September 19, 2013

The Harlequinade Series: "Weeping Harlequin"

One of my targets this Fall semester was to live artistically and create more art. Last fortnight I was in a bit of a dark mood and went on a music and painting spree. You can find some of my piano covers here.

Sometimes I wonder: does being an artist or a creative translate to being cranky all the time? (Would love to hear your thoughts on this.) I've noticed that my output increases significantly - apparently both quality and quantity - when my mood is less than stellar. Many studies and books have tried to connect mental illness with creativity and/or study the "tortured artist" character, but so far no conclusion has been reached.

Alternatively, perhaps it is just dissatisfaction with the way things are that drives creatives to make something new. This Fran Lebowitz quote immediately springs to mind:
If you don't experience your life, you are not going to come up with solutions for anything. Every intention, every achievement has come out of dissatisfaction, not serenity. No one ever said, "Things are perfect. Let's invent fire."
The making of this series was quite an organic process. It started out with a series of angry, frantic brush swishes that became this, which reminded me of the theatre character Harlequin:

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"Weeping Harlequin", watercolour

Harlequin (Arlecchino in Italian and Arlequin in French) began as a silly servant or clownish character. While known for his agility and nimbleness, he was gluttonous and tried to woo any lady he met. An alternative origin for the character was a black-faced emissary of the devil, chasing damned souls to hell.

Around the 18th century, Harlequin transitioned into a romantic character. He was usually featured in a short comedic break during British theatre performances (an ancient form of the advertisement break, if you will) which was called the Harlequinade. The story of the Harlequinade commonly revolved around a comedic event in the lives of Harlequin; his love Columbine; Columbine's greedy father Pantaloon, who tries to separate the lovers with the aid of the mischievous Clown; and the servant Pierrot. There are also chase scenes, involving a policeman at some point or other.

I thought it would be interesting to portray Harlequin contrary to his usual character. In the Harlequinade, he is in high spirits, never holds a grudge, and is remarkably clever. And so, "Weeping Harlequin" was born.

In my next article, I'll explore the psyches of the other characters in this series... so stay tuned! I'm working on completing the series with the other characters so join me in this exploration of mental states and colours.

P.S. My two pen-drives have been named Harlequin and Columbine since I got them 4 years ago :).

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