“What shall I do now that you left me?
will I cry a million tears
will I die?
will I take to drink?
take a trip?
will I consult the stars and a crystal ball on how to win you back?
will we stay friends?
will I fall in love again?” - Niki de Saint Phalle
Last Sunday was another rainy Sunday spent in a Museum… I spent it at the Moderna Museet in Malmö to see the Irving Penn exhibition. Although I admire his work, the exhibition did unfortunately not overwhelm me as much as I wanted it to… But walking up the stairs to the second floor, the twisted universe of artist Niki de Saint Phalle suddenly opened up.
After a mental breakdown and years of traveling around Europe developing her art, this flamboyant and passionate artist managed to be invited to the male-dominated art world in the 60′s. Unlike the women of her time, she chose not to stay put in the kitchen and left her husband and two children to fully devote her life to art.
In order to overcome her own personal traumas she developed the aggressive “Shooting Paintings”. Geared up in a special white pantsuit, she shot bags of paint on to canvases with a rifle. She is also known for her naivistic shaped sculptures and paintings in bright colours; happy figures on the surface joined with humorous texts but underneath it all, hides heartbreaking emotional depth. By creating these playful characters she dealt with her inner darkness and constant chaos.
Her work is clearly inspired by the likes of Gaudí, Goya, Pollock and Picasso. Particularly Gaudí made a lasting impression on Saint Phalle and her fabulous garden “Giardino dei Tarocchi” in Toscana was the result of her fascination of Gaudí´s “Parc Güell” in Barcelona.
In 1966 she constructed the giant voluptuous woman “SHE” at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. A female cathedral, representing the mother and the mistress, in which the public could enter and enjoy a goldfish pond, a cinema, a planetarium…and a milk bar. Metaphorically speaking… a woman’s body is a place you can visit for amusement? Hmm…
Niki de Saint Phalle sadly died in 2002 after years of inhaling toxic polyester fumes while working on her art projects. Although she made huge personal sacrifices, she is remembered as a female role model, rebel and a groundbreaking artist.
“The Girl, The Monster & The Goddess”, runs at the Moderna Museet in Malmö until the 9 September 2012.