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Ornamental Despair (Painting for Ian Curtis), Oil on velvet, 1980 - Julian Schnabel. Musée d'Orsay, Paris. Sunday, 6 January 2019.


Two weeks ago I visited the Musée d’Orsay, Paris to see Orsay through the Eyes of Julian Schnabel (as well as the Van Gogh’s), as I quite like a lot of Schnabel’s work.
The gallery had asked Schnabel to give an interpretation of their collection, by presenting, in two of the museum’s historic rooms, a new scenography and a selection of works that had never previously been displayed together. More precisely, they asked him to juxtapose his paintings, sculptures and installations with the masterpieces of Impressionism. An interesting idea and a fascinating show.

However, one painting really resonated with me - Ornamental Despair (Painting for Ian Curtis) with its stark, monumental, monochromatic silence. It references Peter Saville’s cover for Joy Division’s second and final album, the deeply melancholic Closer.

It made me think . . .

Jean-Michel Basquiat - Louis Vuitton Foundation Paris
Installation view of Jean-Michel Basquiat: Drawings at - Robert Miller Gallery, NY 1990
Florence 1983, Acrylic and Oilstick on Canvas

I set off from Rue Victor Massé and walked west on Place de Clichy heading for the leafless trees of the Bois de Boulogne. After 2 hours of continuous walking I arrived at the Louis Vuitton Foundation in a state of feverish excitement!

I adore Basquiat’s work and have seen many exhibitions down the years including: Musée Maillol, Paris 2003, Brooklyn Museum 2005, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris 2010, Guggenheim Bilbao 2015 and Boom For Real at the Barbican Centre, London 2017 to name a few.

However, this experience was possibly the best. The sheer size and scale of the exhibition on 4 floors is staggering and overwhelming and the art on display is glorious. There is nothing like seeing the work in the ‘flesh’; it pulsates with colour and energy and is entrancing and teasing with riddles, intellect, word play, pathos and wonder in multiple layers of meaning. My response was both emotional (especially in front of Riding with Death) and enquiring; I was infected with passion and fascination.

On my second visit on Monday 7 January, my response was more analytical, searching the canvas surfaces for technique and hidden symbols, meaning and marks in the notions of society and self. It was an extraordinary experience; I sat at the feet to learn wisdom!

The exhibition includes works previously unseen in Europe, essential works such as Obnoxious Liberals (1982), In Italian (1983), and Riding with Death (1988), as well as paintings which have rarely been seen since their first presentations during the artist’s lifetime, such as Offensive Orange (1982), Untitled (Boxer) (1982), and Untitled (Yellow Tar and Feathers) (1982).

I feel privileged to have seen the exhibition. The exhibition ends on the 21 January.

Crown Silence - Acrylic, Oil Paintstick & Chinagraph Pencil on Plywood Panel 30 cm x 30 cm 26 March 2018

I returned home last night to a good news e mail:

Hi Michael - hope you are well. Just to let you know that ‘Crown Silence’ has sold. Well done again and payment will be made on or before 7th January 2019.
Hope you enjoy the festive break.

Thank you Velvet Easel and thank you to whoever bought my work yesterday, may it bring you much contemplation and joyfulness.