Friday, November 30, 2012

Carel Willink Week at The Jade Sphinx: Chateau en Espagne

The charming French phrase bâtir des châteaux en Espagne literally means to build castles in Spain, but a closer translation would be to build castles in the sky.  In short, it means to dream something clearly impossible, as is amply demonstrated by Willink’s picture.

This dreamscape illustrates the notions of impossible castles in the sky to moody effect.  As I said earlier with some of Willink’s pictures, while it is not exactly to my taste, the virtuosity on display is without question.

Surely few people of his generation mastered light with such facility.  As with the two earlier pictures, Willink bathes part of his landscape in light, other parts in shadow.  Notice how the parts of the chateau in the background that are illuminated by the sun pop out thanks to the use of shadows along the side.  Willink also uses light to show that the chateau is all façade with no interior – in fact, the crumbled wall facing the viewer could only be part of a ruin. 

Light creeps through the rail columns, leaving shadows at the base of the statue of the Apollo Belvedere.  The base is illuminated, but the statue itself (a great masterpiece now on hand at the Vatican), is shrouded by darkness.

That Willink chooses the Apollo Belvedere is, in itself, of great interest.  It was first discovered circa 1489, and quickly became lionized as a great masterpiece of the Classical world.  The statue’s reputation waxed and waned over the years, and today it is considered one of the great touchstones of classic homoerotic art.  (A judgment that baffles your correspondent, but that’s another story.)  In 1969 the great art critic and historian Sir Kenneth Clark (1903-1983) wrote: for four hundred years after it was discovered the Apollo was the most admired piece of sculpture in the world.  It was Napoleon’s greatest boast to have looted it from the Vatican.  Now it is completely forgotten except by the guides of coach parties, who have become the only surviving transmitters of traditional culture.

The landscape seems to play upon one of the great themes in Willink’s work – that of separation.  We noted in two earlier pictures that figures and individuals in Willink’s cluttered world view were often denied the solace of connection.  Here, the chateau and Apollo are divided by a chasm that owes more than a little to Renaissance portraiture.  As with most of these Post Modern games, one gets the impression that Willink is trying to say something, but one is never sure what.

The sky is wonderfully effective and the dramatic import and again fills the viewer with a melodramatic sense of expectation. 

There sure is much to admire in this work – as with most of the Willink corpus – I just wish his vision made a little more sense.

No comments: