‘It was like drawing, but with scissors… there was sensuality in the cutting’
La Perruche et la Sirène (The Parakeet and the Mermaid) is one of the greatest examples of Henri Matisse’s cut-out works. The cut-out is technically related to the collage. Matisse executed this work by snipping forms from paper coloured in one hue. The total work contains cut-out forms in contrasting colours on a white surface. He began this method in 1940, but in his last years this medium dominated all his work. The imagery of this piece consists of leaves, pomegranates and two forms that appear only once. These two forms represent a parakeet on the left and a mermaid on the right side, from which the title of the work derives. The space surrounding the objects is just as important as the objects themselves. Matisse created this monumental cut-out while recuperating from a major operation which prevented him working in his studio. Consequently Matisse referred to this work as ‘a little garden all around me where I can walk’.
To learn more about Matisse’s cut-outs, visit MoMA’s interactive page
Untitled, Imi Knoebel. 1977
These stunning photographs are from the Hairstyle Series by the late Nigerian phototagrapher J.D. Okhai Ojeikere :
In this wonderful series of photographs by Aaron Siskind the artist captures figures suspended in mid air, their bodies contorted into different shapes. Charles Traub, president of the Aaron Siskind Foundation, says about the series:
“I remember quite clearly Aaron’s delight at the Chicago waterfront, where these images were taken. He was particularly enamored of teenagers—their unabashed frolicking and daring, their inherent athleticism. Aaron loved ordinary people—the sights, sounds, and activities that were off the beaten path of the city. In the summer, the Chicago lakefront was a place where everybody gathered. He adored such places that were full of spontaneous and inventive activity.”
Creative exercise: Spend long periods of time contemplating tea stains on a napkin or clouds in the sky. Imagine magnificent creatures and landscapes, let your imagination run wild!
“I love the clouds… the clouds that pass…
up there… up there… the wonderful clouds!”
[The Stranger, Charles Baudelaire]
And if you’re a hard-core cloud lover, you might even consider joining the Cloud Appreciation Society!
Here’s a peek from their manifesto:
We pledge to fight ‘blue-sky thinking’ wherever we find it. Life would be dull if we had to look up at cloudless monotony day after day.
Now let’s look at some Clouds in Art:
Dutch artist Berndnault Smilde is known for his man-made indoor clouds. He makes them from a combination of “frozen smoke” and moisture and he immortalises them in photographs.
Clouds have featured in many of this Californian artist’s work. He’s represented the cloud as a brain, and he’s tried to mimic the shapes of clouds using cigar smoke.
Brazilian artist Vik Muniz created the wonderful series, Equivalents, where he photographed cotton wool clouds in various different shapes. Can you picture them in the sky?
And, of course, there’s the Belgian Surrealist artist, René Magritte. Clouds were a recurring theme in his work and are said to represent the unconscious mind. He was known for his witty and thought-provoking images which challenged preconditioned perceptions of reality.