Works of art are one of the methods by which artists can reveal their whole lives, including their emotions and characteristics. One artist who fused her whole life with her work is Niki de Saint-Phalle, whose art we can appreciate in depth by visiting the exhibition ‘Niki de Saint-Phalle – Mazda Collection’. This exhibition delivers a powerful message: a wound and heal one received, a symbol that console the public, and more. Every work of Niki de Saint-Phalle has these messages infused in them. Understanding the purpose of her works will be a process of figuring out her whole life.
Niki de Saint-Phalle
Niki de Saint-Phalle is a French artist of Nouveau Realism. She is appreciated for her outspoken expression of femininity against the background of a sense of resistance to unjustifiable authority. In her past, de Saint-Phalle suffered from depression as a result of sexual abuse by her father and an unhappy marriage to an authoritative husband. To overcome the torment she felt, de Saint-Phalle went through art therapy, which helped her to overcome her pain. She went on to become an artist in order to make the power of art well known to the public. Niki de Saint-Phalle, moved to New York when she was young, and there she was influenced by the abstract paintings being produced at that time both in America and in France. Based on this influence, her Nouveau Realism art works could be approved by many people. She became the only recognized female Nouveau Realism artist.
Nouveau Realism is an art movement that started in the 1960s, in Paris. It was begun by artists who wanted to reflect the reality in their works in a different way than did abstract art, which, at the time, was the dominant style of art. Nouveau Realism, originated by Pierre Restanier, soon spread to many artists and more and more various, enthusiastic ways of expression came about. Soon, Nouveau Realism began to be approved as a category of formal art.
The most well-known artist of the Nouveau Realism school is Niki de Saint-Phalle. Her “shooting paintings” especially received lots of attention. Shooting painting is an art work done by shooting a gun at a plastic bag or a can filled with paint. As the bullet goes through the plastic bag or can, colorful paint inside it splashes out like blood and finishes the work. Producing an art work using a gun would have been a great shock for the public. ‘Anthropometry’ by Yves Klein, another artist who developed Nouveau Realism, received lots of attention since the work was done by nude models rolling around the canvass with paints on their bodies. Like this, the various and enthusiastic innovations of Nouveau Realism spread abroad. The public’s shock soon turned into interest, and people were captivated by this field of art, as they recognized the meaning of the works. Nouveau Realism seems to be an interesting and gorgeous art.
Theme of Niki’s Work
Personal Wound and Heal
Many people recall ‘Nana’ when they think of Niki de Saint-Phalle. ‘Nana,’ one of her most well-known works of art, was made by Niki looking at her pregnant friend. It is expressed with various colors and poses and is regarded as a symbol of femininity. ‘Nana’ seems to be a bit different from many people’s recognition of formal beauty. However, this soon emphasizes the natural beauty and greatness inside one human being and beauty itself. Niki was sexually abused by her father since young and she lived inside a frame of authoritative husband during her first married life. Through ‘Nana,’ Niki expressed the wound she suffered and the suppression she got just for being a ‘woman,’ and it speaks to how she overcame them.
Meeting and Art
In Niki’s works, relationships between people occupy a central place. Niki’s work made Yoko Masuda Shizue, who ran a restaurant across the sea, feel communion. She sympathized with what Niki tried to express as a woman, and she tried her best to make Niki’s art be known by the world. Niki and Yoko Musuda Shizue continued their friendship by exchanging letters after they first met in Paris. The letters they wrote and drew from concern how art works relate to personal problems and also display their friendship and trust.
Symbol that Console the Public
For Niki, art is a savior which cured her wound. She decided to be an artist to share the power of art that healed her mental wound. ‘Tarot Park’ is one of her fancy works which is built by her imagination. People may just go by the work and say it is a fancy park, but Niki had a purpose to share happiness and healing in the work. Audiences can return to the innocence of childhood apart from anxiety, and they can become energetic by looking at her works. Niki prepared a space for the audience to healing through ‘Tarot Park’.
To understand Niki de Saint-Phalle’s work, we need to understand her life in advance. In ‘Niki de Saint-Phalle – Mazda Collection’, it is not that we can only see her works. We can understand all about Niki including her life, the pain she received, and how she expressed her pain through her art. In this way, we can delicately appreciate her works. We also can feel the greatness of Niki, who expressed her pain as artworks, which she tried to share with others. Many people tend to hurriedly hide their wound. Why don’t we emulate Niki, who honestly revealed her pain by art?
Dates: 2018.06.30~2018.09.25 (except 7/30, 8/27, 9/24)
Location: Seoul Arts Center, Hangaram art gallery
Hours: Everyday 11:00~20:00/ entrance ends at 19:00
Admission: Adult 14,000won
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