Tuesday, May 12, 2009

That Mona Lisa Smile

My sis said to me that she can't get why some people obsess over a certain painting, like the Mona Lisa. In the Japanese animated film The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, the character Chiaki possesses such a strong desire to see a painting which has been destroyed that he travels back in time to do so. Ludicrous? Not to me at least.

As an art-lover myself, I can totally see that some paintings have a hypnotizing power; able to draw people in and capture their imagination. A painting, when wonderfully executed, is an emblem of human genius and creativity; a masterpiece. A manufactured object, in contrast, is soulless and can never have the life and spirit of a painting. The human touch is what makes a painting magically come alive for the viewer.

So what paintings have this potential to be imprinted on the minds and hearts of people? I think it depends on the individual, but for me, Picasso's Guernica is one of them. The orgy of fragmented shapes, human and animal, conjures up an overwhelming sense of chaos and despair. It digs deep into the roots of human existence and claws at your heart. I would love to see it one day and I think it'd be doubly powerful in person, its monumental size notwithstanding. If Mona Lisa, serene and mysterious, is THE painting of the classical era, then Guernica might be the one for modern times. Their stark differences reveal just how much society has changed.

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