blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Paul Klee and his world

A sculpture inspired by Klee

Entrance to the Paul Klee Centre

Each building here is called a "hill"

The "hills" of the building become buried in farmland

Nearby footpaths are named after Klee's works of art 

Paul Klee and his wife are buried in the Schosshaldenfriedhof
The Zentrum Paul Klee is a new museum on the edge of Bern, close to the place where you can find the artist's grave. On the gravestone a quotation from Klee is carved:

Diesseitig bin ich gar nicht fassbar––denn ich wohne grad so gut bei den Toten wie bei den Ungeborenen––etwas naeher dem Herzen der Schoepfung als ueblich und noch lange nicht nahe genug.

(My attempt at a free translation: In this world I am not understood at all––for I live just as comfortably with the dead as with the unborn––somewhat closer to the heart of creation than is usual and yet not close enough by far.)

Hauptweg und Nebenwege
(Museum Ludwig, Köln)
Born in 1879, Klee was the son of musicians and the husband of a pianist and was never sure if he should have been an artist rather than a musician himself; every day before he started work he did an hour of violin playing. The notion of art as a sort of music inspired his abstracts, mingling colours and shapes in repetitive patterns with intervals or divisions between them and playing with chromatic variations on a theme. He was an amateur naturalist too and a tireless walker (living in Bern, that was inevitable), so he brought his contemplations of nature into the images he created, imitating, as well as he could, the gradual growth of plants, making the shapes of fish or birds.

What he experienced he daubed onto paper, the cuboid buildings of Tunisia for instance became an abstract juxtaposition of rectangles in harmonious colours. As a young man, he'd liked mosaics and had been influenced by the post impressionists Cézanne and Delaunay.

In an increasingly disturbed world (he died in 1940) he was forever searching for a point of balance; he made mobiles and tried to reconcile the "battle of the circle and the straight line" both in theory (Schriften zur Form und Gestaltungslehre) and practice. More and more he came to express himself in hieroglyphics and symbols, dream images, while sensing, like the poet Yeats) that "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."

At the museum I saw a room full of Geister und Gespenster, spirits, goblins and ghosts created by Klee in two and three dimensions, one with a black head made out of matchboxes with a black cloth beneath forming a cloak. It had a whimsical feather in its "hat"-- that humorous touch was typical. A watery scene had horizontal stick figures for mermaids. Other mermaids were blotchy, red and grey (Meerjungfer im Sand) and there was a green-blue nymph in a vegetable garden with a red heart for a mouth: "ausgeruhtes / göttlich Wesen / liegt im Garten / Bohnen Fenchel Wirz Salat / vollgefressen," (he wrote).

In the next room I encountered his invention of an imaginary beast, the Urchs (perhaps intended as a cross between an Urs -- bear -- and an Ochs -- ox). Entertained by a museum guide, a group of Swiss children was loving this. The Urchs was drawn in various moods, "ärgerlich ... unschlüssig ... horchend" (with two ears on one side of its head) and "Über-Urschig" (invented word). Other creatures were a tom cat-cum-bull, a denkende Katze, and a Hunds-Löwen-Affe with triple ears and a double tail. He thought of  halb-Tiere, humans taking the forms of animals (i.e. escaping) in times of trouble, like the narrator of Kafka's Metamorphosis, or like shamans.

Other surrealistic notions of Klee's were the wandering head that appears in various parts of the body and the cloud figure with closed eyes (mir deuchte, ich schwebte als Wolke ...), sketched in a style not unlike the line drawings by Kästner that accompany his children's books (Emil und die Detektive and so on). Klee sketched himself as a "fool / jester in a trance" (Narr in Trance) and as a "poor angel," trying to smile at his fears. One piece was entitled Entseelung ("The Soul Departs").

I liked the inclusion in the exhibition of the books Klee had used at school as a schoolboy, full of extraordinary doodles in their margins; even then, his artistic genius could not be suppressed.

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