Klimt, forget the gold leaf, enjoy the scando-crime landscapes

I’ve always been unconvinced by Klimt.  For a start there’s all that gold leaf..okay frankly it’s mainly all that gold leaf which puts me off, along with the pyscadelic patterns. Every year I have an art calendar in the bathroom (I do a lot of my artistic thinking in the bath), where I can ponder it from the bath and I have to look at the same image for a month so I can take it in properly. I’ve gone for Klimt this year because that way I’ll have a year to consider him properly…thus far after 22 days of looking at his portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I’m not coming round to liking it..I’m not sure it does her many favours either; paint her…but then slam so much gold leaf round her that it looks like she’s staring out of it. But at least I’m giving him a go.

But a few months ago, before January so before I made my calendar choice, I found he did landscapes too and those really quite took my breath away (and not only because of the total absence of gold leaf).  I’m looking forward to whatever month this year gives me one of those.  Every year Klimt left Vienna and went off to the Attesee to paint for fun – locals called him the ‘Forest Demon’ apparently, which when you look at photos of him and remember that he seldom wore underwear gives one rather pause for thought I think. I’m busy waiting for a major UK gallery to have a Klimt landscape show, I’ll be there in a heartbeat. He did a number of subjects, lakes, forests, flowers..okay the flowers are a bit psychadelic..maybe he’d been consuming mushrooms while painting…but nowhere near as over the top as the portrait commissions. But it was the forests which I really warmed to, and found myself thinking of ScandoCrime.

Yes in true Visupulse blog style I’m taking a huge leap from the Attersee of the 1880s to the televisual Scandavia of the 21st century here, but bear with me.  You’ll see the point in a bit..or maybe you won’t but it’s my blog and I’ll run with this.

I love scando-crime dramas, The Killing, The Bridge (not the knock off American ones), Wallander (Sorry Ken, the Swedish ones with Krister Henricksson not the UK produced ones), love them all. In fact there is going to be a blog post entirely on them soon. Assuming you’ve seen them you may be cottoning onto where I’m headed; think of those endless forests with nobody in them in which either somebody finds a body or is murdered..got that? Okay now take a look at this Klimt birch forest…  The colours are punchier than the gorgeous desaturated ones in scando-crime, but the sense of trees going on for ever with nobody there is the same, the feeling of being hemmed in, the glimpses of sky. It’s only a matter of time before somebody trips over a corpse or gets hacked to bits. They’re not ‘our’ forests, you don’t get the feeling that they’re anywhere in the UK, they’re not Epping or the New Forest, they’re not full of deer and birds…they’re not full of anything else but trees and you, the observer (and possibly the killer and/or victim). They’re not warm friendly forests in which one might take a stroll after Sunday lunch, they’re the primal forests of Northern European folklore, they’re the forests where red riding hood met the wolf, where you might find Rapunzel’s tower, where Hansel and Gretal are kidnapped.

But they’re lovely paintings, the colours on the tree trunks and the forest floor, especially where he’s gone for a very pale light and muted tones. He understands trees, he’s spent a lot of time looking at them and he’s really engaged with them. I think he’s a lot more engaged with them than he is with all the society beauties of Vienna: I think he likes the patterns more which is why the women seem stuck in the middle of them. When he’s doing forests there is only the repetative patterns of the trees. Sure, he’ll take your money to paint your wife but he’ll spend the time (and a lot of your money) doing the patterns rather than them.

Of course there are the strange unearthly women from some the Beethoven Frieze or the works the SS detroyed, and who could have come straight out of the forests….


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