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Thursday, 23 May 2013

Act 2, Scene 7

The narrative began with Act 1, scene 1 on April 10, 2013.
To access all scenes, scroll to blog archive at the bottom of the page.

Velazquez (grinning broadly and chuckling)
Well yes, you have indeed elucidated, and quite beautifully I might add, an explanation of Las Meninas, Pablo. (sips his wine)

Aitken (also grinning)
Wait a minute. You said that Pablo had given us an explanation. You did not say that his was the explanation, Diego. What's up with that?

Velazquez (now laughing)
Well you don't really expect that I'm going to purposely subvert centuries of fascination with my painting.

Picasso, Newkirk, Holland and Aitken – groans, laughter and protests of "You're bad! Oh, come on now! Sly devil. Never trust anyone over 300! Ha Ha!

Everyone enjoys the moment and something like quiet returns to the table as they finish their dinners. Coffee follows, camomille tea for Holland. We hear the clatter of dishes being collected, the scuff of chairs being pushed back from tables; smiles accompany sighs of contentment at every table. New diners arrive to claim tables that have been vacated.

Well, I suppose I'm to blame for that fiasco. But thank you, Pablo, for your analysis. I like it whether it's definitive, or not. And, despite my disappointment, I do like the idea of the mystery continuing too, Diego. What a marvellous painting it is in any case. And actually, it's the spatial play that interests me more than the mystery on the canvas you're painting – back and forth, deep and shallow within the painting, and even extending into our own space on this side of the picture plane. Just amazing, really. Oh, I know that others played with this sort of thing, coming out to greet the viewers in our own space; Michelangelo's architectural designs, like the staircase in the Laurentian Library, for example, and of course Bernini. Personally though, I think that your painting is so satisfyingly complex and prophetic, even inspirational for Paul Cezanne and Pablo. (Picasso nods and murmurs agreement. And Velazquez, acknowledging the compliment, tilts his head to one side and, smiling, nods graciously).

But, if you don't mind, I'd like to return to the question of artistic legacy. I sometimes wonder if it matters at all. I certainly know of young artists whose work would seem to suggest that they are making 'cool' stuff, for 'cool' occasions, that their art is in line with the immediate gratification they are accustomed to – think of digital photography as compared to film, the internet, texting, carrying your phone everywhere. It sometimes seems that the art is purpose-built, and disposable – that's not new, I know. Does this mean that new art also should be about immediacy? Are we seeing a school of immediacy that is content to discard history? And does it matter? Should it matter?

Pablo, you may not have seen this, but John Richardson has written a massive and very thorough biography about you. In it, this stayed with me. He quotes Ingres as having said "He who will not look to any other mind than his own will soon find himself reduced to the most miserable of all imitations, that is to say his own works."
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres