I had written stories to conclude my previous art book projects. So let’s pretend to do the same to the most recently finished one, by actually writing about Andy Stott – Faith in Strangers. I could do so merely because of the cover art, which is a photo of one of Modigliani’s female head sculptures, even though my actual execution involved only paintings. When I first skim-listened (because New Romantic in another album of his sounds nice), which happened before the project, I wasn’t particularly impressed. One day, after I finished the project, I went to Andy Stott’s page again to renew my subscription to New Romantic – the two events were unrelated. Suddenly that elongated face that I lately became familiar with caught my attention. Though this particular one isn’t featured on the art book.
So I tapped in and gave it a second listen. I don’t remember if I got to my present day level of appreciation of these sounds precisely on that day, or if my turning from disinterested to infatuated was because of the realization of who made the album cover sculpture. At any rate, since then I have been drawn into this record deeper. And it reveals additional connections to Modigliani’s sculpture works: the sound palette is heavy, colossal in size, much like the African art inspired bulky legs and bodies of the caryatids; saturated, grainy in texture, just like the surface of the stone material that Modigliani worked with. The opening Time Away pretty much has them both – as if the deep and long lasting calls resounded through pre-historic time to this very moment. A third connection, there is the wonderful female vocal appearing throughout the album; unlike every other heavily processed sound, it is mostly left untouched, embodying the pristine femininity exuding from the outward roughness of the stone work… I’m probably connecting dots that never exist… So much for a clearing of the throat then.
I can very well relate why Violence is one of the hottest hits. In between the fragile, unstable, volatile singing inside a pitch-black room that is occasionally pierced by a flicker outside the window, the two grave, massive outbursts work like a slaughter machine, swallowing and grinding all your sick, deranged, and misanthropic substance to produce a gigantic organism of emptiness.
Just noticed in On Oath, between the musical sentences played by the first woodwind-like layer, the blank is filled with some faint humming of a rotating mechanism, which actually is also the last sound heard in the end. This and the previous reference to machines are enough to evoke that industrial gloom that prevails Eraserhead that I recently watched, leading properly to Science & Industry, a nice rise in tempo structurally
The stories and thoughts I had during the Picasso Graphics project, naturally rippled through my mind and danced their way to that gently smiling destination. I developed my color scheme for the Harlequin with a Guitar from the impression of the painting seen through the industrial engineering library door every day when I go to school; the failed attempt to recreate that bulky caricature of Igor Stravinsky and the coincidence of having to study the Rite of Spring for the Israel Philharmonic special Hanukkah concert; the Game of Pages as a fun lining practice but also remotely connected to the Arthurian romances I had recently been reading…
I pointed at the Nude with Arms Raised and called her “your favorite girl” and was not met with the least bit attempt of denial. Without even turning to the original drawing, sensei immediately remarked how my girl has her eyes closed. I was imagining her more like bathing in the morning sun than inspecting herself in the mirror. And I admitted though I learned to read the spirit through the fog of stylistic informality, I still did not a hundred percent internalize it, as manifested by not drawing the squiggle hair.
My take on the Nude in Landscape was proclaimed less effective in expressing what I claim to be the Mediterranean laid-backness, chiefly due to the sharp lines and some perceived hesitation in their execution. But those are actually more of a technical issue – I was too impatient to reapply the lines before the gouache dried up so that the black ink on her belly lines bled. And I should have applied gouache after the pen lining to soften it up, which would surely satisfy sensei w.r.t his criticism. We had yet a greater disagreement with regard to the black face. Influenced by the texts, I incline to believe this is a face distorted by the horrifying emergence of a bull out of the vase that signifies an impending war; the ponderous male face beside is also an evidence. And it’s exactly this disturbing element in juxtaposition with the idle air of the Mediterranean seaside composed of a broken wall, a broken table, the summer breeze and the simple, lovely, flower-decorated house that has my mind singly fixed on this particular composition. But sensei believes it’s just a shadow effect and there is nothing extraordinary about the bull head.
The Studio, though simple and plain, caught my eyes again because of the rhythmic breath of zephyr lulling both the nude in the picture and the clouds in the sky to sleep, reminiscent of my sweet napping in those summer afternoonsa. An accident occurred here: pointing at the woman on canvas, I said “I could sleep just like that”, referring to my own moments described abovea, but apparently would be more easily understood as literally like her, namely, naked, and in that specific posture! Well, however much I was innocent in intention, I must accept it as a past event I can not undo; accept it that I was in factuality guilty of verbal seduction, or hinting undressing myself, or whatever it might have been interpreted as ;_; read more …
As I was reading about the route Kafka used to take everyday to school accompanied by the family chef, suddenly the strains of HaTikvah was heard. It may not be much of a surprise since Kafka was known to have wanted to make aliya, the strange thing is that barely passing 8 bars, the music deviated from what I know so well. It then became apparent that this is not the Israeli national anthem, or a remix of it.
