Friday, April 11, 2008

In Solitude

a view of the sea at Oostende,Belgium

Aside from impressionist paintings, I’m also fascinated by Edward Hopper’s works. The above seascape in Oostende, Belgium reminds me of Ground Swell, in display at Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, DC). Looking at Hopper’s painting, I can feel the boat tilting on its side, the three men’s gaze riveted towards the floating object, the wind blowing the sail taut. I’m not an art critic but one thing I like about Hopper’s paintings is the play of light and shadow in his works.This is not that evident in his painting I've just cited. But if you’ll get a chance to see some of his other works, you’ll know what I mean.

As exemplified by Ground Swell, his work is characterized by “neat well-defined” strokes (for lack of a better term). It is something that I’m really fond of --- like one of those "between wars" commercial posters, which is not surprising as he worked as publicity/commercial artist. I love his use of colors --- even if he used warm hues, the painting still manages to have a calming effect… well, at least for me. And in a way, he did not only capture the colors, the light and shadow, the movement. He was able to seize the mood of the scene, the emotion haunting each figure, inviting you to take a part in the scene.

By looking at his works, you somehow identify with the human figures depicted. I think this is the reason why his paintings are so fascinating. You’re not just a by-stander watching them through a transparent barrier. You are invited to take part in the scene portrayed in the canvas. In Ground Swell, you find yourself in the boat, feeling the wind on your face, swaying as the boat careen with the sea swell looking with their eyes, listening with their ears, perceiving things around with their minds.

Ground Swell by Edward Hopper taken from
(look for Edward Hopper in Wikipedia and click the link to this image)

His works also prompts your imagination to create personalities, conversations, stories about the scene and the painted “characters.” In the painting above, the man on the foreground might be thinking, “I hope I can steer this boat before that bell hits us.” The man in black might be admiring the woman, wondering how he can make her his. The woman’s gaze might be flickering between the sky and the bell, or might be focused on the man’s torso (the half naked man in front of her might be the boat’s captain based on his bronzed body). Your imagination is summoned to play a part in the painting, hence, involving you more. It’s like, Hopper is telling a story by giving you the rundown and feel of the plot. But he’s not the sole teller. In his paintings he asks you, “what do you suppose he’s thinking”, “what do you envision to happen next,” why do you think he’s looking like that”, etc. His works allow you to be an active participant and not be merely a “listener” or a viewer.

In several of his paintings, there are groups of people who seem to be intimate or discussing or looking at the same thing. But if you look closely, you see that each personage is lost in his own thoughts. I guess this depicts a truth in life --- that of being alone in the crowd. Whether we are truly alone or not doesn’t negate the reality of the feeling of solitude. We do feel alone at times. I believe everybody goes through this phase at least once in their lives. What we have to keep in mind is the paradox that we are not alone in being alone. And I think this is one of those fine invisible threads tying humans together.


Lalaine said...

that's a nice shot Lareine!

I miss scrutinizing and studying paintings, just like what you did in this post..used to love doing that when I was still a student, we'd go to art galleries, museums and be 'involved' in the painting..I have to do more of that again, it's refreshing you know..:)

From the Eyes of my Heart said...

"I think this is the reason why his paintings are so fascinating. You’re not just a by-stander watching them through a transparent barrier. You are invited to take part in the scene portrayed in the canvas."

this is also exactly the reason why i love looking at photographs and paintings. really enjoyed this post, lareine =) from the picture to the words love it!

lareine said...

to lalaine: i agree with you --- visiting museums is one great recreational activity.... you're lucky to have done that when you were a student:)... maybe you can resume that now with your kids:)... and through their eyes, i think they can give a fresh perspective on the paintings on display :)

thank you very much for the visit :)

lareine said...

to "from the eyes of my heart": thank you for enjoying this post (even though it's a bit long :))... images can be really powerful --- they open a dam of emotions and ideas and are rich expression of our thoughts and feelings...

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