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When the Munch exhibition came to London, I saw it at the Coulthard, and when it went to Paris as a larger exhibition, I headed to the city to see it on a short hop and skip of a plane ride away. I’ve admired the works of Munch for as long as I can remember despite never actually pronouncing his name properly for ages… matter of fact I only just started pronouncing it properly last year or some such because Munch was my favourite detective of Law and Order, which is a bit of an aside. So back to Edvard Munch and his works, the exhibition in the coulthard was a much smaller affair it was only 18 pieces but with some of his most impressive work especially when the subject is his sister. In Paris however it runs near enough the whole gamut; 150 works including paintings, pencil drawings and text scripts. I love it when letters from the artist are included in an exhibition because it reveals even more of the artist beyond his work. In London you get a taste of what the artist is about and in Paris, you get a sense of self of the artist. It is a revelation of magnificent proportion that continues to draw the viewer in. There is a full sense of growth in these works as he traverses both light and darkness an almost rapid change in direction and narrative of the painter. His acute awareness of life, the stages in between and the many emotions we as humans have to pass through it quite phenomenal especially in death where the rawness of emotion is on display. Munch himself suffered such tragedy early on in life.
To say his subject are miserable is stating the obvious, my goodness are they miserable to behold but behind the misery lies the life outside or behind the narrative that we the audience are invited to imagine if we could push ourselves beyond the painting.
Besides The Scream its his work in Asgardstrand that stir the most in my opinion, especially when its subject is Inger his sister. Here is where we can see the lightness that Munch can be. here is also where I think he is at his most incredible with the work he does with the moonlight and reflections of water because it evokes a rawness of emotion outside of sadness. He makes the water a metaphor for what life it; at times stagnant trapping in emotion other times floating with an ease and calm, his paint strikes invoking a lightness whilst also poignant. Same with his works besides the water where it looks like the subject have posed for the painter, both set of subjects in the painting grab the viewers’ attention none competing and both compelling. Munch does things with colour that inspires and evokes a particular emotion and his play with depth of field is sublime in all its glory.
Above all however in Munch’s work is his ability to put on full display the range of human emotions with the power to evoke something in the audience the palpable fear and mostly anguish is there in paint and colour, and at times black and darker. Another favourite was his self-portrait following a mental breakdown where in the midst of chaos as depicted by the lines traipsing across is the writer who sits calmly, serenely for his moment. All’s to say if there is an exhibition of Munch you should most likely go see it, there is also the Munch Museum in his country in Oslo, Norway I haven’t been yet, but a couple of acquaintances have sang its praises.