Note: All linked pieces were my favourites from the exhibit. But it’s true. Paintings cannot be seen through a photograph. They can’t. Must be in person. Camera, filters, your computer screen takes away from the painting.
First of all, if you haven’t seen it, you should, it’s worth seeing. Keep in mind I’m not saying this as an ultimate fan or in a “IT WAS SO GOOD YOU NEED TO SEE THIS AND THIS AND THIS AND ISN’T PICASSO JUST ABSOLUTELY AMAZING?!” way either.
I’m saying this as someone who wants to be a somewhat educated person and likes to take advantage of the opportunities given to them… you need to see it. (Also, if you have a Chapters Plumrewards card, you get a discount!)
Anyway, now that I’ve sounded like an absolute snob, onto my thoughts on Picasso.
First things first, you need to know that Picasso’s not exactly one of my favourite painters in the world, not because I don’t like this paintings… I just don’t connect with them in any particular way.
So, I was never the biggest fan of Picasso; to be honest, I never understood it. Cubism* fascinated me, and his Guernica that I saw in Spain is one of the most intensely affecting paintings that I’ve ever seen… but I mean, other than that, other than an almost morbid fascination and curiousity, I’ve never delved deeper, and never taken the time to.
This exhibit made me. Mostly because of the audio tour (which again, for only $5, so worth it.) Because you know, the audio tour will speak about a painting or a sculpture for at least 1 minute, so you’re standing in front of something for at least a minute or two. (Which is a surprisingly long amount of time!) And, what I’ve learned, is that Picasso takes time.
It’s like any other artist that doesn’t immediately handle paint in a semi (or very) realistic way (like Goya - one of my faves), but like Rothko. It. takes. time. to appreciate them.
I do think Picasso is a genius though. Not so much for his actual paintings, but for what he tried to do with them. His fame is not in his skill (although he did have that), but in how he tried to transcend his medium beyond canvas and paint.
We’ll elaborate on that one by one.
1. He did have skill.
Oh, he did. And fuck, he was so good too! And it frustrates me a little, because as someone who vehemently tries to capture that all the fucking time in my own paintings, I envy Picasso’s handle with paint, and I hate that he didn’t do more semi-realistic paintings to show it off. (So that I could envy it more. It’s a weird cycle.)
2. I liked that he was a little bit of a fucker.
First of all, he was a cocky dude, eh? I mean, not so much during his blue and rose periods (maybe), but afterwards… he was all about being a rebel for the sake of it. And telling the public to shove it up their ass, basically. I like that.
He also had so many fucking women to fuck! Marriage (a long one too), affairs, mistresses, two mistresses battling over him, other women on the side, illegitimate children… God, he was a cheating scumbag. (I mean, a NINE YEAR AFFAIR! I’m sure his first wife Ogla wasn’t innocent or unaware but… still!)
But, on the other hand, I did love how with every new woman came a new style. And how every woman is represented in a very distinct way. It just tickles me in the romantic-tortured-artist way.
He also created a sculpture of a woman out of kitchen appliances, and I realize that everyone back then was sexist and played into gender roles (hell, many still do), I just don’t appreciate the implications (of his art and what it said of his perceptions).
3. transcending his medium (or whatever I wrote above that sounded pretty and profound, but doesn’t make sense when you read it closely.)
Many artists feel, many artists twist an emotion out of the viewer. Many communicate their profound pain and sorrow and anger. As someone who leads with her heart more than her brain, these are the types of artists that I connect the best with.
With Picasso, he did this, yes. But too little of it. (Apart from his blue period - which is one of my favourites for the above reason) andthis beautiful beautiful piece that took time to appreciate it, but now is probably one of my favourite pieces... ever.) … I overuse parentheses.
And, he could also replicate. (I’m talking about his skill again, whatever). I mean, he could emulate many styles, which I think still takes skill, and whatever - this means more to me than I’m willing to admit, so I’m going to stop talking about that.
But, anyway, what Picasso tried to do… is he didn’t want his paintings to be just paintings. (Not in some profound emotional sense, again, my deal with Picasso is that he thought too much) But in the physical sense. He wanted sculpture/paintings**, and paintings/sculptures, wood chiseling/paintings, and whatever else he did. He always wanted to go outside of the typical definition of painting (not even in subject or style, though he did do that), but outside of paint and canvas. That’s what I mean by transcending his medium.
Now, that’s pretty fucking genius and ahead of his time, also rebellious. And I appreciate all of it.
But this is what I mean, by when I don’t connect by brain, but by heart. For me, Picasso just used his brain too much. My favourite paintings will always be the ones where he’s not trying to prove or make a statement. I will love the ones during his friend’s death, of his mistresses’ sensuality, of his reaction to war and massacre.
*I can’t find the link, because I forgot to take the name of the painting down. But it’s in a cubist style, and it’s a painting of a chapel or a church of sorts. It’s unfinished, but it’s one of my favourite cubist paintings.
**I can’t find a link of it, because I forgot to take the name of the sculpture down. But it’s basically a hollowed out silhouette of a woman’s head-bust. Read that sentence again. Yeah, that’s right.
Oh, and 5. I liked how his paintings are titled in a non-genderspecific way. Two figures, instead of a man and a woman. I realize that it was part of his ambiguity/abstract artistry.
But in a world where gender labels are so prominent and viewed so important, and also a world where these same labels are acknowledged and argued and fought for as a spectrum, not a box… that was significant for me.
Now, I do want to say that I don’t think Picasso is God. Unlike any of the other professionals that I listened to on the audio tour. Nor am I smart enough, patient enough, intellectual or knowledgeable enough to analyze. But, I do really like him.
That’s it. I had more to say on Picasso, but I slept on it (I went to the exhibit yesterday), and I must’ve lost it.
Besides that, I wandered into other parts of the AGO. Zhang Huan probably intensely emotionally affected me in such an immediate way that I’ve rarely experienced. He does these memory doors out of wreckage and ash paintings, and fuck, it may not nearly be as genius as Picasso, but (for me, at least) it’s certainly got more heart. I had to sit down, looking at one of his pieces. (***The name of which I unfortunately didn’t take down because I was shaking.)
On a sidenote about art. I really wished I appreciated photography more. Berenice Abbott, I’m sure, is as phenomenal as people rave, but I just couldn’t appreciate it.
Also: I don’t get the big deal about David Hilne? (That’s not the name, I thought it was, but either my penmanship or my memory needs to improve, because a Google and AGO search doesn’t produce any results.) Anyway, there was this whole section dedicated to him with interactive video, pull-out paintings and whatever, and they were pretty… but they weren’t that great. Ah well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, eh?
Also: There’s a Frida & Diego exhibit this October. I’m going to see it. I’ve already made plans.
In other news, Frank Ocean comes out, which I appreciate immensely for its visceralness. And it’s significant because.