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The Genius of Picasso and the Curse of Convenience

24/11/2014 13:40 GMT | Updated 23/01/2015 10:59 GMT

The Genius of Picasso

Picasso famously said, "I find. I do not look". He also said: "Look and you will never find." Many have remarked that these two messages from the mouth of a genius are obtuse and incomprehensible. But in fact Picasso is saying something profound. Put another way, Picasso once remarked that in order to create one has to 'kill' art. In other words, if one stands before Da Vinci or Ingres or Gainsborough, one is in awe at the mastery of the painter's brush. Picasso would remark that in order to develop new ideas in art, once must forget or kill everything that one has learnt or even seen before. Let us not forget that Picasso created new art genres such as cubism (long with Braque) and all of his life, he literally pushed the boat out as far as it would go. His painting Les Demoiselles D'Avignon, with its mask-like faces looking straight ahead but with the nose painted sideways or at the wrong angle completely of a regular face, so horrified even his closest friends that they derided Picasso vigorously for creating a painting that was ugly in the extreme and unlike anything they had ever seen. Picasso frequently would get exasperated with anyone who would endlessly question his motives or inspiration in his art. To him, art was who he was. Whether what he did was good or bad, he left to the critics to decide- and there were many. However let us return to those enigmatic statements, "I find. I do not look,' and "Look and you will never find."

Picasso questioned the existence of truth. He believed that absolute truth could not in all probability exist but rather the process of doing, of being was in essence living one's truth. This concept that more recently has appeared in all manner of self-help manuals such as How to Find Mr. Right and Keep Him From Running Off With Your Best Friend (fictitious). One frequently hears that one needs to live one's truth. In Picasso's day, (he died in 1973 at the age of 92), how ironic that instead of espousing theories or telling others how to live, here was a man who silently went about revolutionizing art and the process of being without seeking accolades or writing flowery prose explaining why truth is merely an interpretation of some idea, or as Picasso himself declared it, a lie.

Picasso possessed an amazing vitality that many remarked upon- unsurprisingly, he fathered his last child at 67. When Picasso was not painting, he was writing, illustrating, making ceramics or sculpting. He also favoured company and maintained enduring friendships throughout his life. Picasso was famous for his conquests of the opposite sex and was never without a lover. He remarried yet again at the age of 80. Perhaps it is useful to mention that Picasso smoked a lot (and managed to live to a ripe old age). I mention all of these things, as they are proof of what is the elusive truth we seek. I find it refreshing to be reminded of Picasso's greatness not just as a creator of unforgettable art but as a human being- flawed yet brilliant. Flawed like the rest of us but a genius too because he allowed himself to be one.

For example, when Picasso developed cubism, he was seeking to pare everything down to a simple and uncluttered state. This is achieved by reducing all the objects in a painting to geometric shapes- cubes, cylinders, spheres etc. and by so doing, depicting the very essence of the object. Cubism was a radical change from traditional painting by subsuming colour to form. Consider this, if you look at a portrait, you see a beautiful face or you see an aspect that moves you such as an evocative gaze or soulful eyes. In a cubist painting, each part is dislocated into its simplest expression. Humans are the opposite: multi-faceted and complicated beings. Cubism challenges preconceived ideas and creates a new perception, once again a pursuit for truth but a reaffirmation that truth does not exist.

Are geniuses born? Does our disposition ever change? Would Picasso have been as prolific and revolutionary an artist had he lived the life of an aesthete suffering for an elusive belief? Away from his more traditionally-styled early paintings, the unique view that Picasso had of the world is perhaps best seen in his paintings of women- complicated, emotional, beautiful, desirable, maternal, yet also ruthless, vindictive, jealous and possessive. In those paintings we see the whole of humanity and beyond into eons that have preceded us all. This ability to show us as we are is the accomplishment of a genius. How many of us can say who we are and what we represent? How many of us have found our truth?

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Photo copyright S. van Dalen

The Curse of Convenience

One of my dirty little secrets is a desire to see how people live in their unguarded moments. From what I see at the supermarket check out, I am beginning to think this would not be such a good idea. Picture this: the frozen pizza, the ready made porridge with fruit, the endless snacks, the gallons of sugary drinks, the processed ham and plasticized cheese ready packaged for the kiddies to take to school- perhaps already digested too. I think inside those homes, not a lot goes on besides laying around prostrate staring into space. I do believe our politicians have us right where they want us- zombified into stupidity. Don't believe me? Go and stand at the check out at any major supermarket near you.