There are some art exhibitions that you go to that simply have the capacity to strike deep. Many shows are pleasing, others interesting, but then there are those which you remember for ever. I’ll never forget for example Frida Kahlo or Henri Rousseau at Tate Modern, Tamara de Lempicka at the Royal Academy, Dali at the Centre Pompidou or Da Vinci at the National Gallery London. Now to that list I add the Kandinsky retrospective at CentroCentro in Madrid, not because it was any better than the Kandinsky I saw many years before at Tate, but simply because the combination of time and energy and who know’s what combined to leave me utterly inspired.
When, the next day, I walked into the Prado and saw Velázquez’s Las Meninas once again, something shifted in my head, and I left an artist converted.
I started my reinterpretations of Las Meninas shortly after the whirl of the Christmas season was over, and my first, Las Meninas (In Our Time) I shared with you a few weeks ago. But my new project was far from over, and this painting, shared today, was the one which leapt into life before my eyes that day in the Prado Gallery when Kandinsky was still very much on my mind.
Las Meninas: Second Interpretative Exercise borrows from Velázquez’s composition, but otherwise radically simplifies the forms of his dramatic personæ, and swaps the dark browns and neutral shades of his painting with a vibrant almost pop-art palette. The result is an image which pleases me incredibly. It is at once abstract but recognisable, tidy but surreal. I had great fun in reimagining each piece of the painting – for example painting the dog’s stretched out arm as a bone, and the nun’s head like a piece of sushi – and best of all, I know that this is only the beginning. Abstraction and simplified forms are spinning around my head. Ideas are overflowing, and I can’t sit still for a need to paint.
It’s why I’ll always remember that Kandinsky show, because it switched on a light in my head which has long remained dormant.
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