|PETER GREENAWAY||CLASSIC PAINTINGS REVISITED|
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2 June - 6 August 2006
16 April - 6 September 2008
Santa Maria delle Grazie
30 June 2008
10 October - 8 November 2009
New York, USA
Park Avenue Armory
3 December 2010- 6 January 2011
San Giorgio Maggiore Isle, Venice, Italy
Fondazione Giorgio CIni
6 June - 13 September 2009
|There have been over eight thousand years of Western painting, and not yet 115 years of cinema, and both media are rumoured to have characteristics that establish ideas, in form and in content, with a visual vocabulary.|
Some may say, perhaps some ought to say, that the two media have so much in common, that they ought to dialogue, to converse with one another much more frequently and much more directly. How should that dialogue be conducted? Starting with a time and light installation projected onto the original Rembrandt painting of The Nightwatch in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Peter Greenaway has embarked on a series of painting-cinema dialogues with some key-note European and American paintings in National Collections around the world.
REMBRANDT - THE NIGHTWATCH (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam) The defining post-catholic, post-aristocratic, post-reformation consolidating image of a bourgeois, nationalistic, proto-democratic, middle-class society triumphant, prophetically indicative of the whole swing of the sense of community of modern history. And it uses for the very first time in painting history, such a very sophisticated vocabulary of artificial light, that cinema itself, which is no more than the manipulation of artifical light, seem prologued and retrospectively threatened and maybe even diminished.
DA VINCI - THE LAST SUPPER (Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan) The definitive High Renaisaance solidarity statement of Christian belief posited in the centre of the new Humantistic Revolution - the newly powerful revised Catholic-Christian world finally meets the Old Classic Greco-Romano world on equal terms.
A very consciously framed three dimensional architectural space turned into a two-dimensional illusion is offered in such a way as to challenge what cinema thinks it has the right and responsibility to do in association with the frame, that artificial concept through which we have viewed all of the visual arts since the Renaissance.
VERONESE - THE WEDDING AT CANA (Louvre, Paris) The culmination of a post-High Renaissance theatrical and classical interpretation of "the mixed and mighty society of the world" present at a central calumny of Christianity - the metaphorical veiled marriage of Christ - making of Christ a truly Renaissance-empirical mortal man, the desired "human son of God" a presentation prophesied and desired by Christianity to be subjectively negotiated by all its practioners - a defining moment of the ideal interaction between the three ideas that had created a pre-reformation Europe - the classical Golden Age, Roman Catholicism and the Humanist Renaissance.
RAFAEL - WEDDING OF THE VIRGIN (Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan) The three great painters of the High Renaissance, da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael, all of whom we could anticipate as proto-film-makers in another age, are represented in this series. Raphael's Wedding of the Virgin is a very highly finished work, we could say, a work of extreme "high definition and resolution", a work of landscape, architecture and people - that ideal combination of man's presence on earth, supreme evidence of civilisation as we have grown to understand the term.
It is a demonstration indeed of a fully resolved, very clearly demarcated and finished work, a work we can truly and better understand after a century of photography and cinema and all the related sophisticated media of reproduction and representation.
PICASSO - GUERNICA (Reina Sophia, Madrid) The collapse of memetic figuration and retinal illusionism of five thousand years of painting is finally consolidated in this painting, which is also a highly critical political-aesthetic comment on violence, the end of pre-modern history, and the very last example of the genre of the "history-picture". How can cinema successfully compete with such a complex but also such an economic image?
VELASQUEZ - LAS MENINAS (Prado, Madrid) The most accomplished and sophisticated of all the illusionistic High Baroque images centred on a recognition of the most powerful European absolutist monarchial ascendency before monarchy destabilised. And the first true benchmark meeting of a finally fully emancipated painter with his audience, which is not only with patronage at the highest level, but with us, the common viewer, who has for a century now become familiar with this sort of encounter in the cinema.
MONET- THE WATER-LILIES-NYMPHEAS (Orangerie, Tuileries, Paris) Fully recognised environmetal germinal work laying astride the move from figuration to non-figuration, whilst still embracing various levels of romanticism in both form and content, offering rare legitimate opportunities for contemplation with consolation. With sound, movement and temporality, can cinema with its gradual contemporary movement towards environmental art, add more to this vocabulary without being anecdotal and engaging in mimicry?
SEURAT - LA GRANDE JATTE (Art Institute, Chicago) The intellectual credibility wanted to justify much intuitive experimentation and overcome the epater les bourgeois gesturing at the dawn of modern painting, was given by investigators like Seurat. The showpiece work consolidating a confidence in associating new visions with new orders of serious scientific method that had very contemporary associations, at the same time, quoting the long continuity of history painting and acknowledging that scientific polemic can engage with the pleasure principle. An analogous technological aesthetic governs the comprehensibity of cinema.
POLLOCK - ONE: NUMBER 31(Moma, New York) The exploration of non-figurative, self-reflexive, non-illusionistic painting finally comes of age. European ascendency in cultural superiority is finally, decisively and definitively overtaken by the New World with a statement that is critical of all that the European tradition considered valuable.
MICHELANGELO - THE LAST JUDGEMENT (Vatican, Rome) The mother and apotheosis of all endings. The real "Final Solution". Finality personified, in the ultimate tortured heroic work. The ultimate comment on commendable civilisation and egregious self-interest. A statement that transcends the local polarities of Christianity and offers us a choice - Civilisation or Die