|René Magritte, Pleasure, 1927. Oil on canvas, 74 x 97cm|
Magritte’s paintings confront you with the unexpected and often inexplicable. This scene could only unfold in a dream, and in this way Magritte confronts his audience with images that evade words but provoke an immediate visceral response. When I look at this painting I see the savagery that exists in us all behind our false façades and glamour, here symbolically represented by a seemingly innocent young girl. It is inevitable that we take Pleasure in this brutality. There is no doubt that the bloody imagery of the painting is incomparably more striking than the words one might use to describe it.
|René Magritte, The Titanic Days, 1928. Oil on Canvas, 73 x 54cm|
Similarly, I could tell you that rape is barbaric, and you would certainly agree. You might even grit your teeth in anger just thinking about it. But nothing can prepare you for the intense emotional experience of The Titanic Days, in which a faceless man clad in black literally invades the body of a naked woman in a way that could only happen in a twisted dream. The woman’s body, her very soul, is taken over by the rapist in a gripping image that words do little justice.
Both of these paintings take pedestrian ideas and turn them into graphic portrayals in a way that words could never emulate so effectively or concisely. In my eyes this is one of the coolest properties of art: It might take days to read a novel, but a painting or sculpture can be absorbed in an instant. A good piece of art can hit you like a haymaker.