Danae. Out of acid flux.
I conceived the painting of Danae after visiting Galleria Academia in Venice with Tintoretto’s Pieta, depicting an antique looking arched cave, probably subterranean, and golden shower over the group.
To the legend of Danae: she was locked in subterranean chamber due to bad omen, and Zeus, distantly feeling her grace and beauty, impregnated her by coming down in form of golden shower. The story continues dramatically involving mother and child, further known as Perseus the beheader of Medusa, sent off in unknown direction due to prosecution of the King.
Coincidental similarity? immaculate conception, flight to…unknown territory, miraculously born child destined to conquer Medusa spreading the snakes from her head and thus fearmonering the rest of the peaceful community, as if allegorically finally conquering the snake of sin and filth from Eden who had initiated the human downfall?
Normally I would use live models for any artistic projects, but this time I decided to base it on a photo of myself, as the figure posture on a studio-made photo i have was quite appealing to the eye.
While I was working on a painting, two unexpected phenomena occurred. First, there appeared a landscape I was not planning in advance. I did not think through the composition around the figure before starting, but did not want it to be a house like rest of Danae paintings. After finishing it, I was reading about Hoffman, the writer of fairy-tales born together with Imanuel Kant in the town native to my own family on father’s side of Koenningsburgh, now part of Russia. Apart from having written Nutcracker, he had also written a not known story of Tannhauser, set to opera by Wagner.
Tannhauser is a mienesinger poet, taking part in poetry competition, location of which is….subterranean grotto of Venus, so similar to the one I had depicted.
Further, while painting, I could not get rid of strange effect in lower right corner. The paint would not sit, I was removing, repainting, removing, repainting, nothing helped. In the end it struck me: it looks like an acid burn. The spot had ripped edge, the effect was reminding of Sigmar Polke alchemical experiments on uneven layering of paint, or as artterms call it, “deliberate accidents”.
It was pointing, with invisible hand, to the episode in Hermitage museum, where an evil person threw acid on Rembrandt’s Danae, inburning a spot, about this size, which was hard the restore for 2 decades.
Ohyes, the word FLUX in the title of this blog is reference to Fluxus movement in which Yoko Ono used to start her artlife, because I, as her, love shouting out weird noises as part of Primal Scream therapy.
Scottish Artists at Queen’s Gallery, Hollyrood (photos from exhibition catalogue, as gallery photo not permitted)
Beautifully selected and presented exhibition to introduce to wide audience not so known Caledonian artists of 1750-1900, period so vibrant and future defining especially after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (of German origin) visited Scotland, fell in love with it, put a foot by purchasing an estate and designing a neo-gothic fairytale castle of Balmoral and blessed Scottish renaissance with enthusiastic input in revival of Scottish tradition in literature (which we love so much from Sir Walter Scott, Arthur Conan-Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson), architectural marvels of Calton Hill and master architect Adams known for his designs as far as Rome, as well as musical revival with composers like Mendelsohn, Donizetti and Sibelius visiting Scotland and putting to music its spirit. Rumour goes that ordinary scots did not wear kilt before queen Victoria, the same way as Norwegians did not wear medieval-inspired bunad folk costume before writer and civil activist Henrik Wergeland.
To start with, Aberdeen-born William Dyce, known for rendering mythological and religious subjects with hand light and etheric, and colours bright and clear like of Raphael himself. I would suggest he based his Virgin on Queen Victoria, as where would one have seen a jewish woman with flat reddish middle-split hair? It was a popular courtesy, a courtesy appreciated by the Queen, but not only, as she sincerely called his style “quite like an Old Master – so chaste, and exquisitely painted”. Dyce was close to the group of painters calling themselves Nazarethans including germans, romans and russians (like famous Vereshiagin, who’s “Christ in Wilderness” is so reminiscent of William Dyce’s painting with same title). He painted frescos, as “Neptune Resigning the Empire of the Seas to Britannia”, others based on Thomas Malory “Morte d’Arthur” in Queen’s Robbing Room of Westminster Palace.
Apart from giving the world the most strong portrait painters, like Raeburn, I would like to draw attention to more narrowly known Allan Ramsey, the son of poet Ramsey who’s sculpture we still see near the National Gallery at Mound. Deeply engaged in the philosophical debate of the Enlightenment (he was friends with David Hume and Jean-Jascques Rousseau), he was the first internationally acclaimed Scottish artist, and the tender and delicate portrait of his wife with flowers worthy of Fantine-Latour proves the status.
Sir David Wilkie, the self-appointed painter to the queen, is probably most known. The exhibition draws interesting parallel between his involvement in Spanish Wars of Independence known from Goyas works and current Scottish political debate. He, and several other painters, the same way as Lord Byron in Greece, were both involved and nourished by the quest of liberation from Napoleonic tyrany, by the air of secrecy, rebellion, romanticism of espionage and life undercover. The exhibition includes a diptych “The Guerilla’s Departure” and “The Guerilla’s Return”, and John Phillips’ “The Dying Contrabandista” is aligned with Sir Joseph Noel Paton’s (member of Pre-Raphaelites) “Home. The Return from the Crimea” depicting a Scots Fusilier in a composition reminiscent of Lamentation with Mary and Magdalene.
David Wilkie, Selfportrait
Landscape art of the period is viral and powerful. Naysmith, world-famous for dramatic castles and cliffs in windy scapes, Giles, integrating wildlife in style of iconic “Monarch of Glen” and Leitch, whos pupils included Duchess of Buccleuch and Duchess of Sutherland, here his amazing travel sketches in watercolour and bodycolour.
Scots travelled a lot. Not only within Europe, but to orient. David Roberts for example, presented fantastic architectural sketches /landscapes from his journey, the same way as architect Fergusson (my own discovery, not in the exhibition) participated in excavations of fundamentally important sites of Middle East (here his work “Palaces of Nimrod restored”), tragically newly lost for posterity. A vision for future, a vision for Empire, both earthly and celestial.