So here are the things that I've been wanting to write about:
Art - The Masters versus The Poseurs
The Musée de l'Orangerie is famous for housing Monet's Water Lilies. There are two rooms displaying his Waterlilies; they are spread out in these grand canvas, so stupefying in their sheer genius that neither words nor pictures of them do them justice.
The museum is currently running an exhibition of American art in the 1930s, called the Age of Anxiety. The name of the exhibition sounded really intriguing...but alas, the art was not.
I am not an expert on art at all. I don't know anything about art except what I like and what I don't like. I abhor modern 'art', things that you'd see in the Tate Modern, because I cannot stand the lack of technical skills. It takes too much effort to look at a 'painting' which is basically a canvas painted entirely in a single shade of grey and try to convince myself that I am looking at 'art' when I can do the same shit. To me, art at the most basic level has to reflect a skill set that I lack - and this is the ability to paint, to draw, to render onto a blank canvas whatever a facial expression, a human body, a landscape, a scene on a Parisian sidewalk or a dance studio, a picnic in the shade, etc. Modern art tries too hard to be subversive, and sometimes the product is utterly banal. If I want to think about concepts, I will read a book; if I want to look at paintings that demonstrate a talent that I don't have, I go to an art museum. Modern art is not pretty. Of course, I am generalising here, but this generalising is at least based on my many visits to the Tate Modern.
Beyond this basic requirement of the technical ability to paint/draw, however, is the requirement of originality. By this I mean that I don't want to look at a painting and think, Oh, but this particular famous painter has done it before. There I was, looking at these American paintings, and I stood before one of them, all odd angles and awkward shapes, and thought, That's just a bad copy of Picasso. I stood before another, all surrealist images and incongruous things, and thought, That's such a rip-off of Dali. I read the description; I read that the artist was influenced by Dali. 'Influenced' - what a loose word, such a broad term. I could say that I am influenced by Julian Barnes and write in his style. Would that be evidence of his influence on me, or am I simply a copycat? So much of those American paintings was so derivative, to the point that I asked myself, Why am I looking at these copycats when I can be looking at Monet's Water Lilies for the second or third time?
Of course, 'originality' is a loose term as well. It certainly isn't the end of the story. A painting of Wrigley's Spearmint gum, all straight lines and precision, can certainly fit that requirement. But is it interesting? Perhaps it is interesting in the sense of being provocative: it makes you wonder what message the painter is trying to convey. It could be that the painter is mocking American consumerism, or it could be that the painter really likes Wrigley's Spearmint chewing gum. But why should I have to think so hard about the message? Should art, a painting, not speak for itself? -This is also why I don't like highly-conceptualised art: it does not speak for itself. It relies too much on its descriptive notes. Of course, a good piece of art should be capable of multiple interpretations; but in order for these interpretations to have any point or meaning at all, the art work should be capable of conveying something concrete, something tangible; and then it should be of something interesting; and this interesting thing should be painted in a way that is pretty. Why do I want to spend my time looking at ugly things? Sure, they may be provocative, but I honestly simply do not like provocative art. I don't like it because it is obvious, it is ugly, it is cheap in its obvious shock factor; and if I want to educate myself on the evils of the world, I would read the news or read a history book. I would not go to an art museum.
And so to state an obvious point: Art that provokes is not as deeply moving as art that evokes. This is perhaps why I love impressionism. I stand in front of Monet's Water Lilies and I feel a catch in my throat. I stand in front of his 1905 painting of Westminster and I am at a loss for words. These paintings - these Monets, Renoirs, Degases, Sisleys - of ethereal beauty, capturing the timelessness of a moment including the way the sun casts a 12 o'clock shadow on the trees in the garden, the way light is reflected off the train of a woman's satin dress as she dances with a man. This something airy, something light, something fuzzy about these paintings, the way the masters capture the quality of an impression of a scene or a moment with such exactness...just witnessing this genius alone is worth the trip to Paris.
It's not just Impressionism. I also took the time to look at some other paintings, and I was totally transfixed by Dante and Virgil by William Bouguereau. I had no idea who he was; I saw this gory painting and I was repulsed at first, but then I started to notice the incredible details: the blood underneath the fingernails, the tension in the neck, the exposed scalp where hair is being pulled...it was certainly a memorable experience.
The point is, I have little patience for lame art, and I have all the love in the world for Impressionism.
Okay, I am too tired. I can't finish this.