Thursday, 22 May 2014

Paul Cézanne and the Modern: Mont Sainte-Victoire

The current exhibition at the Ashmolean is called Cezanne and the Modern.

It is based on a single collection of paintings, which begins with works of Cezanne and leads on to a number of early modernist painters.

The poster image for the show is one of Mt Ste Victoire, which Cezanne painted many times, usually from the same angle. The one below is one of my favourites.

This is not the one in the exhibition.

I have chosen the poster image of the Cezanne and the modern  (linked at the top)  for my poem this month, May 2014, partly because I love Cezanne's work, but partly because I don't like this version of the mountain.

As a photographer and mountain walker I am very interested to see how a painter handles light on a mountain. In this image Cezanne has gone a little too far from what I am pleased to see as a mountain scarp.

This one would be very dangerous to walk!

What is real and what is echo?

Is nothing real, as Baudrillard would have us believe? The hyper-real Cezanne painting is more real than the mountain, but maybe the poster has replaced the painting as our version of reality.

Please explore the paintings linked here and then read my poem.

It would be great if you then tell me what you think or feel.

Paul Cézanne: Mont Sainte-Victoire | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Mont Saint-Victoire


How I love your work
So distinctive
Ploughing a singular furrow
Through a parched landscape
Rejoicing in the cooler shady places
In redemptive blues and greens
Nature merged with abstract shapes

How I love your meditations
On the mountain
Far away
Mont Saint-Victoire
Mont Saint-Victoire

Bringing richness, saturation, colour
To a world too light, so bright
Shimmering with uncertainty
By day or moon-lit night

Why have they stretched your canvasses
Across modernity?
You will not fit the frame
Post modern dreams beyond modernity
Embrace your name
Mont Saint-Victoire
Mont Saint-Victoire
Mont Saint-Victoire

Let’s go, Papa

Oh no_ the place does not exist
It’s just the echo of a place
A simulacrum that persists
This is just one
Of a long, a long, long list

But Daddy
Out of all those paintings
It’s the only one that’s here
So surely, it’s a special painting


The only thing that makes it special
Is a feature I dislike
The shadow of the escarpment
Is more solid than the thing itself
Is more solid than the thing itself

And if Cezanne is really modern
Something new and true and great
Why pick on this
As poster image
Out of all these images, so special,
The one to which I don’t relate?

 ©Nick Owen    May 2014

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