I have been looking forwards to this exhibit featuring Edvard Munch for some time. This is, after all, the subject of the independent study that I have done for some time now. Even when I had visited the British Museum earlier in January, all I wanted was to see “Love and Angst” when it became available to the public in April. But, as April came around, I didn’t realize how much time my essays would take. I have read about Edvard Munch briefly before I came to the exhibit. Namely, I bought a book titled, Edvard Munch. Despite the delay, I was ready to see this exhibit, and ot would seem fitting that this exhibit is the last destination I made in the UK before I took the Piccadilly line from Holborn to Heathrow.
Perhaps my favorite drawing in this exhibit is one of the first ones I saw, titled The Kiss. It is a drawing of a boy and girl kissing in front of a window. The faces are blurred together. Their arms are wrapped around each other. Neither of them are aware that they are being observed. But, the part that appealed to me is the anonymity. To a certain extent, it reminds me of some moments in my past relationships. Kissing, while naked, in front of a window is a moment that has defined my understanding of love in college. It symbolizes the fearlessness and intensity that has defined some of my formative sexual experiences.
So intense is the feeling of sexual love that it disassociates identity and merges two separate consciousness. The faces blur with each other because love, in many ways, is a reduction of the sense of self. The face, which symbolizes a medium to communicate self, is reduced nonexistent. Especially in as intense of a moment as sex with someone you genuinely love, it is impossible to turn your attention to anything other than the act itself. Sex with someone you love consumes attention, surrenders identity, and renounces control over your own life. It is one of the few moments in life where you are acting without consideration for yourself.
Another lithograph that I thought was intriguing was Vampire II, depicted as a red-haired girl draping her hair over a sniveling man. The red hair, supposedly, symbolizes the possessive nature of love. Edvard Munch had feared being possessed by his lovers in early in his career. The plaque reads the hair were in the image of snakes, but I imagined them to look like roots or seaweed more than snakes. Similar to a strangling root growing around a tree, the hair does not attempt to assert motion as an animal does. It is alive, of course, but similar to a plant, it can only wait to grow in accordance to the laws of nature. It can not move on its own.
The man is in a state of weakness. I have feared of being possessed in the past, as most people do, but I do not think I have ever been in such a state of weakness where a parasitic plant is able to grow around me as the red hair does to this man. It symbolizes that sadness, or whatever the man is feeling in this print, is a state that requires comfort, but it is also a state of vulnerability. And, within the inevitable desires in love to possess others but not be possessed ourselves, it is the moments of sadness that define our resilience to love without this desire to possess others or this fear to be possessed. The man should fear the parasitic hair.
I also found his portrayal of Madonna to be quite intriguing. It is simultaneously a saddening and frightening. This, of course, is an especially dark rendition (in terms of the color, but also the mood), but it also strangely intimate. Her eyes. Her eyes are scary but also somber. I kept on staring at her eyes. For some reason, I kept on returning to her eyes. If eyes were considered to be the windows to the soul, perhaps Madonna’s eyes represent the simultaneous existence of insanity and intimacy within the soul. They exist together, as one cannot be perceived while perceiving the other, but they also cannot as separate sentiments either.
After I finished the exhibit, I walked back to the beginning to take one last look at The Kiss before exiting the building. It was one of those few times that I genuinely felt justified in purchasing a ticket to see art. I approach life with the same light as I had before, but with subtle grain of inspiration lodged within the artistic portions of my soul. I suppose it could all be a feeling that fades. Perhaps, Edvard Munch could articulate my ideas better than I ever could with a medium that is just inherently more perfect. Regardless, it was a moment hypocritical to some lifestyles that I represent. But, some hypocrisies seem more just than others.
I took a few more minutes to walk around Covent Garden before returning to Hoborn station to await my train to the airport.