Monday, January 5, 2009

In Search of Picasso...

Look carefully! It is just as important. You must do what is not there. What has never been done.

This statement by the ultimate 20th century iconoclast Picasso encapsulates my quest in Paris.

And I wait - and wait in an indeterminately long queue to enter the Grand Palais on a cold Thursday morning, and I wonder what I am doing here. A mere weeks after the mayhem in Mumbai, here is this dilettante to all purposes, actually waiting to enter and view - a paintings exhibition.

Every hour or so, the low ranking guards (daily wages?) take pity on the snaking queue and allow an arbitrary 15 to 20 odd people to get in, while others continue their vigil in this drizzling Parisian weather. We are the dumb ones who have not had the foresight to make a booking earlier on, via the internet, and have arrived 'just like that'.

We: as in me and folks, mainly Europeans. Average age 50 plus. In a world that is rapidly aging, there is simply no question of senior citizens getting the right of way. Only when a near 80 year old woman faints, is she allowed to go in immediately. Its an interesting paradigm for me as an Indian - in our young nation with a hoary tradition, 65% are below 35. And it is second nature for young folks to 'take care' of anyone remotely old looking, even strangers. Giving up a seat, a place in the queue, running around and obtaining paperwork, helping in some way or the other.

Otoh, those who have booked online, as well as journalists and art students, are allowed to go in right away via separate queues. (Curse myself for not having obtained that Press Card yet... Coatings World hote hue)

After three hours in the biting cold, my turn does come, and I skip up the stairs, as much as a motley 'oldie' group can skip that is, and buy my twelve euro ticket.

Immediately and miraculously, the travails of the morning stand forgotten. catapulted into a mesmerizing world. Up close to Picasso and his various artist muses.... his productivity, his control on every aspect of art...
To be able to see so many original paintings of Picasso under one roof is toe-curling enough. To see the originals of Masters such as El Greco, Cezanne, Goya, Poussin, Manet, Ingres, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Delacroix side by side with Picasso's impressions of various paintings, has been an experience that will be embedded in my brain forever. These are the people who ultimately matter. Who cared, who commented. On a world fractured by wars and crises through the ages.

Courbet, one of the artists Picasso was 'impressed' with had said 'I do not paint angels because I have never seen any'. And Picasso, just like the Impressionists, abandoned the canons of representation for 'a more acute grasp of reality'.

I paint in reaction to the paintings that count for me, he said... Through the screen of painting, he distilled the substance of the experience of painting and his troubled emotions.

It has taken me a lifetime to paint like a child

Academic teaching of beauty is false. Art is not the application of a canon of beauty. It is what instinct and the brain imagine quite apart from that canon...

Every human being is a whole colony you know...

This Bohemian journey - Paris, I will not forget you in a hurry... a more acute grasp of reality...

(paintings here are - in order depicted - by El Greco, Manet and Velasquez - and their impressions by Picasso)

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