Thursday, July 05, 2012

Cubism, Surrealism and Pop Art in Pablo Picasso

'Art should comfort the disturbed and disturbed the comfortable.' This is certainly true in appreciating the baffling paintings and sculptures by Pablo Picasso - the most original and ingenious artist in the 20th Century

In Visite à Picasso, a short 20 minutes black and white Belgian documentary, Picasso drew on large glass plates in front of the camera - like a live show of a great artist in visually presenting his flow imagination, with a few rough brushes or sometimes just one continual brush that outlines a dove, bull, flowers, man and woman, and whatnot.

With these simple lines and almost child-like arts that look more similar as caveman painting than any great historical or mythological scenes from the Renaissance or Baroque arts, Picasso sought to deconstruct the reality with geometrical shapes and to reunite them into multi - perspectives - the birth of cubism.
Portrait d' homme (Portrait of a man) 

Homme à la moustache
(Man with a moustache) 
It is hard to imagine that the same artist has painted the Portrait d’homme and Homme à la moustache, both showing a man with moustache but with vastly different style. While Picasso stuck to the conventional art technique in Portrait d'homme, with heavy emphasis on blue colour - expressing his deep depression at the time due to the suicide of his friend - he changed to Cubist style in drawing the same man by deconstructing him into geometrical shapes, along with  pieces of papers, cardboard, wallpaper and wooden frame that 'synthesize' or overlap with each  other to add rich texture and a tangible touch to the object of the painting. 

Le sculpteur (The Sculptor)
Refusing to confine in one style, Picasso proceeded to base on his Cubist training to experiment with surrealism - an art movement that explores the subconsciousness of human mind. In Le sculpteur, Picasso described a Roman myth about a sculptor, Pygmalion, falling in love with a statue he carved and loving it so much that he made a wish to Venus to transform it into a real woman. Yet as blood and flesh, she will eventually age and wrinkle, Venus warned. Pygmalion wavered. 

On one hand, the dreamlike scene created by bright colours and curved figures is a distinctive surrealist feature. On the other hand, the anxious Pygmalion and his mirrored visage, showing the Hamlet indecisiveness, strongly reminds of the presentation of simultaneous perspective in Cubism. 

Figure et profil (Figure and Profile)
Another interesting surrealist painting is Figure et profil that left a hint of autobiographical note. How many faces can you see? I see three: one on the left hand side, beside the window; another is the geometrical white figure itself; and the last is the alien - looking black outline - respectively representing Picasso's progression from classical drawing in early years, then Cubism, and Surrealism later. 

Picasso broke conventions with Cubism and Surrealism and it is no surprise for him to reinterpret masterpieces as a form of pop art during his late years. The rough brushes and unscrupulous splash of colours in Le déjeuner sur l'herbe destroyed  the natural grandeur and a harmonious balance painstakingly constructed by Édouard Manet in his original Le déjeuner sur l'herbe but interestingly instead of pure destruction, Picasso's reinterpretation suggests more of mischievous naughtiness to see the world as a child does. 

Le déjeuner sur l'herbe
 (Luncheon on the grass) 
Already a distinguished painter in the early years (he can't scribble like a child since he was ten, he said), he spent his life to unlearn the academic and classical drawing skills and to rediscover the world with imagination and childhood's curiosity. As Laozhi admired the innocent unconsciousness of children, Picasso reinterpreted the world with childhood originality. 

A cynical person might see his shifting style of art as a very good marketing attempt to boost up his reputation. What I see, however, is a man who tried to break free from the all too realistic world with his free flowing imagination in Cubism, Surrealism and Pop Art.

Below is a clip in Visite à Picasso. The full documentary is available here

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Police Officer's Force is Illegal, Unnecessary and Disproportionate

The Police Officer who forcibly removed and detained the Reporter

The news reported*:

Increasing intervention from Central Chinese Government and heavy - handedness of the police against peaceful protesters - evidenced by more frequent and intense use of pepper spray and assignment of restricted areas for media - only serve to show the 'mainlandisation' (i.e. a complete disregard of human rights) of the Hong Kong police. 

The above news report is one of the other many examples showing police force against dissidents and protesters are dubiously illegal, unnecessary and disproportionate. 

