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Friday, February 25, 2005

THE MEANING OF ART

Is anyone familiar with Hugo Simberg? I know just a bit about him, but have liked his work since I was in college. I think his one of his more famous works is "Wounded Angel" and there is quite a bit written about the meaning of that work. The obvious is that the setting of the painting is quite real --- a path leading to an institution for blind childeren. The angel's eyes are covered, her head bowed down, some flowers in her hand, a bit of blood on her wing, sitting on a sort of stretcher with two boys carrying her. The older of the two boys is looking at the viewer with a glance/stare that can be interpretted several ways. I do not usually agree with the many interpretations I have read. There seems someting sinister about this painting to me --- which is not what I usually find in the interpretations I read. First of all, the painting is dark. The flowers in the angels hand are wilted or dead/dying. The covering of her eyes looks more like the wrap we see on prisoners or kidnap victims and she clutches the stretcher as if in pain. And then the stare of the older boy seems to me to be one of defiance or threat. ...and how was the angel injured? Did these boys have something to do with it? Are they forcing her toward the institution for blind children or does she simply need their help in getting there? The other boy, in a hat, looks as if he might be quite upset. And, yet so many find a sort of inspiration to the work. Or, have I just missed more significant interpretations? At any rate, I have always loved this painting. Maybe because it is dark or maybe (and I think this is more the case for me) it is that I find it to be so mysterious and open-ended.

"They" say art is what you bring to it. Am I bringing too much of myself and inner-pain to Simberg's painting? Or is it the darkness of the work that draws me to it?

Roy -- if you're reading this, what are your thoughts as an artist?

Jen -- Is there a Catholic meaning to the work that I would not catch?

Thomas/Jon/Ian/Hot Toddy/Karl/George/Tom/Karyn/Doug -- what do you guys think? Post your thoughts vs sending me a private email -- unless you just feel more comfortable letting me know off-line/blog.

What does anyone reading this think?

If you're not familiar with Simberg, his work or this particular work --- just go to google.com and do a search for Simberg's Wounded Angel and you will find a link to it. It is a color painting, but I have had a print of it in black and white for over a year. I only just placed it in a frame last week. I never set it out or shared it because I couldn't decide what I thought of it.

However, now that I can sit/display any art I please --- I sat it on my living room trunk this past weekend.

I like looking at it.

5 Comments:

Blogger Jen Stewart said...

I don't think there's any Catholic angle to the painting. Of course, if there was, it would be dependent on whether or not Simberg was a Catholic, I would imagine. I'm not sure that he was.

9:17 AM  
Anonymous Roy said...

I had never heard of this person, but I sure do like the work. Couldn't really guess what the artist had in mind, but the boy's stare is captivating. Maybe he is the only one alive in the painting. Super dark. I found a painting of his called Frost that looks a lot like George W. Not Wounded Angel but some of the other works look much like what I saw in Chelsea today.

7:31 PM  
Blogger Karyn said...

Matty, I'm not big on Symbolism, or any ism (to quote Ferris); in school it was never my strong suit. But. But but but.

My first impression is that the boy in back is one pissed off monkey. The only one without adornment of any kind on his head. I think he is looking defiantly at the onlooker, ie: WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT? Accusingly, kind of. Defiantly.

Which is of course kind of ironic as he helps carry someone whose sight has been impaired to (apparently?) a facility for the blind. Now. I am going to venture a guess that maybe the angel represents justice, justice being blind and all that; white = innocence, flora = life, growth and fertility. We see the flowers are droopy; even the landscape is bleak. Yellowy grassland or muddy turf, hard to tell. Even the tree has pretty thin foliage. There are some weedy looking flowers popping up underfoot and those are white too. So we've got blind justice looking pretty defeated there, holding some wilted hopes of growth and defiled innocence, working hard to get a grip(on the stretcher). So a pretty bleak picture here. The kid in back is helping to haul the fraying remains of innocence, life and justice...to an institution. Trodding over barren looking land with sparse eruptions of further white flowers (innocent lives) Where they take such cases.

It's the kid in front who is the most interesting to me. He looks like he is dressed up; suit, shoes, hat, all very smart and monochromatic in black, which of course represents death so often.

The little bowler hat; is he representative of The Establishment? Is he The Proverbial "Man", taking some innocent orphaned kid to an orphanage? Is he a Lawyer , helping to cart off the tatty remains of human ideals to the courthouse for further persecution? Is he symbolic of a religious figure, ie: a priest or a rabbi or something? On the way to lay this innocence to rest?

And not like you usually see Angels wearing shoes, but the angel is barefoot which also typically connotes death.

Further, you see behind the kid bringing up the rear, a little stream leading to the larger body of water in the background. What's that about? River of dreams? River of life? We all end in the ocean we all start in the stream kind of thing?

I don't think they are on the path to an institution for the blind. I think they are taking this ... I don't know, angel, child, ideal, whatever, to die or to some kind of event pursuant to death.

But that's all schmaltzy untrained eye stuff. I'll ask Chris to look; he's the expert on art, and I am blowing smoke here.

Jeez I talk a lot for someone who doesn't know much... not a good trait.. I'll have to work on that.

XXOO

6:19 AM  
Blogger matty said...

Karyn,

Are you kidding? This is one of the most insightful, interesting and challenging interpretations of the work I've yet come across.

You are selling yourself very short. You know a great deal about the use of symbolism. More than me!

Justice, bare feet --- the river. Very interesting.

I had not read much in the setting around them as it is my understanding that an individual can still see where Simberg based the background of his painting. However, that doesn't take away from the ideas you've suggested.

Did you major in English???

10:45 AM  
Blogger Underling said...

Matt, this painting creeps me out totally, yet I can't stop staring at it. I'm almost afraid of what the boy staring at me is going to do when he passes out of frame.

9:36 AM  

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