Saturday, December 30, 2017

Random Search Story - Discovering a New Artist with some Surprising Connections

The other day, I was thinking of the word kitsch. I thought I understood the meaning of the word pretty well, but I wanted to be sure I knew, so I looked it up. I had always associated it with somewhat tacky objets d'art that featured prominently in home d├ęcor in the 60s and 70s (and beyond). Some things, I know, are deliberately kitschy, as a kind of fun irreverence. Being goofy on purpose, of course, is a far cry from being goofy inadvertently, and these days, there's a great deal of “irony” (thanks, hipsters).

Wikipedia's official entry on it describes kitsch as being associated with tackiness or cheesiness; most importantly, it is an art form that appeals to common sentiment, so that it is not considered “high art”. I guess it's “low art”, then, or “common art”. Thomas Kinkade's work is cited as an example, and things like velvet paintings and “Dogs Playing Poker” would probably qualify. So yeah, I had it right, but here is where things get interesting...

Under the subheading Art, which is, of course, my favorite subheading, the entry states: “The Kitsch movement is an international movement of classical painters, founded in 1998 upon a philosophy proposed by Odd Nerdrum and later clarified in his book On Kitsch in cooperation with Jan-Ove Tuv and others, incorporating the techniques of the Old Masters with narrative, romanticism, and emotionally charged imagery.”

Forget kitsch, who the heck is Odd Nerdrum???

So, of course, I clicked on that link, and I found out that Odd Nerdrum (his real name) is a Norwegian painter of some renown, actually. I had never heard of him, myself, so of course I was intrigued—if his work is in museums, it must be “high art”, though, eh? But no, he insists in his manifesto, On Kitsch, his paintings are that and only that. Well, let me see for myself. There was no art featured in the Wikipedia entry, and indeed, Wikimedia Commons yielded nothing but a photograph of Nerdrum's atelier, so I went back to the wider internet and was not disappointed. Nerdrum has plenty of work out there, and it's absolutely gorgeous. His style seems to be a hybrid of Renaissance and Impressionism, and his subject matter refers frequently to Greek mythology, as did the paintings of classic masters (Rembrandt was a strong influence of his—his painting Daniel, from 1976, shows just how strong—it can be seen here). It's certainly high art, as far as I can tell, but Nerdrum attended an art school in Norway that made a particular emphasis on modern art, and his natural attraction to Renaissance work was scorned. Perhaps he identifies his work as “kitsch” because he knew that figural, representational work does appeal more to the general public than abstract and high-concept work. Good for him, I say! I never understood how people can be so judgmental about art.

One of Nerdrum's works, entitled Dawn, looked very familiar. The grouping of figures screaming upward toward the sky reminded me of a scene from the 2000 movie The Cell, starring Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughan, and Vincent D'Onfrio. Sure, enough, going back to Wikipedia, I learned that Dawn was indeed the inspiration for that particular image from the movie—it seems that The Cell's director, Tarsem Singh, saw the original while visiting the house of its owner—none other than David Bowie!

Speaking of musicians, there are a couple more to add to this interesting, convoluted path of connections: The images from The Cell were also utilized in the Missy Elliott video “Get Ur Freak On”--although the Wikipedia entry for the song does not mention this, it's a bit obvious; the set for much of the video is clearly also Cell-inspired. Watch it. Ozzy Osbourne also seems to have been inspired by it, as well, here.

So, thanks to the internet and all its lovely, oh-so-clickable links, I learned about another fantastic painter and his interesting connections to various other forms of art, from movies to music videos. Inspiration bounces around all over, just like clicking on one link after another online, to lead to many new things to learn and enjoy. I hope you found out some fun stuff today, right here in this article, now another one of the many pieces of the story. If I can connect Odd Nerdrum, Jennifer Lopez, and Ozzy Osbourne, it's a small world, indeed!