One of the great experiences of travelling comes when you are in a foreign city and find yourself to be pleasantly surprised by things you didn’t expect. In May 2013, whilst in Bruges, I stumbled over Expo Picasso, purely by accident. Inside the confines of this small yet stunningly beautiful gallery were some 400 works of Picasso, many from his early life adorning the walls of the historic Oud Sint_Jan. Many of the works were also incomplete which gave them a sense of mystery because you knew there was something missing which allowed your mind to wander in awe of exactly what was needed to complete the individual works, if anything at all.
The fetching entry price of 12 Euro’s seemed worth its weight in gold because the gallery, small as it was was almost empty. This is the charm I guess of visiting exhibition’s in small out of the way towns. You are not forced to fend with the masses of tourists, the line ups, the pushy security guards who try to stop you taking photo’s and the jostling for positions to best appreciate the work of art you stand in front of. Ever tried to spend some time appreciating The Mona Lisa in Pairs without a plethora of selfie sticks invading your collective thoughts?
I was first drawn to Pablo Picasso at around the age of thirteen. Along with Dali, Picasso resonated with me like few artists have before or since. There was this “otherness” about not just his work, but Pablo as a human being that drew me in. I adored his “don’t give a fuck” attitude to life where he promoted a lifestyle of just doing what makes you happy.
What’s most striking about Picasso’s work from all periods of his life is that he always managed to come over as fresh and exciting. One can also see the fear from losing his sister at a young age shine through in his work by way of un-restful characters that he chose to capture. Perhaps most prominent of this inner unrest was through his “Old Woman” portrait completed in 1901 whereby you see a figure not quite at ease with her state of mind, almost as if she is searching from an ending to torment.
The exhibition gave me a sense of accomplishment. It felt as though the viewer was being allowed inside Pablo’s soul from afar through these random and often incomplete works. Despite his “blue” and “rose” periods producing a good deal of his most revered works, it’s through these humbling sketching’s that we see a different side to an artist dealing with his inner demons whilst opening us up to a world very few at the time would have understood. There are defined homo-erotic undertones through many of these works. A time when being gay around the western world was frowned upon by way of prison sentences or death penalties.
Any Picasso exhibition is a pleasure though being allowed into this side of his work was a spectacular treat and one I would highly recommend should you ever be in the right place at the right time to catch a glimpse for yourself.
“Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole……” – Johnathon Richman 1977