Sunday, July 29, 2007

J Matt Miller: Bronze Horse


The sombre palette in this piece prompts a hypothetically retrospective viewing: I am transposed two centuries back in time, to a Hoffmann tale, or, given the austerity and minimalism of the composition, to Andersen's Nordic fairy world.The strict duality of the green and the brown can be easily translated to the basic black and white contra-position, omnipresent in early illustrations of the mentioned texts. Although, Marcel Ayme's "The Green Mare" may be a suitable modern example.

The empty space above the figurine prompts to imagine a rider (the steadfast tin soldier?). As if something is missing, and it is left for our fantasy to think up what it might be. The frame also serves the purpose of directing the viewer towards completing the composition, -- in a sort of a game, not too alien of a child's play, who grabs the figure and moves it around the room, already teeming with imaginary knights.

Another striking aspect here is the theatricality. The painting contains a secondary frame, which indicates an initiation into another art form. The statuette becomes a puppet, and the painter the meta puppeteer. The hollow of the wooden box is the stage where the plot unfolds: either by the hands of the owner or by a mechanism inside the horse.

This work is soaked with the solid air of the good old bourgeoisie; when children had to invest considerable time and fancy to amuse themselves. There were few toys, but each one had a history, sentimental, as well as temporal. Precisely because of such evocations, there is something timeless about the piece. We know that bronze statues can have a broad life span. Perhaps a painterly reprise can broaden it even more.

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