Thursday, May 15, 2008

White On White I - Erwin Olaf and Taste

I've never really thought about it but I do rather like white on white.  In images, that is.  Sometimes even in furniture.  But it is not something I can live with.  I need colour.  And lots of it.

Rich, jewel hues.

Vibrant, raw shades.

Muted, shy tones.

Yet white and white appeals to me and tends to be the one that draws my eye immediately even if it later keeps straying to it's more colourful brethren.

Why this shy hesitancy towards white on white?  Perhaps it was a childhood memory remembering my grandmother's sneering remarks about someone who was white trash seeking to overstep their past by overplaying the "classy purity of white".  Or maybe it is the much simpler and less disturbing fact that I am superbly clumsy and white would stain horribly under my careless hand.

Still, I totally got Coilhouse's decision to put together a white on white homage.  

Coilhouse's top ten choices include Erwin Olaf's spectacularly surreal depiction of Empress Elisabeth of Austria.  Well, the age of his model makes it more Sissi of Bavaria but the death wound suggests a time-space continuum.  

Also the nail file aka murder weapon looks more like a butter knife.  But still, it's a gorgeous piece of creamy loveliness.

I would also add his Poppaea, the second wife to Roman Emperor No-I-Am-Not-Insane Nero.  The woman allegedly conned Nero into killing his own momma, and then psychoed him into divorcing and later executing his first wife.  

She was probably the inspiration for all of Jerry Springer's programmes.

She was allegedly kicked in the stomach while preggers with her second child by Nero.  Some even claimed Nero poisoned her or leapt upon her in a "casual fit" of rage.  Gee, I wonder what his formal fits of rages were like.  

Or it could have been due to a miscarriage as Nero went into deep mourning when the woman passed away.  

Then again, he was a nutter and they can go all wonky like that after committing homicide.  I reckon they make the Addams Family look positively boring.

Olaf also included this rather handsome fellow (for a blonde) in the line-up.  Simply entitled Ludwig+1886, one can only deduce that it is King Ludwig II, another famous nutter.  

But at least he was a patron of the arts.  The reason for the confusion is the blood on Olaf's Ludwig's collar and sleeves.  

Since ole Luggie's death was never explained and he was found like flotsam in Lake Wurm, I am not sure what artistic license Olaf took or if it alludes to some other Ludwig.  

Perhaps he was making his own conjecture based on one of the rumours that a shot was heard by the river on the day the mad monarch went Ophelia on us.

Another stunner is his Tsarina Alexandra, the last of the Russian royalty.  Yes, her of the Rasputin infamy.  

The bullet and bayonet wounds as well as her last desperate move to make the sign of the cross in vain as she was shot and stabbed to death ... well, it is just a masterpiece.

No, I am not macabre much.

She was canonised in 2000, along with her family so brutally executed that hot and dusty day in July 1918.  Now known as Saint Alexandra the Passion Bearer by the Russian Orthodox Church, I rather think it is poor compensation, don't you?

The last one I would point out in Olaf's lineup is a bit contentious.  To me anyway.  I was in half mind on whether I should include it.

Because it is a trite bit tacky and tastless.

Because it concerns a recent icon and could be construed as disrespectful to her and her surviving love ones and family.

Because it seems to mock the circumstance of her passing.

Because unlike the rest, where the theme touched on ancient history or at least a history that does not reach out its spectral hands to claw at the still aching heart of her mourners, this one is just too relevant.

But I decided I will let the readers decide.

Tacky and disrespectful? Or an arty statement?  If the latter, pray tell me what it is, please.


Anonymous said...

Just wanted to offer another interpretation of the Diana image! Here is a link that touches on your feelings towards this image, where Olaf offers some thoughts on it:

I think that this image is a comment on the media's glamorization and sensationalization of Diana's death. What he's doing is making a grotesque exaggeration of how the media's handled it throughout the years - taking it to its natural conclusion, it's extreme. To me, it's a critique of the media and a comment on how our culture has dealt with the violent death of famous people throughout all time. It's no coincidence that she looks more realistic than the cartoonish, over-photoshopped figures of the past. I actually think that the whole photoshoot is about her, and her relationship with paparazzi. The other images, in their cartoonishness, symbolize how a death becomes even more glamorized and abstract as time goes by.

RaisedEyeBrow said...

Hi Nadya! Wow! I am so flattered and honoured that you visited ... thanks for your comment and link.

Well, to be honest, I can understand what Olaf may be trying to do but it still does not sit that well. I love all his other works but this one just crossed the line a bit too much for me. I suppose it is English reserve born from crying our eyes out (still not that long ago) when we saw a card simply saying Mummy on her casket, while her two boys walked behind it.

While I was no fan of hers, it still comes across as a bit of a line crosser. Perhaps it is a cultural thing.

But I appreciate your point and his. It's always good to see and listen to all sides but still respect each other, no?

Love your site, btw and wish you all the very best for your mag!