Tag Archives: British Museum

Ta Matete – aka, Walk Like a Tahitian

26 Dec

We're not going to the market today

“Painting is the most beautiful of all arts. n it, all sensations are condensed; contemplating it, everyone can create a story at the will of his imagination and -wih a single glance- have his soul invaded by the most profound recollections; no effort of memory, everything is summed up in one instant”

NOT long ago, a man told me that it is necessary to separate a person from its work. We were talking about Roman Polanski, that director who can’t go to the States due to an open case on child abuse. “The Ghost Writer”, his latest movie -which in the beginning I was rluctant to see due to rejection- is, to say the least: Excellent.

 It seems then that he was right. We need to separate.

 Paul Gauguin was the classic stereotype of a man any woman (ok.. me at least) would lose her mind for: intelligent, educated, adventurous, sensible at times, a bit stubborn some other times, and passionate most times (for which we could say he had a soft spot for women): an overall curious soul.

But he was also an abandonic father and husband, who was no stranger to child abuse himself -well, in Tahiti that wasn’t frowned upon-.

 When Gauguin decides to escape his reality, he leaves for the land of the “primitive” -curiously, where he felt most himself-. This shouldn’t come a surprise, after all, our friend had latin roots; his grandmother was Flora Tristán, whose uncle had been the viceroy of Peru. Not only that, already since Flora’s times, his family had a clear marxist tendency.

Paul is born in 1848, during Paris’ revolt, and in 1849 his family escapes to Peru; where they will spend the following six years. Back in Orleans and after several failed attempts to run away from his home, an adolescent Paul Gauguin enrolls as a junior steerer in a freight boat where he spent another five years. Upon his return he finds himself in a broken home and under the guardianship of Gustavo Arosa, a neighbor and family friend who had great influence on him both artistically and professionally. Mr. Arosa was an enthusiastic art collector: Delacroix, Pisarro, Corot, Courbet…all of them were hanging on his walls. He was also who introduced Gauguin to the banking business where he met Emile Schuffenecker, another art enthusiast who later abandons banking to work as a professor at the Lycée Michelet. Once immersed in the art scene, Gauguin starts to feel more and more stuck -by this time he was married and had a couple of kids, worked in an environment that didn’t suit him-; and decides to leave his rigid job, as well as the rest of the things he felt tied him down, to go and live as the savage that he said he was.

“The savage is decidedly better than us. You were once wrong to say that I was mistaken in calling me a savage. It is true, nevertheless, I am. And the civilixed foresee it, thus there’s nothing surpriding or confusing in my work except this savage-in-spit-of-himself. (…) That is why solitude shouldn’t be advised for everyone, since one has to have the strengh to be able to bear it and act alone”

 And he went to Tahiti.

 As one of the precursors of pictorial symbolism, he saw reality and painting from a different point. He used to say, regarding color -and this is a reflection of his wild nature-:

“What color do you see this tree? is it really green? Use green, then, the most beautiful in your palette. And that shadow, rather blue? Don’t be afraid to paint it as blue as possible.”

“(…) Colors are even more explanatory, though less varied (than lines) because of their power over the eye. there are noble tones, ordinary, tranquil harmonies, consoling ones, other that excite for their vigor.”

Finally, his postulate was that painting had to be a carrier of ideas and for that, subordinate to color; and he even said to his good friend Schuffenecker: “A word of advice: do not paint much from nature. Art is an abstraction; derive this abstraction from nature while dreaming before it and think more about the creation that will result from it.”

 In Ta Matete we can see a group of chromatic stains that subconsiously has an effect on us. Symbolism would somehow derive into abstraction, which takes me back to my first post, in which I wondered why, if I didn’t understand art, I thought Malevich was a genious. Abstraction was always appealing to me.

  When I came back from my last trip, I had an American student who dared me to this sort of psychological test that a friend of his had taught him, and made me draw a pig… I know what you’re thinking… “miss fashion designer drew a fantastic pig!”…mhhh not so much… “I am a symbolist!” I told him.

  I’m all about the history as well, so it’s only natural that I’d be drawn to the work of one of the fathers of abstraction -always referring back to the sources!-. and on that note, it is worth mentioning that after Gauguin’s death, a series of japanese prints, a reproduction of Manet’s Olympia… and a XVIII Theban Dynasty painting reproduction -the original is in the British Museum and clearly served as a model for Ta Matete-, were found in his hut.

 I would like to go back to the quote with which I opened this post:

“Painting is the most beautiful of all arts. n it, all sensations are condensed; contemplating it, everyone can create a story at the will of his imagination and -wih a single glance- have his soul invaded by the most profound recollections; no effort of memory, everything is summed up in one instant”

 Ta Matete, to me, is being six years old “Walking Like An Egyptian” in disneyworld with my mom and grandma; it’s growing up in a family of women, it’s my mom, my grandma, my aunt, Marta and her looking up to Ela -that’s what we call my gradnma- and her tacchini (heels), my cousins, Gilmore Girls, Sex & the City, The Bangles, Veruca Salt, the Spice Girls… and my friends :).

 And now… what do you recall? What do you see? … to women: which one are you of these? and to men… which one do you prefer?