Klimt and the Purity of Death
by Jansen Estrup
(writing as Fred Jansen)
So Gustav Klimt has become the world’s most sought after painter. Is anyone surprised? Consider his time, the turn of the last century. It was an era of industrial robber barons, failing royal empires, white and black slavery and social upheaval. Incredible wealth boiling atop grim poverty, all of it condoned and encouraged by various religious factions. Called the Age of Decadence, the artist himself condemned Europe as a spreading pornography of crucifixes.
The women he portrayed might have come right out of case histories compiled by Sigmund Freud. The vast majority of his upper crust patients suffered paralyzing hysteria, the doctor reported, caused by incest and other brutalities. Or maybe Klimt’s models were actual corpses, their paleness highlighted by blue shadows and hues of oxygen starved blood and flesh. Certainly most of them seemed arrayed in broken, perverse poses. He encased them in gold leaf robes or gowns heavy and solid as a sarcophagus. We get a necrophilian kiss and the promise of much more to come.
Perhaps Klimt was simply prescient. Did he visualize the coming century of world-wide butchery? Seer or not, it is possible to see all of that sorrowful history in Klimt’s work.
So now is the time to look at another painter, one who uses gold to tell us about the living. She is Carole Estrup and for many decades she has recorded the vitality of cultures which are our living, but endangered heritage. From the rain forests and ritual huts of American natives to the ancient monuments of China and India, out of our cave homes into the enlightened imagery of the cosmos, she weaves visual evidence of a profound, ever tantalizing future.
Her figures are often crowded, interlocked in a dance of propagation. Examples include "The Seven Continents" and a socio-political series which includes "Rebirth of Africa" and "Paradise Lost". Her earlier collection, called "Evolution of the Soul", was widely acclaimed and set amidst the stars like deities we imagine explain the scientific secrets of eternity. More earthly concepts like "Creation of the Four Winds" and "Anabasis" show us the natural phenomenon of energy, of motion and upwelling with egocentric, human eyes.
Paintings depicting the lone human figure, such as the mysterious "The Smiling Knight" are not rare, but they are also adazzle with living and physical spiritual symbols. "The Swan of Tuonela" takes on the mythology of death, of a living individual’s acceptance of that process. Yet all about every such individual life in the plant and animal world goes on, and most of us happily accept that, too.
Gold, we have believed since early-human times, is a gift of the sun, of its body and essence. Rather, we know now, our sun’s gift is light in all of its invisible invaluable energies. Those colors are found on Carole’s pallet, varied and vibrant as the universe itself. They are the substance and action with which all the creatures shout life, living, being! Some find Estrup’s vision just the right antidote for our recent steady diet of victimization, betrayal and fear. It might be named inspiration, resolve, even passion.
All work is copyrighted property of H.F. Jansen Estrup. © 2007 SubtleTea Productions All Rights Reserved