“Psyche….You’re Such A Drama Queen!”

While we wait, here’s something to tide us over.

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20181209 Birmingham Trip L1061017 Psyche, Drama Queen resized

December 2018, afternoon.

I walk slowly through the large rooms of the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. It is quiet today and the sun is shining outside. It is nice to be indoors and warm.

My first impulse on seeing this painting by Jean-Baptiste Marie Pierre is to chuckle. And then to point my camera. And then to take a picture, set to f/2.8, 1/750, ISO-3200.

In today’s world of soundbites and memes, this masterpiece seems to beg for a suitable caption with which to travel around the world, bringing joy and merriment as it bounces along handheld devices and LED screens.

And yet, the mythical scene depicted here is anything but amusing. Psyche is abandoned by her lover Cupid and tries to drown herself.

She is rescued at the last minute by water nymphs, or naiads.

As with much mythology, digging deeper into the roots of the story leaves one on somewhat shaky ground.

Psyche is being punished, it would appear, for being beautiful and Cupid accidentally fell in love with her by being pricked by his own arrow when he was on an errand by his jealous mother, Venus, to punish Psyche for being beautiful and causing people to offer their sacrifices to her – rather than Venus – and to call [Psyche] the second incarnation of Venus.

(If you will, Venus 2.0)

And Cupid didn’t abandon her so much as he ran away when his identity was discovered by Psyche as her curiosity got the better of her and she decided to disobey his instructions he had given that she was not to shine a light on him under any circumstances during his nocturnal visits while he kept her in a palace in the sky…and yet she did just that, after being goaded on to do so by her jealous sisters who sowed the seeds of doubt about her lover by reminding her that it was suggested by the oracle who her father met with that she would be betrothed to a fire-breathing dragon creature… as one does.

(…wait, what?)

So, as part of her redemption, Venus demands that Psyche perform a series of impossible – ok, probably hard to do – tasks. But her heart’s not into it and she’s dealing with these difficult emotions of having Cupid leave her. So she figures that she’ll let herself go, and drown in the river she’s been told to cross because… quite frankly, life’s just not worth living without winged hotties.

She seems rather unconcerned at being rescued, by the way.

But rescued she is all the same by those busy-body naiads. You know them – the one’s who hang around by the water cooler. Or fountain. They probably don’t have much work to do this afternoon. This is the highlight of their day.

The story ends well – for a mythical tale, that is. She suffers a bit more and then gets immortality and a proper wedding to Cupid and everything is happily ever after.

But back to the painting.

Despair has never looked so…. melodramatic!

Jean-Baptiste deftly captures the scene on canvas with a pleasing colour palette of blues and greens for the background and drawing us in with the reds and shades of white of her outfit. It is a balanced composition with Psyche placed in the centre of the frame and the four female naiads all around her.

This sense of balance exists within the lighting applied to the subjects – each is brightly illuminated against the dim background but there are no harsh shadows to be found here.

We are gently reminded of the rays of hope that can often be found illuminating our way, even in our darkest hour.

An allegory for our world today.

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References
(1) http://www.birminghammuseums.org.uk/explore-art/items/1906P30/psyche
(2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cupid_and_Psyche
(3) https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/psyche-rescued-by-naiads-33296
(4) https://vads.ac.uk

…But First, Let Me Take A Selfie

…There you are!!!

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20180919 London L1060907 Selfie Master Rembrandt Aged 34 National Gallery resized

September 2018, afternoon.

I am excited to be in the National Gallery. All around me, people are bustling about through the grand entrance hall of the Sainsbury’s Wing goyer. There are around 30 of us waiting for the afternoon tour to begin. Soon enough, our tour guide appears.

We make our way through the building. I do not plan to take any photographs here – my visit is part of a personal undertaking, to learn more about the great art masters and the works that are now on display.

That is, until I see Rembrandt.

(I think he saw me first)

He seems to watch us with the passing interest of a self-assured, confident man. He is unperturbed in the slightest as I automatically reach for my camera, set to f/4, 1/30, ISO-1000

To my mind, Rembrandt is the ultimate selfie-master.

Our tour guide gives us a brief overview of his life, and this particular painting – “Rembrandt, Self Portrait at the Age of 34”.

We learn that he painted more than 40 self-portraits over the course of his life. In this portrait, he is seen here at the height of his career, richly dressed. The pose he adopts here is inspired by two paintings he saw in Amsterdam –Raphael’s “Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione”, and Titian’s “A Man with a Quilted Sleeve”.

Indeed, he went as far as to make a sketch of Raphael’s painting and note its price.

Art influenced by other art.
A photograph inspired by art influenced by other art.

I am sure he would approve.

 

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References
(1) https://colourlex.com/project/rembrandt-self-portrait-at-the-age-of-34/
(2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-portrait_at_the_age_of_34
(3) https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/

(Ta) Da!

Everybody sing along!

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20180814 Austria Trip L1058640 Vienna MUMOK Da resized

Tuesday afternoon, summer.

Oh Vienna! Today is not going according to plan. The sun hides behind the grey overcast skies. The rain falls lightly, making everything damp. I hold my bag with one hand and an umbrella with the other. And my camera? It’s in the other hand – yes the one grappling with the bag.

It takes nearly half an hour before I conclude that my efforts will be better applied in an indoor setting. The weather report suggests the rain will subside.

Several hours later, I have now made my way across the city, from Belvedere Palace to the Museum Quartier. On foot. The rain has stopped, the sun seems to giggle as it shines intermittently through the clouds.

I climb the stairs and enter the imposing stone clad building that houses the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (Museum of Modern Art Foundation Ludwig, Vienna), more simply known as MUMOK.

MUMOK, with its sprawling collection of modern and contemporary art works including major works from Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso, is my playground for the next two hours.

Oh yes!

A friendly member of staff inspects my ticket and suggests that I should ride the elevator/lift to the top floor and work my way down through the various exhibitions.

Modern art is fascinating.
It follows no rules.

(Except, of course, the rules that it chooses to make up along the way)

It is best absorbed – and even enjoyed – by adopting a state of mind that is open and free from preconceptions, expectations and notions. One must suspend judgement and embrace nothing and everything, leaving reason behind.

I am greeted by Heinrich Dunst’s giant pink letterforms in the corner.

DA.

I hear the sound echo through the chambers of my mind – confident, unabashed, unapologetic, defiant.

(Look at the image again and you might understand what I mean)

Simply marvellous!

I stand there for nearly a minute before I bring the camera to my eye, adjust for the lower light levels, set to f/2.4, 1/125, ISO-1000.

And soon it is time to leave.

Back in London, I change the white balance, re-frame the image, perform the final composition check and complete post-production editing.

20180929 London L1058640 layout guidelines

The image itself provides its title.

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