Art AffairsCultureSpiegeloog 400: Psychology & Writing

Art Affairs: Writing about Psychology – Rothko & me

By January 8, 2020 No Comments

The exhibition Rothko & me consists of a single painting, Grey, Orange on Maroon, No. 8 and has to be visited alone. Upon entering you’re asked to hand in your cell phone. In the waiting room, mindfulness tips for spectators are shown, to help you get in the mood.

Photo: Aad Hoogendoorn

All of this gives looking at Grey, Orange on Maroon, No. 8 the notion of entering a temple or a cathedral, with the painting being like a holy shrine. This view is something that Rothko himself would probably have very much agreed with. Rothko described his working process as a religious experience and his paintings are said to have brought people to tears. I was pretty skeptical about the idea of a painting being able to drive me to tears but I was also intrigued by the idea of this painter who seemed to have appropriated himself a god-like status.

Whilst standing in front of the painting I was impatiently waiting on my catharsis, desperately trying to lose myself in its warm orange and dark grey colours. Trying very hard to channel my attention, and the fact that I had to write something about this experience, did not really help me feel anything I was hoping to feel. To be fair, I wasn’t even sure what it was that I wanted to feel at all. Figuring that this certainly wasn’t going to give me any inspiration, I simply started to stare at the painting and let my mind trail off. There I was standing, with the painting staring back at me, and soon I was thinking about what was on my to-do list, where I was going after this visit and what I would do tonight.

Photo: Aad Hoogendoorn

I’m not sure whether it was the painting or the fact that I was all by myself in a room without the distraction of my cell phone, but I did start to wonder about how I was really feeling. I felt calm, as if this painting, or, more likely, this whole setting, forced me to really stop and think for a bit. Slowing down is something I, unfortunately, do a lot less often than I would like to. The rush of thoughts that was going through my head that morning seemed to diminish a bit and I felt like my worries were laying down.

Stepping outside the museum I felt a bit lighter. It was as if the vibrant, optimistic orange, and all that it stood for, was calming the grey bursts of thoughts in my mind. Surprisingly, I felt like in that moment, I could almost grasp the feelings of those people who had been brought to tears by one of Rothko’s paintings.

Photo: Aad Hoogendoorn

The exhibition Rothko & me was on display at Stedelijk Museum Schiedam until January 5th, 2020.

The exhibition Rothko & me consists of a single painting, Grey, Orange on Maroon, No. 8 and has to be visited alone. Upon entering you’re asked to hand in your cell phone. In the waiting room, mindfulness tips for spectators are shown, to help you get in the mood.

Photo: Aad Hoogendoorn

All of this gives looking at Grey, Orange on Maroon, No. 8 the notion of entering a temple or a cathedral, with the painting being like a holy shrine. This view is something that Rothko himself would probably have very much agreed with. Rothko described his working process as a religious experience and his paintings are said to have brought people to tears. I was pretty skeptical about the idea of a painting being able to drive me to tears but I was also intrigued by the idea of this painter who seemed to have appropriated himself a god-like status.

Whilst standing in front of the painting I was impatiently waiting on my catharsis, desperately trying to lose myself in its warm orange and dark grey colours. Trying very hard to channel my attention, and the fact that I had to write something about this experience, did not really help me feel anything I was hoping to feel. To be fair, I wasn’t even sure what it was that I wanted to feel at all. Figuring that this certainly wasn’t going to give me any inspiration, I simply started to stare at the painting and let my mind trail off. There I was standing, with the painting staring back at me, and soon I was thinking about what was on my to-do list, where I was going after this visit and what I would do tonight.

Photo: Aad Hoogendoorn

I’m not sure whether it was the painting or the fact that I was all by myself in a room without the distraction of my cell phone, but I did start to wonder about how I was really feeling. I felt calm, as if this painting, or, more likely, this whole setting, forced me to really stop and think for a bit. Slowing down is something I, unfortunately, do a lot less often than I would like to. The rush of thoughts that was going through my head that morning seemed to diminish a bit and I felt like my worries were laying down.

Stepping outside the museum I felt a bit lighter. It was as if the vibrant, optimistic orange, and all that it stood for, was calming the grey bursts of thoughts in my mind. Surprisingly, I felt like in that moment, I could almost grasp the feelings of those people who had been brought to tears by one of Rothko’s paintings.

Photo: Aad Hoogendoorn

The exhibition Rothko & me was on display at Stedelijk Museum Schiedam until January 5th, 2020.

Annabel Simjouw

Author Annabel Simjouw

Annabel Simjouw (1994) studies Clinical Forensic Psychology and writes about art for Spiegeloog. Besides visiting musea she likes to read and cook, combining this into bookclub nights with friends.

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