His Most Famous Sculpture – Cloud Shepherd – Jean Arp

Jean Arp / Hans Arp (September 16, 1886 – June 07, 1966) was one the most prolific, venerated and famous German-French sculptor, painter, and poet. His designs were concrete in nature and he would distort reality to express his political viewpoint in the form of art. Arp had adopted many styles, especially ‘Surrealism’ and ‘Abstractionism.’ He also founded ‘Dadaism.’ Jean’s main interest lied in ‘Surrealism,’ as through it, he could liberally express his philosophical and political opinions. In 1931, he ventured for sculpturing, which while being substantial in nature, also symbolized his particular viewpoint. One such most famous sculpture by Jean Arp is “Cloud Shepherd,” unveiled at the Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas, Venezuela, in 1953. The sculpture continues to grace the university.

The Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas is famous for its architectural brilliance and urban planning. This university was exceptionally famous for its massive and prolific art sculptures, all of which were initially planned by architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva. Many sculptors from around the world contributed to this project. Noteworthy among them was “Cloud Shepherd” by Jean Arp. During the construction of the sculpture, the world had just survived from the Second World War. Arp wanted to depict his political viewpoints, which he achieved through this sculpture.

Placed near Plaza Cubierto in the university, this sculpture, made from pure bronze, was quite tangible in nature. This was different from the traditional methods of sculpturing, which were more abstract and deviated from the reality. “Cloud Shepherd” was more real, as it occupied more space, which Arp intended, since he believed that sculpture was a composition like ‘a fruit that grows in man’. This sculpture had clear shape and structure, on which when a sudden gleam of light falls; it illuminates the entire surrounding with its refraction. The curve of the sculpture symbolized the marvels of nature, such as clouds, hills, and lakes to depict his dislike against machines and money, which were the root cause for the wars.

Flavored with ‘Surrealism’ and ‘Dadaism,’ through “Cloud Shepherd,” Hans Arp wanted to express his dislike of the bourgeois capitalist society. Due to its architectural marvel, the site of “Cloud Shepherd,” Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas, UNESCO, in 2000, listed it as ‘The World Heritage Site.’ The contribution of Jean Arp for this university project cannot be forgotten, owing to his innovative sculpture “Cloud Shepherd,” a perfect memento to the field of art.

Rene Magritte: Raining Men and Apples

Everything is more memorable when it’s connected to a song or a piece of music. A distant dwindling emotion is instantly heightened, an old love we’d done our best to mentally burn to ashes and scatter into the abyss of oblivion is immediately resurrected, a place is recalled, an incident is brought forth or we ourselves are jolted back if any of those things were accompanied by music when we experienced them.

I chanced upon the work of René Magritte a few years ago when I was watching television at a friend’s house. After a succession of alarmingly talentless pop stars, a song came on by a classical Arab singer I absolutely adore, an icon and one of the very few I follow. I sat up attentively and increased the volume.

Julia Boutrous is the epitome of class, talent, patriotism and femininity in the Middle-East. Her voice is soft and pure and she represents a period in the evolution of Arabic music when more value was placed on substance, depth and talent. She also happens to be extremely beautiful.

The name of the song was “Shi ghareeb” which in Arabic translates to “Something strange“. What I foundstrange, in the most positive way, was the video for this song.

Blue and white were the dominant colors in the video; Julia is seen in an empty room with a window, a mirror and a framed canvas. When she’s not looking at her own reflection in those objects, she’s watching clocks dropping from the white clouds, or a rain of green apples and suited clock-faced bowler-hat-wearing men. It made absolutely no sense.

I learnt later from my friend, an interior designer, that the video was inspired by several René Magritte paintings. Mainly Golconde and The Listening Room.

René Magritte was a Belgian surrealist artist and writer. Prior to adopting a Surrealist style Magritte’s art was initially impressionistic. His first surrealist painting was The Lost Jockey.

He held his first exhibition in Brussels in 1927 to scathing reviews from critics. He left to Paris following this failure and that’s where he got even more involved with the Surrealist movement when he met André Breton, the French poet, writer and the founder of Surrealism.

What I enjoy about Magritte’s paintings is that he never tried to tell us what he meant with his art. Like all Surrealists, Magritte aimed to reveal the unconscious mind. However, he did that by juxtaposing his seemingly unrelated symbols and offered your unconsciousness the pleasure of making a connection itself. His paintings often included the ‘man-made’ side by side with the ‘natural’, perhaps in a way indicating a rivalry or a struggle. For example, a brick wall and a clear sky, an apple and a man with a bowler’s hat, a naked woman with a mirror, trees growing out of a table, and so on. Was he alluding to us consciously (man-made) restraining our unconscious minds (which are natural and limitless)? I am no art critic, but I’d like to think that in some of his paintings, Magritte does exactly that. The titles of his paintings are more hints about their meanings than they are descriptions about what we are looking at.

