture and transforms them into typical beautiful items such as sunflowers or fashionable clothing. Here Dali has changed women into clothing drawers. We might ask ourselves what is hidden in these draws, what it is that we are forbidden to see. The human form has long been a symbol of beauty. Here, Dali explores that beauty from another perspective.
Marc Chagallıs The Drinking Soldierı is beautiful both for its narrative content and its unexpected motion. The soldier is so tipsy that he feels as if his cap is flying off his head. He sees a vision of a couple dancing on the table in front of him. This couple is Chagall himself and a Russian girl, an image of remembrance for the painter. Chagallıs gift was his ability to make the mundane appear ³miraculous². That was the aim of his estranging effects, which include physical manifestations of sheer joy. This piece has a formal framework to contain his apparently freely and spontaneously composed imagery, which then allows us to experience the beauty of it.
In continuation with the genre of the fantastic, I would include Gregory Gillespieıs Interior Panel with Embryoı. This painting is deeply rooted in everyday reality, but has overtones of fantasy or wonder. This painting embodies my two loves of domestic scenes and the unusual. The beauty of this work lies in the combination of these two elements. This has wonderful idea changing its interior from going inside and slowly unreeling to become outside. In addition, the painting has hidden meanings and humor. One of cows we see grazing has an Aerosmith logo on its back. Once again, beauty is humor.
In this exhibition, I have primarily included works that contain elements of portraiture and fantastical beauty. In doing so, I deliberately avoided including art that would please the general masses. Most of work that I choose was similar to my own work, which deals with portraiture, the fantastical, the sexual, and the simplistic. If I were to put together an exhibition with the same qualifications in the future, the paintings would certainly be different, as my emotions are constantly changing. Since beauty is an emotional experience, that which I consider to be beautiful must always change.