Tuesday, July 21, 2009

look closer (at Klimt, Munch).

This, in case you didn't know, is Edvard Munch's The Scream. Many critics, over the years, have pondered the aesthetics of this painting, as well as what it actually means. Someone asked me once (an art teacher at school?) if I thought the person depicted in the picture was screaming, or if he was blocking out the scream of someone else in the background. I think perhaps it's the latter; perhaps the sound is what has distorted the landscape so. All the colours are tinged with red, the colour of pain. So maybe he is hearing the pain of someone else. Something I've wondered is, who is the black figure behind the screamer, as he is sometimes known? Munch very deliberately painted this figure into the scene. He is no accident. Is he making his fellow painting-dweller scream? This changes things. Is he screaming from pain? Is he hurt? Is the red which dominates the painting the red of blood, of pain? Or is he screaming from pure frustration - is the red his anger? What did the dark figure do to make him so angry? This painting, whether you like it or not, forces you to consider the situation, and the role of the two figures within it. Imagine if Munch had chosen to paint it from the other perspective; if the dark figure were foregrounded, and our enigmatic screamer mysterious in the background? In that case, we'd be looking, I believe, at the perpetrator of whatever crime the dark man has committed against his screaming companion, rather than the response, reaction to, or result of it - the scream - which we are presented with. If you view it from this perspective, as I do, Munch confrontationally forces us to think of the consequences of our actions for others. Look closer.

This is Klimt's The Kiss. It features in the novel Evernight quite prominently. When I looked it up out of curiousity, I knew nothing about the painting - except that I love it. This painting is about romance, love. The generous use of gold paint shows us that this is the most precious, most treasured element of the image. The vines, and lush green of the flowers remind us that this is natural. The designs of the man and woman's respective garments are complex and different to one another, but put together, the combine beautifully. The gold sparks around the couple show that their luminousity has rubbed off on their surroundings. This is an oil painting - it would have taken time, love, to finish. This painting, to me, sends an umcomplicated message, unlike The Scream. Look closer.

This is the famous scene in American Beauty where Lester Burnham's wife, Carolyn, has discovered that he has purchased his dream car, a 1970 Pontiac Firebird. Lester responds with mock enthusiasm, real sarcasm, "I RULE." This film, in my eyes a piece of art in itself, continually urges us to look closer. At the apparent happiness of others, when under the surface lurks deep dissatisfaction with their lives, themselves. At the complacement of yourself, which, if you made some changes, you could dispel. At what is, instead of what appears to be. Consider Angela, blonde siren, whose apparent promiscuity hides a shattered sense of self-respect. Consider Janey, whose initial reaction to her "creepy" neighbour hid a developing sense of longing - shown when Ricky, looking closer than most, zoomed his camera in on her mirror to reveal her reflection smiling to herself. Lester, who looked the closest, and inverted himself, so that upon the film's dramatic closure, he was happy. Consider Colonel Fitts, at whom nobody looked closer, who suffered grievously because of it. If you look closer, what do you see in yourself, in those around you?

Do you see the gold happiness of The Kiss? Or do you see the frustration, the pain of The Scream? Because here's the thing. You don't really have to look closer - you can tell at first glance.

I'm trying to find a print of the Klimt painting for my room. Does anyone know where to find it?

I'm sure the majority of this post will turn out to be rambling and senseless analysis in the end. But thinking of things in this way helped me to clear up my thoughts.

If you haven't watched American Beauty, do. It's my all-time favourite movie, it's fantastic. You'll love it.

Thanks for bothering to read such a long-winded post.



  1. Wow that was great! I'm not that great with art but I can really see what you described and it makes me look at it in a different way. I was also curious about that Klimt painting and looked it up. It is lovely though. I'm not sure where you can get it though. I will have a look around.
    By the way, I've tagged you on my blog!

  2. Here are a few links I found for Klimt prints.

    http://www.picturestore.com.au/artist.aspx?artistID=152 ( It's got different types of print styles and more of this artists' work)


    The more I look at it the more I like it =) maybe I should get a little print of it.

  3. Love love love the Klimt print! Sadly, I do not have enough blog followers to continue on the tagging but I'm going to post a blog like you did...trying to think of things other than yours (flats, books :p ) so we don't match too much! Thanks for the links!!