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Friday, 16 April 2010

Hans Bellmer


What is it makes Bellmer's
art express so well
the fallenness of men
their living under this spell
as if out of each one
had come another
who walks beside that one
and bears that one's name
but feels nothing

La mitrailleuse en état de grâce (The Machine Gun[neress] in a  State of Grace)


Child and Seeing Hands: Hans Bellmer, c. 1950 (Art Institute of Chicago)
La mitrailleuse en état de gråce (The Machine Gun[neress] in a State of Grace): Hans Bellmer, 1937 (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art)
Autoportrait: Hans Bellmer, 1971 (Bibliotheque Nationale de France)


Curtis Roberts said...

This is the best thing I’ve ever read on Bellmer and it’s a question I’ve asked myself with a lot of discomfort and quite inarticulately since first seeing his work a long time ago. I’ve always found Bellmer’s art beautiful, but I tend to look away (as with those horror movies you never get used to and are eventually able to say “it’s just a movie”). Now I think I know why I would avert my eyes or turn the page and, more importantly, why Bellmer’s art “looks that way”, which is obviously because only by making these images could he express what you’ve put into words. I love the poem, which sort of explains itself as it goes along. It is a fine tribute to Hans Bellmer.

TC said...


Know what you mean.

This sensation we get with Bellmer...

Maybe this is the reason why God invented the word "unsettling"?



Yes, yes, maybe something about body in relation to object (?) --


silver of sun rising over shadowed plane
of ridge, golden-crowned sparrow calling
in foreground, waves sounding in channel

gravitational field, object
following the body of

light, the distance between
sun and star, thought

white cloud in pale blue sky on horizon,
cormorants flapping across toward point

leigh tuplin said...

Love everything about this Tom.

The words, their placement, and how they fit perfectly with the images. The images you've chosen - zooming in to a closeup - a landscape becoming more introspective with each one, like the poem.

Bellmer has always been one of those artists for me, who asks 'why', which often isn't comfortable.

TC said...


A lift, certainly, to be visited by that golden-crowned sparrow (but then your various morning lights, which come from the world, do have a way of lifting always).

And indeed this

gravitational field, object
following the body

perhaps links with the characteristic body-relation fields in Bellmer -- less uplift than gravity, there, less light than a brush of the wing of something large and perhaps to be feared, swooping up from the dark places below, those problem-fields of the "lower body" (which possesses a kind of brain of its own?).

And Leigh, picking up from there, your comment brings this back to where we began with Curtis's remark on that inarticulate discomfort we feel but have a hard time expressing, in regard to this artist. Some things that are beyond words ought rightly to remain there, it may be.

I believe anyway that "comfort", "comfort zones", "comfortableness" & c. are not only very much over-rated these days, but probably most often the instruments of some sort of propaganda or other, whether to lull us away from our legitimate critical senses, or, and maybe it's the same thing, to sell us something.



I now remember walking through some rooms of show of Bellmer in the Pompidou a few years ago (maybe I'd forgotten on purpose? too 'scary'?), hard to look there in the dark AT that vision of "the dark places below," as you say. . . .


first silver of sun rising over shoulder
of ridge, golden-crowned sparrow calling
in foreground, sound of waves in channel

description of the painting
doing nothing, sketch

looking “there,” then “here,”
essence of the places

silver line of sun reflected in channel,
sunlit white cloud to the left of point

TC said...

Steve, My time in Paris came significantly later than Bellmer's, yet tales continued to abound. Some grim, some gruesome. E.g.the tying up on Unica Zurn with string so to as to displace her body parts in new formations, then photographing her. Not a great surprise she leapt 100 feet to her death.

His key time came in the rue Mouffetard, from the early Twenties. Neighbours called him "the man in black" due to the black turtleneck he habitually wore. There in 1924 he fabricated his Doll, whose ball-jointed pelvis made possible amazing displacements of its parts. The right hand with which he made it was referred to by a woman who had observed him at work as the hand of murderer. It is often with gratitude that one thanks fortune for restricting one's experiences of such great geniuses.