Thursday, 1 October 2015

The #G+VermouthCafe

The #G+VermouthCafe
"Material, social and illusional."

Originally shared by Mee Ming Wong

Édouard Manet (1832 – 1883)
A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1882
Courtauld Gallery, London

This was Édouard Manet’s last painting before his death and ever since it was first exhibited, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère has generated great interest and discussion about the relationship between reality and illusion; space and time.

The painting is presented as three layers, the bar with still-life at the bottom, Suzon the barmaid in the middle layer and the illusionary space of the mirror behind her. All three layers contain elements of material, social and illusional.

Suzon, the barmaid is front and centered, blankly staring at the viewer, her reflection in the mirror is shown in parallax – deflected sideways to the right, dislocated. The reflection shows her leaning toward and engaging with the gentleman/viewer, which conflicts with the posture that we see. What is in the mirror is not a reflection of what we are seeing in front of it. This tension renders mystery and intrigue between the real and the illusionary world.

The richness of the glittering scene is incongruent with the absence in Suzon’s eyes. Her gaze is blank, lifeless, a beautiful depiction of the death of the soul. Her expression is one of the most famous and mysterious in art.

In this painting, Édouard Manet captures the essence of the complementarity of space and time, forty-five years before Niels Bohr, a physicist. Bohr proposed the complementarity principle, the view that matter can be described as particles or waves, a duality.

Manet’s painting is filled contrasts and contradictions. We see the Folies-Bergère from two different angles, the reality in front and the reflection in the mirror. The information we see in each view do not correspond. He has shown us different points in space and different moments in time.

To be able to see two opposing aspects of reality brings about a new dimension, it deepens our understanding and brings us closer to truths.

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