Warming Autumn

     Several days of Salzburg Föhn, watching the first burn orange leaves fall gently from trees like jeweled amber and a visit from Papa has lulled me into a relaxed state.  Daily sun and warm weather, a rare pleasure for English folk, has led us to stalk sun spots like lazy lions, finding packed cafes, benches and mountain tops. Our chase for the sun (and out of season closures) meant the so called beneficial Salzburg Card was about as useful as a chocolate teapot.  However I did, eventually, with an early morning rise, catch up with the Emil Nolde exhibition at the Museum der Moderne on the Mountain.
        Despite the criticism of Nolde`s political orientation, I found his "primitive" paintings frank and lacking in any kind of condescension.  In fact quite the opposite.  In one of these portraits there seemed to be a striking similarity to teenagers today. One youth, standing with a rolled tobacco leaf hanging casually from his mouth proud, all-knowing, unafraid and provocative; his head-dressed with a couple of orange feathers.  Nolde represented this unaffected youth in a bold, block of skin colour paint and thick black outlines to have him standing, defiantly looking slightly down at you.  Contrary to what I have read on Nolde, this is not the work of someone who could truly believe in a master race.  Perhaps his political affiliation was one rather due to fear and not real commitment.  The NSDAP party had much fear, as I would summerise from the selection, that this is an artist that was able to see past the illusion of difference between cultures.  So perhaps his sympathy toward this party was just a fearful facade?  Art that speaks truthful depths clearly cannot lie and the party quickly in their fear marked Nolde`s works as Degenerate Art.  The rest of the portraits in this series we equally interesting as they were diverse.  Confident young men who weren`t afraid of looking you in the eye and sporting their latest native head gear, that Nolde represented as splashes of bold red colour.  Women, who looked back at you indifferently as anyone who would capture your portrait and in this indifference revealed her curiosity.

        His bold blocks of colour that depict a childlike and despondent Adam and Eve separated by the snake slithering down the tree of knowledge trunk reveals an uncanny similarity to story of lost love today.  Their banal stare into the middle distance remind me so much of couples I see today sat across from each other looking into their own non-space, disconnected.  The modernity of such a painting is at once funny and terribly sad.  A real tragic comedy.  Shakespeare would be proud.  I´m convinced that this man could not be a real NSDAP sympathizer, not with his awareness of timelessness, whereas racial separation insists on temporality.  
It is almost as if with Nolde`s portraits, the illusions of social codes are lifted.  A peasant man looks regal and dignified with a strong, angular black hat and powerful look that bursts with colour revealing fortitude.  The Prophet`s face slowly reveals itself from the shadows seemingly vanishing back in any moment in his dismay.  Domesticated average cats are given wood carved black and white masks and a jungle to leap about in, alluding to their natural wild.  The "holy night" story, is depicted as a magical feeling that is experienced the world over by just any man and woman who have their first child making their awe turn into an enchanted evening.  It seems like this was a man who was well aware of the illusions of life and yet in his art he could lift them so we could see ourselves.

      His sea etchings seem to further evoke his feeling of belonging to his birthplace of Seebüll.  He almost obsessively sketched and etched away at all the vigourous hustle and bustle of the harbour which is clearly evoked, you can almost hear the ship horns, smell the smoke and feel the enormity of the ship pulling into its dock; yet he wasn`t content with the way in which no sunlight would shine through.  If only intuitively and perhaps not fully consciously it seems he grasped the potential for human darkness in their search for industrial "progression" and heimat.

    Kokoschka down at the Rupertinum, brought vibrant waved lines of colour to the Austrian mountains.  Following the blues, purples, reds and yellows, I looked onto the panorama watching the evening colours dance and change like a rippling river over a crisp snow.  His sketched portraits alive in single orange colour breathing life into a dancer looking back playful almost as if she was mimicking Edouard Manet`s woman reclining.  Two young friends alive in each other`s presence are depicted by Kokoschka as life coming through in colour.  They are ignited like flames, sparking each other to higher and more colourful hues.
     It was a good choice to have these exhibitions simultaneously, they both reveal the unexpected and at times contradicts the hundreds of articles written about them both, so their art remains truly alive.