Saturday, September 30, 2023

Strange Fruit and Faces...

Autumn again, not that you would truly notice that the seasons had changed if you based your impressions solely on the astoundingly high temperatures that are actually quite alarming. Nevertheless, the leaves are slowly starting to turn and will surely begin to fall in the days to come.
Meanwhile, with a more predictable and reassuring regularity, the ornamental gourds have made their appearance. Known as coloquintes here, these are striking for their vivid, contrasting colours but above all their curiously textured forms and extraordinary shapes. Almost as if Nature were amusing itself, strange horned growths, speckled ridges and weirdly irregular blisters emerge from otherwise smooth surfaces.
Wondering if these could be described as beautiful or somewhat ugly, or rather a mixture of the two, I remembered the unsettling, unparalleled portraits of Italian artist, Guiseppe Arcimboldo (1526 – 1593).
Known for his symbolical paintings of heads, composed largely of flora, flauna and of course vegetables, he created work that specialized in the grotesque presented with great beauty and detail; the inversion of aesthetic norms.
It seems odd that he should have been court portraitist under the Habsburgs but his ability to link nature and mankind, whilst highlighting the emperor’s power over all, surely gained him respect and a unique reputation. Naturally, this same obsessive fascination with the human form composed of elements from the natural world has also led to questions over his sanity ever since, but ultimately that makes his art even more enigmatic.

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