Friday, September 30, 2011

girl with a pearl earing

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer

From time to time, when you enter a room, your eyes immediately settle on a particular individual. For whatever reason, they're fascinating, or beautiful - whatever. The point is they are arresting. Art is much the same. When you enter certain gallery-rooms, there'll be one painting out of all the others that immediately calls you. Not necessarily the most 'famous' image, but... an image that speaks directly to you. It's like there's nothing else in the room. Often I'm surprised by the images that manage it. (eg Soutine's le groom beat a bunch of Picasso's recently.)

Today I spent a good hour with this young lady. In all honesty I hadn't gone to see her. I'd gone to see Rembrandt, but I knew she'd be there. I walked into the last room, and there she was, sitting besides a very impressive Dali that I barely noticed was there.

In lots of ways she's comparable to the Mona Lisa. They're about the same size. They're both quite detailed and completely vague. Both their eyes follow you around the room. But there's something about her because of her look. It might be a masculine thing that the look resonates so strongly. The slightly open, moist lips, the vulnerable eyes - something that straddles the erotic/submissive/paternal divide. Indeed it's hard to estimate her age. But it's not a take-your-eyes-off-me-if-you-can morality exercise (eg almost any of Balthus's images). You don't feel guilty looking at her, because you love her. She looks (at me at least) the way women who love(d) me have looked at me. At least... I think so. It's hard to remember. Maybe it's a look i hope women who love me will use. It's hard to say, but it's a look that registers simultaneously on several octaves (erotic through to paternal).

It's like that when you love someone though. Completely blacked out - there's nothing but them. That I remember. You don't notice others around you, you don't notice streetlights and wallpaper. It's just a face etched into your memory. It's a glorious thing actually. I have a few such images tucked into my ventricles that I cherish. If you split me down to my atoms they'd still remember those few moments where the world disappeared and all i saw was your lips in the motionless car I couldn't get out of. (for example).

There's a lot to it I guess.

A group of American high-school children came through. None of them recognised the image. The tourguide was shocked. You've never seen the movie? They hadn't. I felt a little old. He was a wonderful guide. Taking their (almost shocking ignorance) and trying to stimulate the way they looked at the image. Yes, but every image in this room has shadows, why is this image so valuable? One student offered: cause she's pretty. He nodded, and tried another approach. Maybe they're too young still to have given/received this look. I've known the painting a long while and never really... connected with it.

Some of the children lingered on, while others moved off to look at other things. Eventually they all left and I was alone in staring at her.

When I walked down the stairs to leave I felt like I'd broken someone's heart. That's been happening a bit lately so I'm a bit hyper-sensitive to it.

Here, maybe my friend can explain it better:

___For hearts so touch'd, so pierc'd, so lost as mine.
___Ere such a soul regains its peaceful state,
___How often must it love, how often hate!
___How often hope, despair, resent, regret,
___Conceal, disdain — do all things but forget.
___But let Heav'n seize it, all at once 'tis fir'd;
___Not touch'd, but rapt; not waken'd, but inspir'd!
___Oh come! oh teach me nature to subdue,
___Renounce my love, my life, myself — and you.

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