Claude Monet, Rouen Cathedral, West façade, 1894 Claude Monet, Rouen Cathedral, West façade, 1894, Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France

CLAUDE MONET (1840- 1926) Rouen Cathedral

For me Monet stands between two of my favorite artists who played with the disintegration of the object rather than it’s creation, J.M.W. Turner and Anselm Kiefer. Turner’s objects sailed forth only to be obliterated by light as if they were Viking funeral vessels. Kiefer’s images shattered into a thousand meaningless marks as you walked towards them only to regroup behind your back as you walk away and happen to glance back again.

But Monet is not so violent. His chapels are not destroyed. Instead they are silently wrapped in fog as if it were tissue paper, and they were priceless pieces being put away for eternity so that they can live forever on the shelf in the back of your scull. As the Rouen Chapel’s façade is covered over by fog, silent morning light, or evening’s fading sun, there is no suggestion of destruction, only a glimmering eternity.

I am just realizing that my own world is sort of fragile – melody is left out of rap music, conceptual art shuns beauty, and language is being aborted by compulsive texting. I would if I could wrap these things up in a protective fog like Monet did with the Rouen Cathedral, but I can’t. Hey, I would like to wear fog, so people would think I was more beautiful than I have become. I would like to put this planet under a blanket of fog, so it would live forever on the shelf in the back of my brain.

It is interesting that barely seeing a Monet image doesn’t make it more beautiful – it makes it more fragile, more sensitive, more mysterious because it is there but not there. His images are really about time since they exist only in a second, a second that lasts forever. Monet’s fog puts space between you and the image. And that space creates life, the most fragile thing we know, since it is always followed by death. Since night follows day but fickle day does not always follow night, time for us is just a slow plod towards death, while we wish desperately for eternal life otherwise known as heaven, Valhalla, Olympus, whatever. So watching Monet’s delicate seconds exist in eternity is heartbreaking – a little crack in reality that can be seen only at dawn or in the evening, or most of all behind the protective mystery of fog. The stone steps are there but we can never climb them. Never…I hate that word. Forever… that’s much better – because I will stand on Monet’s steps any time, in the rain, in the snow, I’ll even stand in someone’s living room, someone I don’t even like, someone I fucking hate, just to get a glimpse of Monet’s eternity, and not because it is something I can’t have… simply because it is so beautiful.

Artillery Magazine Vol 7 Issue 6 Sept-Oct 2013

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