20 January 2012

What a difference a title makes (2)

"The Desert Ablaze", 1953, by Jean Dubuffet. The title works on its own - all sorts of images and questions come to mind when I think about a desert in flames - what is burning? how does the fire spread? Is there enough combustible matter in a desert to support a "blaze"? How did it start?

Applied to this painting, was the title an afterthought or was it part of a concept that existed before Dubuffet started the painting? On the whole, his painting doesn't appeal to me aesthetically (too crowded, too "fiddly",  too much impasto; ungraspable; the deliberate eschewing of traditional standards of beauty) -- but certain works on their own have that ineffable quality that causes me to stop and suspend judgment. But I like the reasons he abandoned traditional beauty - an authentic and humanistic approach to image-making (as exemplified in Art Brut). Even so, it's this human-free painting that I'd choose, for it's abstract qualities - and because of the intriguing - and perhaps arbitrary? - title.

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