Jamais

Jamais

This work of art is not titled based upon mythology, but as it is interpreted by the artist, Clyfford Still, to be the aftermath of a myth; that of Proserpina’s abduction. The style is abstract expressionism and this piece finds its home in the Peggy Guggenheim collection in Venice. This is one of the few works by Still that has a definitive name given by the artist himself. The unique color scheme and abstract contrast makes this less of a narrative and more along the lines of a single scene in a story. Much like the illustration in a novel it gives us insight and opinion on the emotions of a key character; this case Proserpina’s mother the god of agriculture. Looking intently on the symbolism the viewer notices two distinctly defined figures and two main fields of color. The top of the painting is gray-scale with the smallest sliver of yellow. The bottom is fairly more complicated containing horizontal streaks of flat colors. The sun figure is reminiscent of the desert and heat, and the horizontal bars of gray and yellow depict the rays of heat rising off the baked ground.

I felt a sense of loneliness and desolation while looking at this painting. The stark contrast between the background and the tall, black figure creates a depth which sucked my imagination into the realm of interpretation. The figure is drawn in such a way that expresses a graceful movement or saunter across a barren landscape. I could picture the frame of reference swiveling around the figure to give me a look into what I already knew the landscape would be like; a desert with scrub brush and the occasional skeleton or unstable shanty. The height of the painting draws the viewer’s field of vision to a lateral perspective which stretches our gaze from the bottom to the top or from the Underworld to the Heavens. The majority of the action is in the lower half with the possibility of some of the story missing. This could be implying that the true story lies lower down; below the frame of the painting. This follows the quote of Still, “It’s intolerable to be stopped by a frame’s edge.”

The Rape of Proserpina in picture form, rather than telling a story, requires interpretation. This portrays the aftermath of the same myth as Bernini’s sculpture, but in a modern way and also using canvas as the medium rather than marble. This piece is more interesting than the older sculptures because it requires this interpretation rather than the story being told explicitly in the round. The painting depicts Demeter stalking the earth searching for her daughter after Hades has carried her off into the Underworld. The barren landscape displays Ceres’, Demeter in Greek, sadness; she is the Greek god of the harvest and with her sadness Hunger, Limos in Greek, wanders the land. Wanders is an accurate word as Hunger was depicted as a personified image; just as the personification Rumor is released in Virgil’s The Aenied.

http://www.theoi.com/greek-mythology/personifications.html

http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/collections/collection-online/show-full/piece/?search=Jamais&page=&f=Title&object=76.2553.153

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