Audacity—reverence. These must mate,
And fuse with Jacob’s mystic heart,
To wrestle with the angel—Art."
--from Art by Herman Melville
Since I have been working on a commissioned version of Vision After the Sermon, and also considering ekphrasis writings, I was pleased to find this poem about art, and struggle, by Melville. It also compelled me to look further at Gaugin's art and Melville's writing--to juxtapose the two and see what pops up!
I was reminded that though I am basing my commission on Gaugin's painting, it must reflect my own interpretation and technique. Thus, the inclusion of text and encaustic. It has also been noted that Vision After the Sermon contains several elements of self-portraiture. For example, the figure cropped on the far right is said to be a likeness of the artist. Perhaps I will include my own profile in the face of one of the Breton women. Perhaps I will include a more subtle self reference as I did in my painting Docent. Note the reflection of the artist in the brass ball atop the standard.
"Whatever fortune brings, don't be afraid of doing things."
While studying Gaugin, I came across another painting with a similar subject matter, Four Breton Women. The tone is quite different, however, as the women are dancing.
As noted in comments on Web Gallery of Art, "The forms have been deliberately flattened" and there is a "deliberate suppression of atmosphere and distance within the picture space by avoidance of a horizon and by the use of saturated colors."
I immediately look to see if there are any self-referential aspects in this piece. (To look more closely at the painting, click on it.) I have not found anything obvious, but will continue to examine it. Perhaps this piece was more about relating the feeling of the subjects than expressing the inner thoughts of the artist.
Either way I can connect it to Melville when he writes:
It is impossible to talk or to write without apparently throwing oneself helplessly open.
When attempting to unravel a drawing, a photo, or a painting, as well as a poem, a story, or a blog, the viewer/reader can't help but question the intent of the creative entity. How much is real and intentional, and how much is indeed manipulation. A difficult question to answer!