Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Art in fiction

I posted the following on my other blog a few days ago - that blog is about all things art-related, but since I also write about art here, there are often overlaps in terms of topics, and very occasionally a post will appear on both blogs. So apologies if you have already read this.

I love when a writer is able to successfully conjure up the world of a fictional artist, down to imagining and describing their oeuvre. Siri Hustvedt is excellent at this - she does it in all of her novels, if I remember correctly, and part of me wishes someone had actually created all this work, though it is very likely that its manifestation would not live up to the shape it has taken on in the reader's mind. Perhaps the magic lies in the fact that it doesn't exist beyond the page. From the eerie portrait in The Blindfold  to the embroideries featuring taboo subjects made by an old woman in The Summer without Men, these are pieces that reside in my memory alongside all the actual visual art I have absorbed. Another author who evokes and details the artistic output of her protagonists is Deirdre Madden. I have just read Authenticity, and both the abstract paintings by one of the central characters (stripes in pastel colours, compared by one critic in the book to 'the pale flags of imaginary countries') and the other main protagonist's  boxes with objects that can only be glimpsed through fluttering ribbons still linger in my mind.

(Inventing an artist's work in film, while not depending on words to capture it, poses the challenge of actually having to show it and be convincing, whether that means finding a real-life artist whose existing work will serve that purpose or commissioning something suitable. When I watched the 1998 version of Great Expectations as a teenager, I was moved by Finn's large-scale drawings.)

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