I paid a visit to the Picasso museum in Malaga.
He’s not everyone’s favourite artist, but he’s cast a spell upon me. He doesn’t tell you what exactly is going on in his paintings, he makes you work. You can’t just look at a Picasso and think, what is this? A man’s face? He’s got a weird nose and what’s up with his deformed eyes? Next painting.
It’s easy to quickly make many assumptions about what it is we’re looking at, first impressions are given excessive weight because they’re all we have. At least in the beginning. We draw conclusions without knowing we’re doing it, every day, all the time.
I watch them. The people listening to their audio-guide about one painting, whilst walking the length of the gallery staring at the other paintings as they go. I’m sorry, but this isn’t how to get your money’s worth from an art gallery, especially one with paintings as potentially powerful as Picasso’s are. You have to put the work in.
It’s like going to the opera wearing earplugs.
There’s one particular picture that resonates with me, but I’m not sure why. I stare at is so long my audio-guide gives up. It resets back to start and asks me to select a language. Some paintings are too painful to look at for too long, others I stare at wide eyed, grinning like a small child given a chocolate ice-cream with sprinkles and a flake. I already have the feelings. The paintings just act as a map showing me how to feel. All I have to do is be there, with my mind in the present and without too much prior judgement.
I need that map. Sometimes I keep everything I feel so carefully walled in I get stuck trying to decipher how I actually feel.
Picasso’s paintings take you stage through stage of different aspects of emotion. Each one shows you something different about yourself.
How did I learn to stop and look like this? I know that my parents and grandparents taking me to galleries when I was small certainly helped. A little part is schooling, a practical understanding that there are different artists communicating the same messages of love and hurt but through different mediums, different techniques and different perspectives. Life drawing teaches you to focus on what it is that you really see, not just what you believe you see. I know that if I spend two hours staring at the same scene, I’ll see it differently to if you just take a quick glance.
And then there’s my paintings. When I’m just creating with no purpose other than the compulsion to do so, I find myself creating something that tells me more about how I feel that I had been willing to admit.
Other people use music or stories.
Yet despite taking the time to wait for a picture to talk to me, when the face is animate, when it’s a real person I’m looking at, my immediate assumptions dictate everything. I leap to conclusions and pretend to myself that I understand, which might well be a useful survival instinct, but when you’ve passed the ‘is this person intending to do me harm’ stage of analysis, these quick conclusions begin doing more harm than good.
Left long enough they begone ingrained as beliefs.
It’s impossible to understand all that a person’s face is fighting to tell and hide. You can live with them for many years, and still be stunned by how they behave. The Mother, for example, left my car radio on loud when I collected her from the station one afternoon recently. I would have bet a whole week of washing up on her turning it down. I was wrong.
Picasso can make the simplest construct of a few lines and some bright colours appear to have depth. It isn’t a false depth. It isn’t an illusion. People really aren’t all they appear at first sight. If you want to see depth, you have to be patient, even if it means eventually having to ask for help because your audio guide got bored.