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October 10, 2011 | by  | in Arts Visual Arts | [ssba]

A Moment of Inspiration

When I first began writing this week’s column, for the last visual arts page of the year, I began writing a piece on the inaccessibility of the visual arts, about how Mr Joe Public often feels disconnected from galleries and museums, and how during times of economic instability, it is the creative sector that is usually the first to be sacrificed.

This goes hand-in-hand with the general panic that an almost-graduate in the Arts feels when considering their place in the world. I found myself in mid-rant about how art galleries often alienate their public, when I asked myself “Why do I care?”

Self-doubt is a common ailment of the human condition and I am constantly asking myself if I am studying the right subject or following the right career path. What is the central passion that keeps me trudging up the Kelburn hill every day? What often pulls me back from the brink of madness is remembering what it is that first drew me to study of the visual arts. That inspiration is often found in a single painting.

It is at such times that I remember The Kiss (Der Kuss) by Gustav Klimt. I have been familiar with the work all my life, Klimt being one of my mother’s favourite artists. I have had a poster of this work on my wall throughout my six years of university education, constantly watching over me as crouched over a computer screen for hours on end. I have never studied the work academically, although I suspect that is what keeps my love of the painting going.

There is nothing quite like appreciating an artwork purely for visual pleasure. I often think that is what art should be. Not about the artist’s intentions or the historical significance, and certainly not about the price of the work. It should come down to what it is that captures the viewer on a purely visual level. Not necessarily what is beautiful or spectacular, but what is interesting and grabs our attention.

The Kiss has always satisfied that criteria for me. The work explodes with beauty and colour, from the intricate robe to the bursting meadow of flowers at the couple’s feet. I find the way the male figure leans over the woman and protects her in a shroud of gold, extremely comforting. I am transported in her serenely beautiful face, carried away in a lost moment of joy. There is also something imperfect or unsettling about the work. The woman’s head is tilted slightly too much, to a point that looks uncomfortable. The pair embrace on the edge of a meadow that falls away like a cliff, over which the woman’s feet dangle. These elements create a feeling of unease that in turn adds interest and that keeps the work from ever becoming banal. Just like falling in love, the emotions that this painting provokes are not quite calm or settled.
The work has been described by many as the most romantic painting of all time. However it has never held any false sentimentality, for me at least. It is far too raw in emotion and interesting in unusual detail. Instead it holds a captured sensual moment, which allows me to disappear into a painting and find hidden inspiration. *


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