Sunday, September 2, 2007

Rick Monzon: Yellow Pears

The unusual arrangement of the pears, which resemble two pieces of a puzzle, sets the tone for this still life. I will avoid dichotomous Yin/Yang preludes, and will simply try to figure out what is going on here. Following the puzzle comparison, the artist tries to achieve a kind of completeness, or perfection, when all the pieces fit in and form a new image. The difference here is that there is no image to be formed, which prompts to look for a meaning instead. Although, there is a basic image involved: an ellipse. I remember reading in William Hogarth' "The Analysis of Beauty," that in order for a perfect face to shine even more, it needs the contrast of a small defect. Here, (though the perfection is of a geometrical kind) we see the defect in the form a the black spot at the back of the higher positioned pear. Clearly, the artist knows what he is doing.

This is an even composition: two fruits and two tails; almost a perfect symmetry between them. It is known that straightforward symmetry (which entails monotony) may appear tiresome to the eye. This painting can be straining despite the beauty spot; Hogarth also claimed that the artist should avoid monotony at all costs (odd compositions are often considered more beautiful). Rick defies hogarthian dogmas, and chooses the more difficult path, but offering a compensation along the way: the circular movement forms something I already mentioned as characteristic to Rick's oeuvre -- a hypnotic pattern that aims at the subconscious. In fact, a degree of monotony is essential for effective hypnosis. Hence the composition assumes an underlying purpose that justifies the repetition -- a purpose that becomes the meaning mentioned above.

This painting mesmerizes. As often happens, when more parts of the mind become involved, following a simple logic, the viewing experience becomes more difficult and intense. This is a heavily loaded piece that asks the viewer's brain to work, offering in return what may be tentatively described as "aesthetic pleasure." Personally, I like complex ideas and paintings that express such ideas. This piece generates friction between itself and the viewer. Interestingly, friction was the first step to the discovery of electricity and, in turn, mesmerism and hypnosis. If you think I just threw a few more unrelated terms into the bag, just think Edgar Poe's "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar," or Marie Shelly's "Frankenstein." The artist does not ask for this piece to endear itself immediately, maybe even trying to repel the casual observer. But, it often happens that things we like right away bore us quickly, while things we don't understand, and are indifferent about, reveal their depth only later on.

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