— January 30, 2013

Horses, Horses, Horses .........


“Horses, horses, horses, horses
 coming in in all directions
 white shining silver studs with their nose in flames ……”

I think I may have been a bit too young to understand the full meaning of Patti Smith’s lyrics on 'Horses', but those words extracted above, and the bounding, twanging, galloping resonance of the song makes it one of my favourites of all time.  So too, one of my favourite advertisements of all time was the 1999 Guinness Surfer ad, where the white crested waves crash down and turn into real white horses against the pounding Leftfield track 'Phat Planet'.
I do not think that I am alone in subscribing to the power of the imagery of the horse in art ……………..

Standing in front of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica (1937) in the Museo Reina Sofia among a hushed crowd is always a contemplative moment.  Picasso’s depiction of the aftermath of the bombing of the town of Guernica in the Spanish Civil War is a continually poignant and powerful image of the tragedies of war and the suffering it inflicts on individuals.  I am always drawn to the image of the horse, eyes staring out, its chest pierced by a lance, its nostrils flared, its mouth open - neighing helplessly, dying senselessly.  Interpret it as you will: a representation of the suffering of all the people of Guernica or a representation of the suffering of a poor creature caught up in the atrocities of man.

I have long had a fascination with the Cuban surrealist artist, Wilfredo Lam (1902 – 1982) and his seemingly, strange symbolism – particularly his ‘femme cheval’ (the horse-headed female).  Wilfredo Lam’s works have a rich vocabulary of symbolism which comes from his mixed heritage: Chinese, African, Indian and Spanish descent and with that, an inherited rich background of religious tradition – including Confucius, Catholicism and Santeria.  He travelled widely throughout his life and was exposed to the influence of many artists including: Matisse, Joan Miro, Fernand Leger, Max Ernst and Pablo Picasso; to the art movements of cubism in Spain and surrealism in France and was greatly inspired by the African sculpture of the Pacific Islands.  It is the sum of all these influences in the images that make up his paintings: Lam combined the radical modern styles of surrealism and cubism with the iconography and spirituality of African and Cuban mythology to create his own unique body of work.  From the 1950s through to the end of his life Wilfredo Lam developed and perfected his printmaking techniques.

Untitled (lithograph, 1974) to the right, contains the familiar stylistic characteristics and symbols that Lam was using at the time: la femme cheval with braided hair flowing down her back and the round-faced girl.  La femme cheval contains imagery of Santeria religious rights, where an orisha, here the horse deity, interacts with the world and humankind and possess the body of a believer during ritual ceremonies and transforms them into a hybrid being that is part human and part horse as they communicate with the natural world.  Looking at this image, one first might see the strong linear black outline reminiscent of Matisse, Miro and Leger, and then Cubist elements of form derived from African sculpture reminiscent of Picasso but then beyond that one see that Lam gives these outlined forms meaning, bringing to life on paper the myth that they represent.

In Lam's Apostrophe’ Apocalypse (an etching and aquatint, 1974) below there are two images of the femme cheval and looking at the time it was created, it is a possible representation for the Cuban revolution, the horse no longer a victim but representing the revolutionary liberation.

Cubist horse of suffering, Santeria horse deity, liberating horse of the Apocalypse:  the horse - what an amazing creature !

Cowboys (1990) by June Redfern

I have recently discovered the watercolour and print works of the Scottish expressionist landscape artist June Redfern (b. 1952 St. Andrews, Fife).  June Redfern’s work is mesmerising; she uses bold, saturated blocks of colour, sometimes banding the colours on top of one another, the whole producing an undulating swathe of shadow, landscape, heat and light.  In the sumptuous watercolour to the right, cowboys on their swaying horses are outlined in Indian ink, picking their way through the heat of day in a Utah-like mountain landscape: the saturated deep blue and purple of the landscape in shadow, the green of the mountain disappearing in a heat haze of reds and faded purple and then yellow sunlight.


Resistance was futile: I have recently joined the dawn chorus, midday medley, dusk evensong, burning of the midnight oil that is Twitter.

To share observations and inspirations then please do follow me and I will follow you – I’d love to know what makes you tick !

Find me by clicking on this link: https://twitter.com/JoPinderWilson     Or by clicking on the Twitter link on the footer of my website.
We are one month in and glimpses of the sun on occasion - hoping that 2013 has started well for you all.

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