Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pointing at Sunsets

The simple math of a densely populated nation with a first world budget means that a country like Japan gets some of the best (ie. costliest) art exhibits coming through its major cities.

My wife and I were at one such exhibit of mostly impressionist stuff in Kobe a few years back when I had an 'aha' moment - like discovering "The Catcher in the Rye" when I was fifteen and never needing a Hardy Boys adventure (love them as I did) again.

By luck of what had seemed like bad-timing on account of not particularly organized living, we wound up at the museum on the very last hour and a half of the very last day of the exhibit. The luck being that the place was pleasantly peopled, rather than cattle-prod packed, a not minor miracle in Kansai, Japan.

We walked our way round the square of a long rectangular shaped room, following the walls, stopping careful-interested at each painting.

We saw Pissaros and Cezannes and all the big name players you come to see and so much ooh and ahh and eye pleasure, each one more mouth-dropping than the next; this was a big money, big culture, exciting event. We were as floaty buoyed up by the quality of work as anyone, that intensity of colour and light, and the beauty. So much beauty. And the quiet calm that just looking at some paint can do to you. Even the biggest crowds settle down at a decent art gallery.

We were most of the way across the last wall when we reached the single Van Gogh at the show. His 'Room at Arles' [see 'Writerly Advice' post below, or just click it]. And I'm sorry, but Van Gogh, Van Shmo. It's a painting of a room. I mean really. Who gives a shit? [Impossibly vague reference to a line Jennifer Lopez gives in "Out of Sight."]

Who gave a shit? Oh, I don't know - me, Ai, and I'm guessing just about everyone else at the show because that painting, it was like it was glowing it had so much power, so much power it erased all the paintings that came before it, every big money, big name Renoir and Manet and Degas, all these lovely famous, hard-working, enormously talented legends I had minutes earlier been so overjoyed to see, suddenly it was like they didn't even exist, like, I imagine, the terrific excitement of seeing Matt Damon and, say, Edward Norton on stage (if they were stage actors) and then having a 1970s in his prime Serpico, Godfather, Dog Day Afternoon Al Pacino step up onto that stage. That kind of glaring difference.

It wasn't the last painting in the room but I have no memory of a single painting after. That's how good it was.

And like the sunset pointer-outer on a dusk time walk with a friend, I'll not try and explain why the sunset is beautiful. I'll just point and say, 'There! There! Did you see that?'

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