Wednesday, June 22

A True Artist

Excerpt from Associated Press:

"LONDON Jun 20, 2005 — .....Paintings by Congo the chimpanzee sold at auction for more than $25,000. The three abstract, tempera paintings were auctioned at Bonhams in London alongside works by impressionist master Renoir and pop art provocateur Andy Warhol. But while Warhol's and Renoir's work didn't sell, bidders lavished attention on Congo's paintings. An American bidder.....purchased the lot of paintings for $26,352..... The sale price surpassed predictions that priced the paintings between $1,000-$1,500.

"We had no idea what these things were worth," said Howard Rutkowski, director of modern and contemporary art at Bonhams. "We just put them in for our own amusement." (Administrator: italics are mine)
Congo, born in 1954, produced about 400 drawings and paintings between ages 2 and 4. He died in 1964 of tuberculosis. His artwork provoked reactions ranging from scorn to skepticism among critics of the time, but Pablo Picasso is reported to have hung a Congo painting on his studio wall after receiving it as a gift."


Ignoring the obvious joke that this piece is better than most by Picasso and anything by Warhol, I find it extremely intriguing. Look at the balance and structure of the painting. It is almost symmetrical side to side, and the perspective is what one might expect when looking at a landscape. The point of view is somewhat above ground, the figure(s) receding to the distance, the foreground reminiscent of shadows, the "sky" reaching down to meet the horizon. All what you might expect from a bipedal creature. The painting could represent many things; a vase of flowers, a pond, a garden, a flock of birds, an emotion. While blue predominates, it is subdued by the bold strokes of black, and enlivened with splashes of white. What is most dramatic, however, is the strategic use of reddish "punctuation marks" to disrupt what is otherwise fairly organized and serene.

And it was painted by a chimpanzee.

Was he just playing? Or was he attempting to convey something? I strongly believe the latter. If so, what? What was he thinking? What was he feeling? Did he grasp the abstract? Was there a creative process, or did his mind work unlike ours, immediately interpreting his environment through his fingers? Or is this an internal representation of himself?

Like all great art, this opens up a world unknown to anyone but the artist and begs many, many questions.

1 comment:

jazz bird said...

Wow, that's some food for thought far beyond your average modern painting.

And, damn it, that chimp paints much better than I ever have (tactile art forms are not my forte).