Admittedly, freedom of speech and freedom of movement (as stipulated in Article 27 and 31 of Basic Law respectively) are not absolute rights but restrictions are only justified provided they pass the legality, necessity and proportionality test. 

From the facts in the news, the police officer did not even bother to give reply to a question from one journalist on what guidelines he relied on that delegated him the power to forcibly remove and detain the reporter. 

Neither it seems necessary in a democratic interest in the interests of national security or public safety and public order for him to not only remove but to detain him for another 15 minutes. Surely asking a question, though a political sensitive one, to President Hu Jintao will not disrupt the public safety or order, on the face of a large amorphous army of black - suited guards, along with numerous police officers and other unknown covert policemen, and let alone damaging any national security. 

The force is only proportionate when it rationally connects with a legitimate purpose and is no more than necessary for accomplishing it. Granted, protecting President Hu is a legitimate purpose  but it is his personal safety that matters, not his face. The purpose of the police officer is to save President Hu from a politically sensitive question, at the great expense of infringing human rights. 

The means employed are neither rational nor no more than necessary. From the TV news, President Hu has already gone after he heard the Reporter's question. In other words, the police officer's removal and subsequent detainment were wholly irrational and unnecessary, as further questions from the Reporter would have gone unheard or unheeded when President Hu was already out of sight. 

Hence the police officer's force toward the Reporter is illegal, unnecessary and disproportionate. It is not a scarecrow or a fallacious slippery slope logic to argue one compromise following another for the Hong Kong police will eventually mean a complete 'mainlandisation' of the whole police force. Accumulated reports and this incident are only too obvious to show this sad and unfortunate trend.

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported, below is an excerpt:

'Police forcibly removed a journalist from a press area after he shouted a question about the June 4 Tiananmen Square crackdown to President Hu Jintao while the president was visitng the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal on Saturday.

As Hu walked by the press area accompanied by government officials, the Apply Daily reporter shouted “President Hu, the people of Hong Kong want the truth behind June 4 to be revealed, do you know this?”     

Hu heard the question and turned to the journalist before continuing on his way without responding.  The reporter was immediately taken by a policeman to a stairwell where he was questioned for 15 minutes and eventually reprimanded

He told me that my yelling was breaking the rules,” said the reporter...'

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Createe and Creator in Prometheus (2012)

David - A Createe of Humans
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created him; male and female" (Genesis 1:27). Not so, according to Prometheus directed by Ridley Scott. In the beginning, a humanoid - one of our alien ancestors - drank a unknown substance, disintegrated, poured to the great fall and flowed to the ocean - the origin of life.

The secondary question under this origin of life is, no doubt, the human nature to rebel; or, to put it more precisely, the defiance tendency in a createe against a creator. Why did David put the organic substance in the drinks to poison Holloway? Surely, it can't be a little mischief arising from an error in the circuits of android? The motive, we can only guess, from his remarks that children can only kill parents to gain freedom. 

As an android, a createe from human hands, he already acquired the desire for freedom - something that can't be granted by parental obedience but must be fought by defiance and rebellion. We, the creator of android but a createe of unknown God, strive for the same freedom. Adam's eating of the forbidden fruit behind God's back is petty in comparison with Ahab's unholy war against the invincible Moby Dick - a symbolic representation of a fallible human against the infallible Fate or God. Alternatively this defiance is best captured by Nietzsche 's remark: 'God is dead'. 

Less dramatically - yet more enigmatically -  David's act of poisoning seems trivial and unexplained but is it not a simple act, though mischievous in nature, of rebellion against a creator, i.e. us? 

Nevertheless, David, though inherited the defiance from human, will never understand why humans or specifically Elizabeth Shaw want desperately to know the origin of life. With the cross on her neck, she believed life has a divine origin. It is a faith - an irrational belief in impossible thing - that the rational android can not get. Are the white humanoid the creators? How did they create humans? Why did they want to destroy us? 

These questions are meant to be asked, but hopefully to be answered by a sequel. The odyssey continues.

Prometheus is directed by Ridley Scott, written by Jon Spaihts, Damon Lindelof, starring Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green and Michael Fassbender.