Next Time Maybe A Pigeon

January 21, 2017

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 ;_;

Now, the most important aspect of relevant discussion about this sheet was, there were certain “stuff” I omitted. The “still life” on the table seemed too large to be fruits and squashes. On my first inspection, I actually vaguely discerned a nude by the strange spatial arrangement of the “fruits”, but was embarrassed and immediately stopped thinking in that direction. Subsequently I was unable to determine what this dissonant presence was and decided to replace it with what I had on the desk – an iPad. That certainly makes the studio more mine, but at the expense of what… Sensei said that the strange stuff is certainly a nude model sitting on the table, in a matter-of-fact fashion, and went on to delineate each body part. He further commented on the interesting concept of swapping the placement of the abstract and the material – usually the abstraction process is expressed on canvas after observing a real model, yet here the woman in the picture is realistically drawn, while the model is formed by geometrical shapes. That was a huge revelation, which at that moment I merely took in. Now as I revisit this idea every now and then, I totally feel bad about my arbitrary decision that led to the banishment of the main point of this drawing! Along that line, perhaps it is both a female model and a still life of fruits and squashes – perhaps they were both once there on the table but at different times! Meanwhile, a sideline question I’m intrigued by is why I was ashamed of identifying a nude from the abstraction, which prevented me from further explorationb.

In fact the first drawing I showed was the Sculptor. It’s one of many that depict the theme of an artist and his model. Sometimes the artist observes the model in a creepy way probably with dirty ideas hovering in his mind. Other times in the case of Rembrandt, or rather Picasso’s own projection onto Rembrandt, he is outright sexually excited. Most of the time I naturally see them from a feminine point of view and can’t help but feel repulsion. But with the Sculptor, the diligently working, honest looking sculptor has a youthful masculinity in line with the Ancient Greek aesthetics; in contrast to the dark side where the curly body hair and palm leaves are worked out in great detail, just a handful of smooth curves fall onto the bright side and convincingly trace out the innate grace that fills the space with radiant glow.

My fondness for it grew exponentially as I instantly adopted my own alternative interpretation. I love to think of it loosely as the story of Pygmalion,  who with his unparalleled skill worked tirelessly and single-mindedly in creating a perfect ivory sculpture of a virgin. This moment is when it was finally complete, the life of the maiden came down by Zephyrus’ current, in through the window, about to enter the sculpture to wake her up; though unclothed, her tranquil aspect spoke of modesty. This, is what substituted the old narrative of an artist and his model with. And I easily immersed myself in the role of the male artist*, in some area painstakingly** made every stroke necessary for the mess of curls that borderlines stippling, in some other area futilely brushed my B’est pencil over and over to approximate the shadow of Picasso’s inkc. After I had poured out all my vital energy, a few lines were effortlessly laid down; the aura exuded by itself; and my goddess – the drawing came to life, personified in the idealized image of that innocent girl.

My narrative having been warmly received, the discussion was then directed to the technical aspects. Sensei felt the dark/light contrast is not strong enough, which is inevitable due to the limited power of my mediac. But thanks to it, it seems that sensei for the first time noticed that there are additional objects hidden in the dark side. He asked for my opinion who the other bust might be after. As I had to work over every corner of the sheet, important or not, I needed to figure out what each detail was. I of course did not overlook that bust which I spent some time in filling in a bit imagined details in her face and hair. Since I so much buy into my own interpretation, I naturally settled into thinking that the sculptor had made numerous attempts before. Given the evidences of similar downward face orientation, hair piece and hair style, I was convinced that the bust is after the same girl but sadly a work of imperfection. Sensei however, believed she was created for another girl, a former favorite; now that the artist has found a new muse, the old work is shelved away in the dark and looks a bit sad. At that time, I uncompromisingly insisted in my theory, which works best if Pygmalion had been consistent and faithful to his life goal. I now do see how sensei’s conjecture is plausible from the sculptor-model view point, especially considering Picasso’s own history.

Despite my rushing to defense, the mind that is extra receptive to certain types of signals did not fail to register what it’s constantly looking for. It later interrogates me repeatedly with questions to which I honestly have no answers. Could he be implying something, something that I so crave for, that I have attained a special position in his vast realm of consciousness? What if, if I had not been so narrow-minded but had responded smartly to make out whether he truly meant it? Lament as much as I want, my sweet introversion has always scrambled to isolate me from danger; inseparable.

Entangled with this is yet another problem. Remarkably this is the first time I ever drew a nude. Well, not one but four, for this first time. It is a perfectly normal motif throughout the art spectrum and history that should warrants no special attention, so I assure myself. And I drew them, spoke of them as if these are derivatives and integrals. But let me face it, I felt tension in me when I was drawing their bodies, imagining presenting and talking about them. When I really talked about them, I was so concentrated in getting myself across that for a moment I was oblivious and insensitive. But when the words subsided, the tension renewed. How could it be otherwise, when I have such strong feelings for him, and he is not ignorant of it. I now understand, my self-censoring choiceb is me attempting to hide the fact that I fantasize about him every day. Surely, an explicit nude is a nude, there is no point denying it. But when she is encoded in an abstract design, I fear that my reading may reveal my secret fantasy!

On the other hand, maybe I overthought but, I felt sensei was cautious and all too ready to retreat. When he first showed this book to me, turning the pages of often amorous and many even erotic themes, he was compelled to clarify that if I don’t like it he could bring another one. After I finished presenting my project, he asked again if I liked this book. This never happened to previous project meetings – I think. So there was a certain level of tension in him too.

Later that day, the exhausted feeling caused by overwhelming information and my own emotional tumult was prolonged into the nightfall. The energy drainage pretty much disabled me. My headphones are the only hope to regain myself. Thus the twinkly, intimate soundscape generated from a pastel palette engulfed me, from which a helium voice diffused the message that I rendered with self-pity for self-amusement:

Lalala lalala la
I’m so close to tears
and so close to
simply calling you up
and simply suggesting we go to that hidden place
but I don’t have your number

* The only time I slipped out of the role was when doing the artist’s beard. It reminded me of sensei’s beard, which back at the time was new to me.
** Admittedly exaggerated, but relatively speaking compared to the sparsity of the RHP.