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Faceless Woman

by mana on April 12th, 2015
Lamassu, William Henry Goodyear, via Wikimedia Commons

Lamassu, William Henry Goodyear, via Wikimedia Commons

Spring is here, and the bees are dancing around my lavender bushes. I have grown to like them. Their graceful dance brings me a feeling of peace and harmony.

In the last few months, we have been afflicted by bad news from around the world. From the Charlie Hebdo murders in France to the atrocities in Kenya, I found myself unexpectedly distracted and upset by each successive tale of inhumanity.

Although it was less deadly, the destruction of Nimrud made me quite sad. Its ancient artifacts were treasures that are now lost forever. Fanatics seek to destroy the past but they only succeed in impoverishing the future. Is art that dangerous?

At home, transitions in my project created uncertainty and feelings of lost trust. I wrote on several themes but never published anything. Silence can be golden. I reflected on how senseless things can be and regained my focus. I went back to what brings me peace and solace: discovery and art.

The fantastic mythological beings, the Lamassu, engraved at Nimrud were meant to protect the inhabitants but they also connect us to those people who lived so long ago. They are an expression of our common humanity. When I look at them, I am mesmerized by their blend of strangeness and familiarity. They are part bull, part bird and part human and we do not really know what they meant to the people who made them but their forms are very familiar and they convey a feeling of calm strength. The art of a culture expresses the life of its people and brings us close to them. Living peacefully together starts with understanding each other’s cultures.

Ján Koválik, "Entangled"

Ján Koválik, “Entangled”

“The way we live” is a subject that deeply concerns the Slovak painter, Ján Koválik. Koválik has held over 20 solo exhibitions and has taken part in several international ones. He was awarded the Perla dell’Adriatico Grand Jury Prize in Grottammare, Italy. Narration is central to Koválik’s style. He says that “People are a constant source of inspiration. My paintings are full of realistic figurative compositions situated in a surrealistic space.” Combining lifelike depiction and metaphorical symbolism, Koválik creates what he calls visual poetry. He reveals people’s motives and feelings, inviting us into the story.

Entangled shows several small groups of people, each in their intimate world, some happy, some less so. Almost invisibly to them, a complex tangled network ties them to each other. Some pull hard on the threads, trying to improve their position. However, their efforts only create more tangles, leaving them exhausted. The happiest figures in the painting seem the least concerned.

Looking at this painting brought my mind back to the bees.

Each honey bee pursues its goals individually, yet they are all connected into a single community. They travel far into the world on their own to collect tiny bits of pollen. When they return to the hive, they communicate what they have found through their dance, the same dance that relaxes me when I look at my lavender bushes.
Bees and humans represent a rare example of two species living together and helping each other. Much of the food that we consume requires pollination by the bees. Yet efforts to improve agricultural efficiency threaten to destroy this harmonious relationship. Honey bees are dying off at an alarming rate. If they do not survive, we will be poorer for it. Like the figures in Entangled, our attempts to better ourselves just increase our difficulties.

Stephanie Poulard, "Face à Face," 2014

Stephanie Poulard, “Face à Face,” 2014

Just like the bees, we are affected by our environment. The French artist Stéphanie Poulard observes that “the flesh receives and captures the vibrations of the world. In one way or another, the landscape and the materials of the world imprint themselves on us, transforming us. ” Poulard’s series of digital photographs, Corpus is a study of the human form, the receptacle of our emotions and our sensations.
The complex physicality of Face à Face reminds me of a Rodin sculpture. The woman’s body could be made of plaster, and the bright towel provides a striking contrast. The question of living is once more examined, a faceless woman looking in her mirror while her body is exposed.

From → Musings

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