Sunday, September 27, 2009

the scream

The Scream (painted 1893?) by expressionist painter and Norwegian Edvard Munch, depicts an agonized gender-neutral figure transfixed against a blood red sky. Munch's own thoughts on the painting were:

I was walking along a path with two friends—the sun was setting—suddenly the sky turned blood red—I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence—there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city—my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety—and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.

Diary headed Nice 22.01.1892. Source Wikipedia.

The most likely inspiration for the painting are the northern lights displays that appear over Norway in late autumn and early spring. Another real life inspiration might have been the volcanic explosion of Krakatoa in 1883. And, of course, it may have been a combination of the two natural phenomena - the volcanic explosion released elements into the atmosphere that affected both the color of the northern lights and the extent of their display.

The painting and the figure it displays have become iconic, expressing humankind struggle to adapt to a world gone mad. The gender-neutral figure suggests a universal appeal. Not coincidentally was the artist's manic-depressive sister admitted as a patient in a mental instituition at the time of the painting. Moreover, the struggle is a solitary one. The figure screams while his two normal looking and uncaring companions accompany him/her.

The painting expresses our daily struggle to make sense of who we are and what we are doing here. How can a world of beauty co-exist with ugliness? How can a God who is infinitely wise create men and women who are cruel and inhuman beyond human understanding? And, can we understand our pupose in such a world gone mad? Our scream for sanity, recognition, or help go unheard.

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