REFLECTION 1: Shooting Picture

16 Jun

I looked at Niki de Saint Phalle’s Shooting Picture (1961). The painting, if that is the correct term, is made of plaster, paint, string, polythene and wire on wood and is 1430 x 780 x 81 mm. I was first introduced to Saint Phalle in the modern art museum in Nice, France and instantly recognized this piece as one of hers when I visited the Tate Moderne in London. It’s easy to be attracted to her work because of the bright colors and interesting patterns.  The primary colors used in this piece seemed to attract not only myself but other museum visitors as well. In addition, the piece focuses on texture. The canvas isn’t smooth. It’s made mountainous by plaster.  It’s important to note that Saint Phalle did not paint this piece; it’s a shooting picture. Saint Phalle is known for “filling polythene bags with paint and enclosing them within layers of plaster.”  She then shot the bags or had other people shoot them. This action released the paint and created the design we see. For her, the act of shooting the paint and the random nature in which the design occurs is as important as the finished work.  Some people wouldn’t call this art.  As I looked at the painting, I remembered a teacher from high school who described Saint Phalle’s method and laughed saying, “Anyone can do that, it’s isn’t art.” In a way, it’s true. Anyone could produce work like Saint Phalle. Does she deserve merit just because she did it first or just because she popularized the method? When I look at this piece I begin to question these very notions. However, I’m also drawn to imagine the moment of impact. The tension of observers who watched the bags explode and held their breath as the paint leak down the canvas.  The randomness of the design is not unlike the randomness we find in life. Do we look at the unplanned streaks and call them beautiful or chaotic? In my opinion the chaos produced in this photo is beautiful, though beauty is hardly the point.  The point, I believe, is to make the observer imagine the reckless moment in which the painting was created.  I look at the painting and see a parody of our lives in which each action we take opens a balloon and its effects bleed through our memories and into our future.  Of course, I’m not sure if this is what Saint Phalle intended, but it is my subjective viewpoint.

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One Response to “REFLECTION 1: Shooting Picture”

  1. cécile July 1, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

    Interesting but you could have gone further by analyzing the influence she had on other painters of her time and by looking at the link or differences with the rest of her work, namely her grandiose and colorful sculptures.

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