Poem 8: The Things That Men Have Made

Yesterday, I visited the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art for the first time, and I really enjoyed it. It is not very big, and is almost as much tearoom and gift shop as it is art gallery, but their small, carefully selected offering of "Surrealism and the Marvellous" was just enough to make want to find out much more about the movement. As someone who pretty much thinks of Surrealism as Dali and Modern Art as Jackson Pollock, the exhibition started to fill in a few gaps for me and I found lots more that I liked than I might have expected. I think my favourite painting of the exhibition was this one, "Pregnancy", by Joan Miro:

I like the way that it combines what I would think of as typically "art" concepts, like the abstract blocks of colour and blatant breast in the bottom left corner, with an almost scientific, diagrammatic style, showing the egg and sperm and using thin, straight lines.
Another part I enjoyed about the exhibition was the inclusion of a small library of books, notebooks and other paraphernalia which inspired or affected some of the key artists in the surrealist movement. Among these were collections of artifacts known as "cabinets of curiosities", which contained all sorts of disparate and often horrible things - animal skulls, a dehydrated whole angler fish, ancient exotic wood carvings and so on. When you look at these cabinets, and then at paintings like the one above, you can start to see where some of the ideas come from, and I suddenly find myself wanting to rush out and fill a large glass box with weird and disgusting old things in the name of inspiration.
Although not a Surrealist himself, D. H. Lawrence was referenced in one of the notebooks in the library at the exhibition, so I have chosen one of his poems for this week's entry. D. H. Lawrence is of course more famous for other writings, and particularly on passionate subjects such as love and revolution, however, I liked this short poem, which I feel ties in nicely with a visit to a gallery and a look at other people's cabinets of curiosities.

The Things That Men Have Made
by D. H. Lawrence

The things men have made with wakened hands, and put soft life into 
are awake through years with transferred touch, and go on glowing 
for long years.
And for this reason, some old things are lovely,
Warm still with the life of forgotten men who made them.


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