Last Saturday, while I was in the school library doing some work at the graduate school internet nook in the second floor (yeah, that cold open space there at the reference section – ‘coz they are renovating and expanding the cybernook at the ground floor), a friend called and asked me to e-mail her ASAP a painting that is romantic, sensual, abstract, organic, at walang tao.
Apparently she and her co-workers needed it in their shoot or story conference or something. She’s into production.
I welcomed the challenge although I found the standards quite contradictory: how can something that’s supposed to be visual be sensual without showing bodies in contact? The specs are clear: walang tao. I did not even understand what she meant by organic until she explained it later in a follow-up phone call – there has to be something natural in it, like a plant perhaps, she said. Alright then, I thought.
Pero walang tao.
I ended up sending her a link to Marc Chagall’s Adam and Eve. And a link to Come Back To Bed by a certain Steve Atkinson. Adam and Eve is definitely abstract, organic (I believe those green stuff hanging overhead of the abstract figures are supposed to be leaves), sensual – I just don’t know about romantic. And I definitely violated the walang tao condition because abstracted as they are, there stood the naked bodies of Adam and Eve, two of the first tao on earth, right smack at the center of the painting.
As for Come Back To Bed, I just thought that maybe with that I could definitely satisfy them with the walang tao rule. A bed, deserted and undone after a night of love-making, is both romantic and sensual and walang tao. The rendition was not abstract, though. But it was painted using impressionist-like strokes. As for organic, I don’t remember any plant or thing of nature in that bed painting. Had they wanted bodies there, that would definitely make it organic.
Finally I sent a link to Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss, too. Just in case they’d re-think the walang tao clause.
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There are five artworks I love the most:
Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night
The Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Hokusai
Sacrifice Of Isaac (1598 version) by Caravaggio
The Kiss by Gustav Klimt
The Son Of Man by Rene Magritte
The van Gogh is the first ever painting I ever liked, seeing it in encyclopedias as a kid. There’s something in how he made the sky swirl – it draws you in, it makes you spin – or so I thought as a kid. The Hokusai I like because I consider it a twin of the van Gogh sky. It is not even a painting – it is a woodblock print. The Caravaggio I like simply because I love the Isaac story, and Caravaggio’s 1598 version of the story is the one I find most visually arresting – natural yet otherworldy both at the same time. The golden Klimt, which I hold as the sexiest and most romantic painting I ever saw, is something that I first learned of from the film Dying Young, yeah, with the terminally ill Campbell Scott terminally in love with the golden-haired Julia Roberts. The Magritte I first saw from The Thomas Crown Affair of 1999 – and no artwork could have best captured the spirit of Thomas Crown but that man in that painting, with his face hid and with his twisted left arm.
Actually, there is another artwork, a drawing that I like. I have been looking for it but cannot find it in this world wide webby wilderness. It is this drawing of endless, inteconnected, inverted, twisted, infinite flights of stairs. I first encountered it in a geometry book, high school. Maybe one day I’ll finally re-discover it.
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You know what would be another cool job apart from being a librarian (yeah, it’s cool being a librarian – Philip Larkin was one!)? Being a museum curator.
But of course being Thomas Crown tops them all.