OR

Man Ray-Woman holding Giacometti’s Disagreeable Object

Choose one from the following:


This is the beginning of something

Or

The end of everything

Or

A continuation of a whole lot of nothing

Or

Stop right there I have heard enough
I don’t care for the menu
Time to move on wasted enough already

Or

And or but
Into the fog
Maybe the smoke
If it is the conflagration after all
Either or neither
Nether ever never
Wood coal pour some oil
Cant see the forest for the trees

Or

I saw you for the first time again
You seemed different somehow
Though I had to admit
That you looked so good
I just had to touch myself
Forgetting that your kisses
Always left their mark
Bruising and wounding
Ah well what’s sex without pain
Love always requires some seasoning

Or

Will you ever….
You make everything sound so dirty
Though you will probably take that
As some form of obscure compliment
After all you wrote a pornographic reprise
Of Aquinas’s Summa
But I’ve come here to bury you
Not to praise
Are you listening
Do you catch…

Or

Come now cough ante pony up
No thing like a free
Take a look at the fork
We are all exposed
In some form of fashion
What a season
Hell’s got nothing
Here is the variety
Nauseating horrific exhilarating
No time for the honorific
Down here while I describe
With disgust my various
Beautiful disguises

H.M The King of Cats

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Balthus-The King of Cats 1935
On a trip to Rome I  visited the Balthus retrospective at the Scuderie del Quirinale. Although frequently included in books on Surrealism, Balthus was never affiliated with the Surrealists. However as an art world insider he was friends with several prominent figures including the sculptor  Giacometti and the writers Artaud and Bataille. More importantly he shared with Surrealism a preoccupation with the oneiric state and the same literary influences,  particularly  Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and Lewis Carroll’s Alice books.

The exhibition includes the 14 remarkable ink illustrations for Wuthering Heights. Emily Bronte’s classic  was much admired by Bataille and Bunuel, who filmed his own idiosyncratic version set in Colonial Mexico as well as quoting the novel at length in his excellent autobiography My Last Sigh. It is not hard to see why the novels would appeal to the Surrealists with its tempestuous romanticism and its insistence on the primacy of childhood and nature against civilisation and maturity. And, of course, it is the culmination and pinnacle of the Gothic novel which Breton placed above all other literature in the Manifestos. Balthus perfectly captures the intense and sombre atmosphere of the novel which he clearly identified closely with as his Heathcliff is also a self-portrait.

The influence of Alice is even more marked. The exhibition includes several witty anthropomorphic drawings and absurdist caricatures that show the influence of both Tenniel’s illustrations and the Alice books. However it is the unsettling, decidedly ambiguous paintings of young girls often sleeping and frequently observed by slyly inscrutable cats that spanned his career that show the depth of the fixation with Alice. In 1933 Balthus painted Alice Dans le miroir and a quarter of a century later he returned to Alice to paint Golden Afternoon.

Balthus paintings have aroused considerable controversy for their subject matter and its not hard to see why. A previous exhibition was titled Cats and Girls and that neatly sums up his twin obsessions. However saccharine sounding there is nothing cutesy about Balthus eerily frozen and silent domestic universe. The knowing cats, that together with the very young girls that populate his paintings  appear to be stand ins for the artist; after all he was the self proclaimed King of Cats, therefore placing himself squarely within the frame of his paintings, adding a further disturbing voyeuristic subtext.

Mitsou-Balthus
Balthus-Mitsou

Wuthering Heights-Balthus
Wuthering Heights

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Balthus-Girl Asleep

Therese Dreaming-Balthus
Balthus-Therese Dreaming

Balthus-The Cat in the Mirror
Balthus-The Cat in the Mirror