Last week in our Surveying Western Art class we learnt about the artist Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), a contemporary of Vincent van Gogh. Though this Gauguin fellow is highly problematic, politically incorrect, racist and quite a male chauvinist, I love his work and style. His use of colours, ways of seeings and plain cheekiness intrigues me and I guess that is what makes me appreciate him.
Anyway, one painting of his that we saw was titled Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? . Painted in 1897, the painting is an artistic representation of the conflicts and questions that plague Gauguin at that time. As the 19th century was being engulfed by the promise and threat of new discoveries and challenges to beliefs.
Here is the painting –
And here is a commentary and small catalogue on the painting taken from http://litmed.med.nyu.edu/Annotation?action=view&annid=10412 that gives a great insight into the painting.
Irrespective of whether one grasps what Gauguin is trying to show in this painting or not, I am really struck by the fact that its has been 115 years now since he asked this question and painted this masterpiece. Yet, after more than a century, in 2012, we are still asking the same existential questions. If anything, we are all the more perplexed by the whirl and enmeshed nature of reality and life around us.
Indeed I ask, Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?