Does honesty have a limit? At which point are we allowed to openly speak the truth, our acclaimed version of the truth, until we find ourselves, with a twist of fate, bruised with humiliation and pity. Life is an endless walk without stop signs, and if we are not prudent enough, there we would be, lying on the thick white pedestrian lanes, gone, unwary what even hit us.
The truth is a nasty unreliable matter of what is real, made up and what we think is real. Our desires often cloud our sight to fully see the actuality of the situation we are in. Our wants inevitably become our delusions in the absence of the realisation that what we hope for may not be what is fated for us. But how long should we continue to fight for what we regard as real, and true? To persistently hold on to a picture-perfect dream may be a foolish thought, but perhaps it might just be about the only thing that gives us the strength to soldier on.
So in the face of honesty, why do we find the need to constantly hide the truth, or even a part of the truth? Perhaps it merely culminates to the theatrical dramatisation we play in life, a condiment that keeps us off the stage of boredom. Has our subconscious led our actions to where we actually want to be even at the risk of getting hurt? Or maybe it’s the fear of unveiling the sincere truth that may pilot to rejection. Hence, we vaguely show a bit of what we are in hope that it would be deciphered, understood and reciprocally accepted. In like manner, have we underestimated the true value of abstract art?
Evidently, cubist painter, Pablo Picasso doesn’t think so, ‘Abstract art is only painting. And what’s so dramatic about that? There is no abstract art. One must always begin with something. Afterwards one can remove all semblance of reality; there is no longer any danger as the idea of the object has left an indelible imprint. It is the object which aroused the artist, stimulated his ideas and set off his emotions.’
Perhaps the truth is so apparent that people neglect to see it anymore, and possibly the reason why we are so drawn to the idea of abstract. As a result, it becomes a necessity that the truth be faintly obscured, displayed from a different perspective and told under a different light. Maybe it is only then that we are able to grab the attention of those oblivious to the veracity of the situation. Like that of the small town in the province of Biscay in Basque Country during the Spanish Civil War, Guernica, was abstractedly painted as a parable, while in reality it was regarded as the northern bastion of the Republican resistance movement adding to its significance as a target.
Picasso’s Guernica, 1937, an anti-war painting, poignantly evokes the tragedies and suffering war inflicts on the innocents. This widely acclaimed painting has become a monumental status that symbolises the horror of war, which has led to an embodiment of peace. Upon the completion of uernica, the painting was displayed around the world on a brief tour that had caught the world’s attention to the Spanish Civil War at that time. Guernica is now in the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid.
Serving as one of Picasso’s strongest political statements, Guernica is an amalgamation of fable and warfare painted on a mural-size canvas. With the discard of colours, the terror and torment is only further intensified adding to the dramatic feel. And despite the abstract style, the message Picasso tries to convey is vividly portrayed allowing the audience to emphasize with the innocent victims of Guernica. Instead of using traditional battle imagery as visual inspiration for Guernica, Picasso turned to a familiar arena of the Spanish bullring. The brutal chase, fierce power and inevitable adversity of the bullring had been imprinted in Picasso’s mind ever since he was three. And perhaps what makes this piece so powerful is the subtle way Picasso has vividly depicted the disturbing portrayal of the people as a helpless animal dying a senseless death, without the light of hope.
Art historian Patricia Failing said, ‘Picasso himself certainly used these characters to play many different roles over time. This has made the task of interpreting the specific meaning of the bull and the horse very tough. Their relationship is a kind of ballet that was conceived in a variety of ways throughout Picasso’s career.’ Though Picasso has said the bull was meant to simply represent brutality and darkness, while the horse the people of Guernica, many critics, however, believe the rampaging bull was intended to signify the onslaught of Fascism.
Failing also mentioned how ‘Picasso made a very poignant personal statement about the horse in Guernica being connected to the idea of the suffering of the people. And since it’s an animal with a big lance wound through its center, certainly that’s a connection many people would find quite plausible. But Picasso was maddeningly inconsistent about what he had to say about these particular characters, although he didn’t like to say very much at all about them. He knew that it’s better to not say something and allow the interpreters to fill in the space. That gives them something to do. It makes them think about you more.’
Making countless unverified interpretations might possibly be exactly what Picasso intended. And though we may question the actual meaning of the images, leaving us only perplexed, in the end, Guernica has achieved its main goal. Its composition rivetingly challenges our basic idea of war being heroic and brave, unmasking it as a brutal act of self-destruction.
And I suppose it is that very thought that has led me to my earlier questions. Perhaps that’s the same reason why we conceal part of what we want to say. Blatant honesty may be heard, but hardly does anyone care to analyse or understand it further. Maybe the mystery is what keeps it intriguing, interesting even, for without it, who would want it? For the truth to be sought, it must first be hidden. And though we may all end up with different truths, what matter is, we dared to seek.
If you give meaning to certain things in my paintings it may be very true, but it is not my idea to give this meaning. What ideas and conclusions you have got I obtained too, but instinctively, unconsciously. I make the painting for the painting. I paint the objects for what they are. – Picasso