Christian Bahr is kind enough to indulge my clumsy dance with abstract art.
And I was totally honest with him that I know NOTHING about abstract art. I can appreciate that it is an expression of a subjective viewpoint without rules or limits, I can try to drop all expectations and experience it – but my attempts to discuss it are akin to an 8th grade boy at his first class in ballroom dancing. Two Left Feet.
However, I CAN be Jungian and indulge in symbols and associations. In fact, I am so good at symbols and associations that I was once told I gave too many answers to an inkblot test – which means I suffer from chronic apophenia. But if you read this blog with any regularity, you already figured that out.
So today I will apply my Two Left Feet to Bahr’s blazing triptych: Judith and Holofernes.
What Bahr says of his own work:
I bring up the human search of reality as a conflict between inner and outer world, because only the subjective perception is true and real. I dissect the truth behind a supposed reality that surrounds us and keeps up appearances. We are surrounded by only skin-deep impressions as moral and social benchmarks and they try to infiltrate and to manipulate our sensing, feeling and thinking. I discuss the question: what really defines us – you and me, your world and my world – and beyond that what is needless ballast?
He also provides a fascinating Philosophy of Painting on his website – at least I will know if it is truly fascinating after I learn German or hire my niece as a translator.
Where do my own symbols and associations take me? What cognitive connections does the triptych evoke?
- Red – passion, violence, heat, light, intensity, excitement, danger and attraction, approach and avoidance, life blood and death, celebration, impossible to ignore. I do love red in all its shades, but tending from true red to yellow or brown more than toward violet. Selecting a lipstick is a sublime endeavor, an art in itself.
- Three – Noblest of All Digits, the beginning of depth and balance, three-legged stool, tripod; past-present-future; family, Holy Trinity, Magi, Blind Mice, Bears, fairies in Sleeping Beauty, a crowd; count to three, third time’s the charm, how many times I sneeze, Three Dog Night; Hindu Trimurti and Tridevi, Three Jewels of Buddhism, Three Pure Ones of Taoism, Triple Goddess of Wicca (okay, I looked up that last set).
Christian Bahr kindly shared his thoughts about the triptych when i asked:
It is an expressive, abstract artwork, but behind that abstraction (or let me say: reduction) I want to tell the traditional and great story of “Judith & Holofernes”. From the beginning, before I have started the painting(s), it was clear that I wanted to find my own emotional and expressive language to tell the old story of Judith and her fight. It is also a very modern story about the clash of cultures/religions, about the courage of a woman (feminism), the relation between men and women and so on. You know that all. This story contains so much different aspects. That’s why I had to use 3 canvas and not only one. Two with the same dimensions (Judith/Holofernes) and one with bigger dimensions in the center (the confrontation). I have my standpoints, but I don’t want to interpret my paintings too much. I never do that, because I think that the viewer has the right to find independently his own interpretation. My point of view.
Honestly if it is up to me? My first impression of the triptych is to fit it to the chronology of the Judith story: Seduction, Confrontation, Victory. Reading like a story from left to right.
Seduction. In which Judith meets Holofernes in her finest attire – intensity and excitement. In which he considers her beauty and the opportunity to make her a personal conquest – heat and attraction. In which they eat and drink into the night, all part of Judith’s plan – passion and danger. So this first panel provides a pathway by which Judith descends from the dark upper left of the frame. and deliberately entices her victim with the promise of sex in the flaming lower right.
Confrontation. The predominant frame of the story. In which Judith accosts the incapacitated Holofernes with his own fauchion and severs his head from his body – violence, life blood and death. That sweeps and swirls across the frame with force, bisecting the space from left to right, once again ending in darkness – just as Judith bisects his body.
Victory. The cautious and calm return to Bethulia. In which Judith presents the head to the townspeople – celebration. In which they realize the prize placed on the wall has caused the attacking army to flee – the protection of their life blood. Judith’s triumph represented by the upward strokes that resemble her stance before the crowds with the head held high in the white center. Increasing areas of yellow that add lightness and joy to the occasion as the red recedes in intensity and size toward the right.
But that’s just me. There is always room for other interpretations – on your own blog.