SYDNEY Art lovers rejoice! ‘FRIDA KAHLO AND DIEGO RIVERA’ The Exhibition coming to the Art Gallery of NSW @The Domain, appearing for the dates of June 25th – October 9th, the official opening hours 10AM – 5PM Mon – Tues, 10AM – 10PM Wed, 10AM – 5PM Thurs – Sun. Price $18 pp. Art Aficionados will be familiar with the Frida Kahlo signature style and themes, her pioneering and often eerie depiction of the ‘pre-selfie‘ selfie coupled with a fascination of sexualizing the object and subject alike masterfully tipping it’s brush to the odd laws of infertility splashed with the multi-coloured backdrop of a recurrent, bone crushing melancholy.
With a reputation for embracing the polyamorous interwoven with a penchant for communist and feminist social and political storyboarding and expression, it is an understatement of no small degree to declare the Mexican-German-Jewish artist as being ahead of her time. Many of the priceless pieces on display at the Art Gallery of NSW hail from the private collections of the artist’s good friends Jacques & Natasha Gelman to be exhibited in conjunction with a collage of 49 rare photographs documenting the lives of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera dating from 1911 through to the 1950’s. As a passionate lover and experimenting bi-sexual Frida fused the sexual, physical and mental experiences into her prolific works, vivid themes of infertility becoming one of her most articulated specialties. Unusually shaped fruits, cut in ways that revealed male and female sex organs, an explosion of seeds as sperm cells, pink flowers in bloom the eternal womb. A roller coaster personal and private life would account for the wide range of other external influences, an inability to bear children rumoured to exaggerate her obsession with the world of sex and infertility.
The one constant that art critics agree on is the direct influence that Frida Kahlo’s colourful and sometimes tragic life experiences would have on the texture and aesthetic of her creative works. The artist painted the story of her life as a simultaneous reflection of craft and existence hungrily feeding off each other without apology. In this way it is near impossible to separate the amazing life and work of this dynamic, much loved painter, artist, designer, storyteller & mentor. An early painting entitled ‘My Birth’ captured the significant, life changing events of the artists own birth and the death of her mother. Another in the series ‘My Nurse and I’ depicts baby Frida suckling at the breast of a wet nurse playing substitute to an absent mother.
The medium of colour plays a central part in the physiology of Frida Kahlo’s collected works. Her paintings are consistently loaded with powerful and vibrant hues and she even had a kind of glossary attributing symbolic meaning to each particular shade or colour as detailed below:
Green – an honourable, good and warm light source
Magenta – colour of the Aztec, blood of the prickly pear, the brightest or oldest
Brown – leaves transform into earth, the colour of the mole
Yellow – indicative of madness, sickness or fear, the eternal sun and the great joy
Cobalt Blue – natural electricity, pure love
Black – void, a nothingness
Leaf Green – science, sadness, green leaves, all things Germanic
Greenish Yellow – madness and mystery, ghosts in the machine
Dark Green – bad advertisements, good business
Navy Blue – distance, paradox, tenderness
Red– blood as the Sangria of life
Possibly the most dramatic signature piece and self-portrait from the artists life events series is the wildly enigmatic ‘The Two Fridas’, a classic example of her transportation and personalization of folding her life expressions ingeniously into her work. In the 1937 work entitled ‘Memory’, the pumping broken heart at her feet represented her agony and heartache caused by younger sister Christina’s affair with the betrayer and slayer of love Diego Rivera. As a young woman Frida Kahlo’s first youthful ambition at age 18 was in fact to become a doctor, tragically a horror traffic accident put an end to that dream and thus history was created. Ironically it was during her hospitalization and recovery period that the artist first found and cultivated her creative and artistic juices. In a concerted effort to channel and to offset the aches and pains of her injuries she poured her life and soul into the beginnings of what would flourish into an art persona.
Frida Kahlo was born in the house built by her father in Coyoacán, Mexico. The beloved artist enjoyed a warm, close relationship with her father though in contrast suffered a cold, distant relationship with her mother. After the horror accident, Kahlo married a playboy older man 22 years her senior and many highs and lows would follow providing the fuel for her early and middle works. As a result of three mis-carriages the artist was famously childless and turned to alcohol and occasionally substances of controversy to add comfort and a form of pleasure to her chronically challenged existence. One of her most famous quotes while enduring a long spell in hospital was “when I get out of here I want to paint, paint, paint” To enjoy the ripe fruits of a lifetime commitment to artistic and humanistic expression take a trip down the Art Gallery Road of Sydney Art Gallery of NSW and prepare to be transported, to be spirited away to another domain.