Katrin Arefy: Reflections

Mar 21, 2022 | Bubbler, FSR

Friday, February 11th

The piece has a quality of an unfinished work, almost dirty, almost messy, that makes it raw and vulnerable. The unpolished quality brings me closer to the artist. It’s like having a coffee with the master in his pajamas and robe. This strike the same feeling I experience when I listen to Beethoven’s “Bagatelle op. 119,” one of his last solo piano works. 

The master is in his pajamas; his hair hasn’t been combed yet this morning, and it is even more striking to see the master in that way; it’s like being allowed in to his private life. 

He might say half a phrase and gaze at the faraway view as he sips his coffee, but you know the whole phrase, because you know his way of  brush, his way of thinking, his way.

There are two, nearly childlike, bright red shapes in this painting. One appears roughly at the spot that during the Renaissance was called the golden ratio and the other one, which is slightly darker, is placed on the edge of the canvas at upper left side of it. The two make an almost magical statement. 

Behind the strokes of dirty dark green muddled into the purple and blue circles and lines, I can see the master at peace—at peace with himself, with his art, and with his surroundings. It seems like everything came so easily to him, effortlessly, like the way Mozart is known to have composed his music. But that is not true. Years of hard work are holding this painting up. 

The edges of the canvas are carelessly left uncolored. There are two shapeless figures in lighter blue right in the center of the piece. 

Just as all God’s plans seem to be random incidents, the forms here seem shapeless, random, but they were drawn out of the layers of your years of studying light and nature. 

And what is most magical about this piece of art is that I look at the green and purple now in circles, now in vertical strokes, now in shapes like branches of an old tree, and right there in the midst of it all I see you, Claude Monet, whom I have never met, whose language I don’t speak, whose time or place I have never touched.

Sunday, February 13th

Sitting in front of your Water Lilies again today, I feel that I want to bow down to it. Today, what I see first is the size of the artwork, 130×200 cm.It is an enormous depiction of water lilies. The vintage golden frame with strokes of dirty green inside it holds the artwork very well.

I wonder if you put the canvas down on the floor or upon an easel when you were painting this. I am looking at it from the center of the room, but I realize you were standing an arm’s length from it when you were painting it. 

One can almost divide the piece in to two big sections separated by an invisible diagonal line from the bottom left to the top right side. If seen in that way, there is a triangle on the left side with mainly vertical brushstrokes in green, and a triangle on the right side with mostly rounded shapes in blue and purple. 

The piece looks like both a complete work and a sketch; a sketch that is a complete work, a sketch of enormous size, a sketch from the fingers of a master, but still a sketch that is a complete work. The carefully calculated structure of the piece reminds me of Cezanne’s work, while the careless brushstrokesthat leave some parts of the canvas uncovered bring to mind the art of late Matisse. 

I am sitting here in front of the painting like a lover, trying to memorize every brushstroke, every color, every movement. I see maturity, intimacy with the subject, freedom, bravery in the choices that look humble, and the two circular red shapes that play the role of the belles of the ball. 

Subtle movements in the stillness, subtle indications of the life of water lilies in a scene that seems almost dead. And this is all a reflection, as you called it, reflection of weeping willows. Are the weeping willows reflecting on something or are the water lilies reflecting on the weeping willows or am I, your audience, reflecting on your work or were you reflecting on weeping willows? Each statement seems to be true, although you most likely meant the reflection of the trees in the water. But the artwork is more self-referential than anything. It’s a reflection of you on your canvas. 

Coming here times and again, to sit in front of this artwork and write, it is becoming my favorite painting of yours, although I know that if I were sitting in front of another water lilies of yours or one of your Rouen Cathedrals or Haystacks, I could say the same thing, that that is my favorite painting. Maybe when Don Giovanni told a woman that she was the most beautiful woman he had ever met, he was not being deceiving.

There is a light, dirty-pink, vertical line about ten centimeters, in the lower part of the painting, right in the center of the canvas that grabs my eyes. 

Claude Monet
French, 1840-1926
Water Lilies, Reflections of Weeping Willows
Oil on canvas
Stamped (lower right): Claude Monet
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Katrin Arefy is an essayist and playwright who examines the many absurd realities that we experience in our daily lives in her writing.    Her essays and playscripts have appeared in numerous literary magazines, including North Dakota Quarterly,Water~Stone Review, Fleas on the Dog, Free State Review, and Meat for Tea: The Valley Review.  Her plays have been premiered in New York City, performed in California, reached the semifinalist round at Ivoryton Playhouse’s inaugural Women Playwright’s Initiative, selected for inclusion at the Iranian Drama Festival in Heidelberg,Germany, and Funny Shorts in Florida. Her latest theatre work, The Portrait of an Angel, a Lion, a Monster was premiered in Manhattan, NY in January 2022 The play was well received by heaudience and NY critics in  a review on  The Theatre Times
You may see samples of Katrin Arfey’s plays at New Play Exchange or on her website www.katrinarefy.com