Forms of Realism

The best part of Facebook, in fact the only good part, is some of the people one can meet. Recently I connected with a young writer called Joobin Bekhrad, of Iranian extraction but living in Toronto, who loves to post interesting material about the Middle East. Through him I learned about the Turkish writer Yasar Kemal, and I’m reading one of his books now, The Undying Grass. A really good book—beautifully constructed, and with a great honesty about everything bodily, including sex. A good corrective to common ideas about the cultures of the middle east. It’s also at a place where realism, magic realism and folklore are indistinguishable. That may seem impossible, but it’s not. Does that have anything to do with abstraction? I think so, for two reasons. Firstly, I have a theory about the realist origin of abstraction, and I think that too much emphasis has been put on the other origin, on “spiritual” or religious traditions. The Hilma af Klimt – Mondrian axis is, in many ways, the dominant one, but I prefer the materialist/realist axis – from Cézanne to Stella (however improbable that genealogy might seem), with stops at Picasso, Malevich, Pollock, Kelly, Barré and many others. To understand realism in art one has to understand it in literature, so my second reason is that anything that expands my own perspective is useful. Who could say what magic realism, or proletarian fiction, or folklore and fairy tales might have to do with abstract art? Why set limits beforehand?

Marisa Merz, Scarpette

Marisa Merz, Scarpette

Marisa Merz’s fairy slippers, that danced with the moon. A kind of abstraction.

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