The Bacchanal is having an effect. In the early hours of the evening, when the last of the daylight falls gently across the room, at night, when languorous thoughts are next to its scenery, and during the day when a heartfelt bliss dispels the austerity for a few hours. Whenever the allure of being seen strikes, it bestows on the experience a stunning scene, making a large imagined space truly sublime.
Whoever enters the Gendarmerie is welcomed. While people who seem to belong to a bygone era greet guests and fulfil their initial desires, the Bacchanal is still hesitant.
It is there, unmissable, elevated, even now strangely noticeable, but the gaze does not get caught up in it. We first of all need a fixed place in the room, a brief moment of having arrived, perhaps even a first drink, another look. Then, awareness of its size grows, followed by the realisation that something can be seen in it, testifying to a wonderful belief in the absolute necessity of art.
In this moment it opens up. It begins to vibrate, colours begin to shimmer, individual figures are discernible. It stirs and looks for those hopeful of a gathering which is dedicated to the power that has long been considered divine, intoxicated, and with complete abandon. Men and maenads, the latter being muses rather than frenzied women, idolise and confuse one another.
There are the bacchantes and the hopelessly debauched. They search for the bacchanal of which they are part and guide us to its source and its shoots. They evoke the power of earlier feasts to venerate the Roman Bacchus, the mythological equivalent of the Greek Dionysus, venerated in more ancient times. These patrons of fertility and ecstasy were gods, but it is clear that everything associated with them, both then and now, is deeply human. Joy in this humanity can open a kaleidoscope, reach the best art with happiness. Its images unfold from the unique moment of the action which the motif can show. Here it is selected so incisively that it makes what comes before and after not only comprehensible but also viable. It is as if some lines of forgotten poetry composed by the blind Homer, who emerges from a cask on the left in black and white as he follows what is going on, had overcome the limits of painting with gently formulated suggestions and a subtle sensuality.
A panorama, both immovable and transitory, emerges for and with the composed space. The way in which its figures express themselves, the way in which their heads, their eyes, their hands and their garments, together with their forms and colours, operate beyond the motif, accounts for its effectiveness. Painters have thus always been able to induce belief in a romantic extension of one’s own existence. Since the Renaissance has also made public images of the sensual and the earthly heroic, these images are closely linked to spaces that serve the most distinguished events of courtly, civic and political culture. They perform a decorative function and also support the power of the imagination to integrate the self into more prestigious traditions. Abstract stories, which form part of the collective memory, are translated into an effective juxtaposition of a specific image and its lyrically construed interpretation by an artist’s portrayal, an artist who knows the power of imagination of his or her contemporary public. Hope grows of participation in a world that is far abstracted from the everyday yet suddenly seems to be palpable. The picture in the room supports the possibility of finally being able to physically experience the imagination, long dreamed-of and happily believed.
Viewing the Bacchanal in this way means encountering the dreamed-of. The painter’s imagination motivates the viewer. Whoever follows him will ultimately succeed in embracing life.
Wolfgang Schöddert, 14. August 2009http://www.jean-yves-klein.de/BACCHANAL.html