Friday, November 17, 2006

Well I've had a busy few days, visiting the National Gallery for the first time on Tuesday, and on Thursday a second visit to Birmingham museum and art gallery. The second trip was to see a multi-sensory installation partly created by my brother, who took care of the sound recording and production. The Velázquez exhibition at the national was totally packed, but the pictures were excellent. Aside from being a great technical painter, Velázquez also wonderful at composing pictures. The picture are full of hidden shapes and ghosts, and strange secret messages because of the unusual arrangement of objects that would not be there if reality was being depicted. My favourite of that day was probably one of the earlier ones called something like two young men drinking, but in reality the picture was of an Apollo via an orange. An orange, perfectly in the top left corner, bizarrely balancing on top of a bottle represented arrogant Apollo with a contrasting green earthenware bottle like a tree staring up with envy at that sun. The two young men were perhaps the same boy seen from two angles and the one with the back to the viewer was drinking from the hemisphere of the Earth. There were plenty of other mysterious pictures too. What would be a plain background by any 19th century society painter, Velázquez painted with varying patterns and shadows, these shapes were no accident. The dark Saint John at Patmos had an eagle and normal objects on his right but behind him was the body of a woman/tree/dragon thing with Spanish soldiers on the horizon and other apocalyptic scenes, but all very subtle and dreamlike like the mad visions of that saint. Another notable innovation was the inclusion of several pictures in pictures, like new scenes seen through an alcove or a mirror. He had the boldness to paint incredibly finely in some parts but incredibly roughly in others. There was an awful lot of rosy pink in there though, seeing twenty something paintings in a row made that pink grate on the eyes a bit.

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