Gauguin: The Artist and the Myth by Maria Iotova: Artface Review
Paul Gauguin: Vision of the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel) 1888 Oil on canvas 73 x 92 cm National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh
Described as ‘one of the most original artists of the late nineteenth century’, known for his public persona and relations with his contemporaries, perceived as ‘controversial’ and ‘fascinating’, Paul Gauguin is ‘the maker of myth’.
Dedicate two full hours of your busy day, empty your mind from any concerns and tasks and let yourself into Tate Modern. This is how I turned a dull Monday afternoon to an escape, dream and aspiration. It is not only about Gauguin’s private world and beliefs that are partly revealed in front of each painting, but it is also about your emotions and world images that will develop or change.
Have you ever thought of quitting your daily routine? When was the last time you honestly did what you wanted to instead of what you had to? Is the world too small but at the same time too big to learn about it?
I almost heard Paul Gauguin ‘the stockbroker and family man’ who went in search of lost Edens, saying to me: ‘There is always so much more to know’. Within two hours, I entered eleven worlds, as many as the exhibition’s rooms and I reconsidered the greatest issues of the world being already put on the canvas by Gauguin. Questions and solutions, related to Globalisation, Culture, Religion, Nature, Maternity, Fear, Beauty, Existence, Dream and Psychology arise from the androgynous sculpture ‘Oviri’ or from ‘Christ in the Garden of Olives’ and ‘Manau tupapau’.
The exhibition is a journey between reality and imagination. However, isn’t it this we are struggling for? To make our dreams come true? To Gauguin, Tahiti was the place where he no longer had to follow the rules. While wandering around the exhibition I was thinking of how my ‘Tahiti’ would look like and I myself felt, as Gauguin has put it: ‘an obsessed analyst of my own creation.’
Looking at the paintings you get the feeling of reading the local newspaper of Tahiti, or leafing through the tour guide of South Sea Islands or even being yourself among those primitive people. Gauguin has not simply painted Tahitian faces and figures, but has deeply comprehended the culture they are involved in, the background they came from and the contemporary life they lead, interacting with the landscapes. The realistic rural representations in combination with the passionate and exotic colours compose the thin line that balances dream and reality.
His self-portraits found at the first room of the show titled as Identity and Self-mythology, speak about a man who was trying to understand himself through representing himself in various ways. He had already become a native, long before arriving in Tahiti.
Whether you consider him to be Modern or an expressionist, Paul Gauguin definitely created ‘a passionate equivalent to every sensation received’, as one of his students has described.
There are lots of reasons that the show in Tate Modern is a must-see, and I would not argue with any of them. I found one more reason for seeing this exhibition: the sketch ‘Study of a nude’. Standing in front of the small colourless piece, sketched with few lines, here you see the perfect expression of the authentic female body – what science and technology are attempting create with thousands of extras and applications.
Gauguin: Maker of Myth is at Tate Modern, London (020 7887 8888) from Sept 30 to Jan 16