23 November 2005

Existence preceeds the essence

I visited this evening the exhibition 'Mélancolie', currently at the Grand Palais in Paris. Honestly, if my friend Martin didn't drag me in, I don't think I would have seen it. That would have been a mistake. 'Melancholy' is a wonderful subject but I really didn't know what to expect. Sad paintings all over? Gloomy feeling all the way? Depression waiting for me at the exit? Well, I went anyway - to please a friend. And I enjoyed myself a lot. The exhibition was organized for most part chronologically, from the Antiques to nowadays (yes, it took us 2 hours to go through) but the path was actually pleasing. We saw the meaning of the word evolving through time. From a sin in the Middle Ages to a mark of free-will in the Elizabethan era, from a romantic posture in the 18th century, to a pathology in the 19th century and at the end of it shifting slowly from an urban lonely stance with the Baudelerian Spleen to an existentialist nauseous awareness...
For me, in our contemporary world, melancholy is the necessary symetrical axiom of happiness which could not be sustainable if it was not balanced. This is why I enjoy crying when I go to movies, or listening to sad songs sometimes. And this is also why a Lynch or a Cronenberg dark movie puts me in an exhilarating mood.
As for the exhibition, it would be worth to go if only for the delicate Corot painting of a woman in a white dress, or a series of Odilon Redon drawings (including my favorite - "Le Boulet" - which is an enormous reference for Peter Greenaway). Other interests include a variety of geometrical objects (mostly the Sphere and some sort of muti-facets stones reminding me of 2001 Space Odyssey), skeletons all over of either foetuses or bats, a 16th century portrait drawing of Henry Percy in a symbolic garden (see picture below), 2 masterpieces of Edward Hopper, the Nabuchodonosor of William Blake, Charles Le Brun metamorphosis series (man/wolf, man/fox and man/bear), a Temptation of Saint-Anthony by Jerôme Bosch and I'm going to stop here...
The big question: was it a depressing exhibition? Well, not at all. It was quite playful to actually travel in time and see how artists tried to show the unbearable feeling of living (most of the time though, it's depicted with a man bending his head on the side and holding it with his hand, looking at nothing).
Last bit of fun: in the museum shop, you could try out some fortune telling cards. You'd wonder a question and unveil 2 cards. I did ask a question. And the 2 cards that showed up were "Promotion" and "Success"! Now, could you guess what my question was?...

-- Joëlle.

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