At the age of thirteen, Magritte’s mother committed suicide by drowning herself in a river. She was found dead with her dress over her face. Her suicide had a big impact on Magritte’s art and the many paintings of his of people with concealed faces are thought to be the result of that experience.

The Vancouver Art gallery is hosting a Surrealism exhibition (The Color of my Dream; the Surrealist Revolution in Art), and Magritte’s paintings are among those on display. I intend on going there before the exhibition ends in September. I’ll be thinking of Julia Boutrous when I do.

A Modern Yet Classic Surrealist Artist – The Value Of Anna Chromy

Anna Chromy was born in Bohemia and read in Paris, France at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere under Maurice Mejaz, the former director of the Academie of Beaux-Arts in Caracas. She has showed in Venice’s Biennale plus many art galleries in Europe, like the Salon du Printemps in Paris and the Syra Gallery in Barcelona.

Chromy says of her art:

“I really enjoy the elaborate baroque style of my homeland, which I endeavor to show via the poetic surroundings and the sublimation of realism in my paintings. I choose for subjects living beings, including animals, rather than inanimate or abstract entities which often only tend to add to a lot of our latent doubts and curiosity. The head of a horse, a cat, or a dog can easily expose as much about our emotions as that of a human being.”

Her painting ‘Entanglement’ features the beliefs of the artist with its baroque composition mingled aided by the erotic appearance of bodies enjoying the antics of love and dance. The aluring quality of the work is noticeable in the undulating figures that are, concurrently, real and imaginary. The activity of the lovers gives way to the perspective of their performance in a marriage that is mutually cerebral and personal. Their dance turns into a dance of 4 physiques rather than simply a pas-de-deux. Surrounding these figures, Chromy has created a womb-like setting which encompasses these forms in a textural life of light and shadow.

Chromy’s art examine ideas from natural beauty and compassion to the deepest part of our sub-conscious spirit. ‘To Be Or Not To Be’ is a journey through the absolute depths of our anxieties and our dreams of death. The bare figure of a woman lies diagonally over the picture, her face turned away from us. Adjacent to her is an weightily robed figure, sitting down in thought, whose face is undetectable in deep shadow. He or she feels simultaneously existing and missing, overseeing the female’s destiny yet inaccessible. Behind him drifts the walls of a building, religious in its bristling presence. As a result of Chromy’s unique style of overcoating fresh paint on canvas, it’s possible to discover visions of faces and floating entities in each part of the painting; these types of visions can be construed by the audience in his individual unique way. She has transcended the sensual with the fearful, the recognised with the unfamiliar, to the extent that she has made a steadiness and tranquility throughout the subject theme and its meaning.

Her art challenges yet will never dictate; it seduces but does not envelop. The styles are carefully presented to risk interpretation. The artist never imposes meaning on the viewer; alternatively she permits us to come into the joy of her creations and ideas and to make that world our own. Chromy injects inanimate objects with life and movement and creatures often appear to adopt human sentiments, as in the horses that wander freely throughout her art – contained both in action and intensity of expression.

‘Paris on Stage’ challenges us to begin a symbolic journey through the entirety of our subconscious. Its haunting dream-like quality is enhanced all over again by her technique of adding image upon image. The torso of a girl which dominates the left-hand side of the canvas seems to be both vividly full of life and yet strangely on display, like a Greco Roman sculpture. From behind her gallops a riderless horse, similar to the ‘Lost Jockey’ of Magritte in its dream-like joumey. Below lies the metropolis of Paris, looking similar to the old household of the gods, while in the forefront an abstract image floats just like the fluid imagination and dreams of the subconscious.

Throughout Chromy’s work are interwoven such well known themes as male and female, conception and death, and yet she depicts her subjects in unusual and subtle ways.

Chromy says:

“Celebrations are like dreams, occasions of complete liberation. To appear in disguise represents to me a creative act through which I can slip away into another dimension, transforming space and time. It is in this way that we can appear in different guises as diverse and iridescent as our most intimate feelings without having to reveal ourself to others.”

Anna Chromy does not make rough drawings for her paintings. They come in an instant from the spiritual sincerity of her art. Her technique possesses a roughness, a raw beauty not attained via the overpolishing and re-doing of a piece.

Chromy’s own perspective of her art is similar to that of other visionary or surrealist artists in her desire to share with the viewer her distinct world. “Every human being should therefore analyze my pictures like they effect his inner thoughts and not try to study me through my pictures. To see produces inner expression whose awakening of the conscious self distinguishes man from other creatures.”