Recalling that the music of HaTikvah was adapted from some pretty pedestrian folk tune, I went to the Wikipedia page in hope of finding some confirmation that the presently playing piece was also a derivative of the same source. There, the name Smetana struck me familiar. Wasn’t that splendid hall where I listened to that underwhelming concert inside the municipal house called Smetana Hall? – It’s probably not the Prague Symphony Orchestra FOK’s fault, but my insisting in going to the concert after a whole day’s hike to blame. Now as the second movement of Smetana’s symphonic poem set, Vltava, greets me again, my hypothesis is validated. For some time, I enjoyed the discovery of the hidden links between these initially unrelated dots scattered all over my trip. But it seems to be a well known fact domestically.
Now as I think of it, isn’t it most suitable to choose this piece of music for that short film of Kafka’s Prague? On one hand, the HaTikvah-like melody alludes to his Zion heart, on the other, a Czech rendition reflects his cultural identity. By the way, this is not the only occasion where the museum designers show genius choice of music. Firstly I was met with some non-trivial ambient music in the introductory part. And close to the end in the literary analysis section, some spooky metal sounds are heard accompanying Kafka’s hand injury drawings made for his insurance company, creating a creepy absurd space. I would say the museum is quite experimental sonically and visually.
They also offered scholarly and deep interpretations for Kafka’s work, which were difficult to chew. To be honest, when I read Metamorphosis, I hardly saw anything beyond the storyline. But I’ll have plenty of chances to read between the lines now that I bought a set of three books compiling Kafka’s short stories from the museum shop – almost as impressive as the Autechre EP box that I got at the live show!
On a somewhat remotely related note, the nude with arms raised (and armpit hair exposed) by Pablo Picasso actually reminded me of George Samsa’s sister at the end of Metamorphosis, stretching herself to receive the infinite generosity from the sunshine as much as she could; her parents suddenly realize that here is a full fledged young woman ready for the future. This is not to say that I finally start to whole-heartedly appreciate that drawing. Although admittedly, Catherine’s explanation helped a lot towards that end. She says naivism tries to unlearn the academic training and focuses on the essence of what one wants to convey through childish paint strokes. In this particular drawing, I indeed starts to see the innocence, youthfulness and all the signs indicating the fresh positive, instead of singling out the grotesque squiggles supposedly representing her hair and hands. We also agreed that his intentional neglect of making her face pretty and leaving the natural underarm as is were an explicit challenge to typical modern viewers such as us, who are knowingly but irresistibly conditioned to popular media dictation of what is considered to be feminine beauty.
Overtime I am conditioned to the muted colors of Čiurlionis’ paintings.
It gives off a dreamy air like in Miestas , a white city shrouded in the late afternoon haze, which a moment ago I took a glimpse while in sleep, but now the memory fades further and away so that what remained are only the milky tone and a blurred architectural form. Yet these things I will soon lose hold of forever too.
Or it evokes other-planetly imageries as in Pasaulio Sutvėrimas , chiefly due to the warm color tone but also because of the peculiar structural orderliness — the almost repetitive pattern displayed by the growing things. The crystal growth over there also leads to flowering and fruit bearing; when the time is ripe, the fruit of crystallization falls to the ground into gleaming fragments, accompanied by silverly clinks (La Planète Sauvage). This low saturation could also represent a chaotic beginning of nebulous void, from which distinct thoughts emerge and disappear in the form of symmetriads, asymmetriads and mimoids (Solaris).
More often, when it comes to the religious themes, the obscurity corresponds to the inexplicable part of the primeval yearning for worshipping. In Himnas , thick clouds briefly break apart, letting through rays of sunlight onto the distant horizon that dispel the gloominess. A natural wonder alluding to a divine existence somewhere over the clouds, a path leading to eternal happiness whose entrance no mortals can reach. In Praeitis , the colossal slab that marks sunrise seems to embody ritualistic spirits in the innocent ages (even though the Macedonian sun has evidently become a cliché by the time I finished the book). And a recurring motif is the eagle messengers out of the west [82, 142], bearing blessings from the lords and disseminating hope among the mundane world.
Even a soulless person such as myself can be a bit shaken by such awe-inspiring depictions. It makes me ponder whether the urge of worshipping is a conciliation between the desire of perfection and the knowledge that it’s beyond reach. Or if it stems from their weaknesses of the constant needs to be loved, to be watched over, to anchor their inner selves at some secure place however their lives might float around.
There are numerous other examples that are more explicit on this theme. Especially towards the end, the perfect hierarchy of the universe in the artist’s mind is entirely revealed [212 – 214]. However, as I have never made peace with the rule that the last movement of a musical piece always has to climb to some apex, it also dazzles my eyes to see all that grandiose and overflowing bliss on the canvas.
Of course for me, a charming painting does not speak to me without an admirable painterly effect. Unlike the obelisk cypresses seen elsewhere, the austere Mountains and Cypresses in  become abstracted by only wild curves and color stretches that begin to flow and intertwine; the Winter forest  I’d rather consider it to be a collection of rare white leaf samples against an amiable backdrop of cosmic latte; the midnight Forest  wakes up to be a lively band of naughty ghosts, whose playful silhouettes can be dimly discerned under the sleepy stars; a rather brooding sort of Stillness  whose disquiet is betrayed by the disturbed water and air.
The overall experience browsing through Čiurlionis’ paintings is that of a positive buoyancy concisely summarized by Rojus , originating from a mind constantly exploring the infinite forms of beauty of the world as its wings grow ever broader.