Odilon Redon the Initiated Mystic
The mystic is the initiated. The one who extracts himself from everyday life to question him.
The question asked is complicated: "What am I doing here, on Earth, this very funny pebble floating in the stars?"»Where everyone gallops without knowing where he is setting foot, the mystic refuses to see the extraordinary join the banal. To preserve his amazement, he will also move away from the herd. And there are beautiful people on the path: the flashing millstones of Monet, the sacred woods of Maurice Denis, the rose bushes of Klimt which merge heaven and earth, the Buddha of Redon who walks. The mystic is often found alone, at the bottom of a cave, in an olive tree garden or on the edge of a path. Here Buddha has his eyes closed, his left hand raised, his fingers stretched out. Here is displayed the absence of fear of Buddhist iconography. This mudrā (codified gesture of Vedic culture) evokes the episode where an elephant attacked the Buddha in the streets of Rājagṛha in India. Arrived in front of the Master, the animal - subjugated by its serenity - knelt before him to pay homage to him. On Redon's pastel, no elephant or any other animal. Only a few stars make the bottom of the canvas crackle while a very young shrub planted in the foreground stretches its leaves towards the Buddha. In Odilon's work he is quietly approaching, on the path of preaching with his hermit's staff, dressed in the traditional kesa of Buddhist monks. The colorful patchwork comes up to the height of an old withered tree. Redon must have planted a tree of enlightenment there, the site of the Buddha's revelations. One of the sacred ficus branches zigzags across the sky, until it points to an unidentified flying bouquet. Celestial Lotus? Cosmic blueberries? Intergalactic poppies? Difficult to see clearly around this golden halo. The effervescent halo placed above Buddha illuminates his closed eyes. Where do we come from ? Where are we going ? Eternal dreamer, Redon does not let his dreams dictate. In 1864, he tried to study with Jean-Léon Gérôme - a supporter of the so-called "pompier" art and his shining academicism. Transplant impossible. Instead of glossing over an official thought, Redon prefers to illustrate literary works such as The Temptation of Saint Antoine by Flaubert (1888) or Les Fleurs du mal by Baudelaire (1890). The artist presents his fantastic visions where gnomes and spiders rub shoulders with polyps and small geniuses. From his first charcoals, Redon probes souls, explores fundamental questions. Where do we come from ? Who are we? Where are we going ? A bit like Gauguin, but without looking for his answers at the end of the world. Redon remains in France and is particularly passionate about life sciences. Redon, for his part, will take advantage of this science to reveal the spiritual hidden behind the visible. In his time, Auguste Comte's positivism explained the world through observation, experience, and mathematics, while rejecting the sacred and intuition. For Symbolist artists - in search of the strange immaterial beauty - the posture is criminal. Redon, precisely, will take advantage of this science to reveal the spiritual hidden behind the visible. His mentor, the botanist Armand Clavaud, introduced him to Darwin - the very one who tidied the living fifty years earlier. (Now everything is labeled. The ficus at the foot of the Buddha belongs to the sub-kingdom of Tracheobionta - division of Magnoliophyta - class of Magnoliopsida.) In his microscope, Redon also observes species, but in his own way. Without comparing the shape of the leaves, without measuring the length of the stems ... He observes the origins of life. The fluorescent cells wriggle, the spores of ferns are revealed like divine germs. The magic of the living finally unveiled, the authorized ecstasy. One could almost imagine Redon as Bernadette Soubirous in her native science class. But the artist is no more positivist than Catholic. Armand Clavaud (again him) even initiated him into Buddhism, but Redon did not make it a religion either. Buddha like Jesus is a spiritual inspiration. Follow the guides! Follow these material freedoms who go so far as to ignore their own envelopes. In his "blacks" produced between 1875 and 1890, Redon presents them with open eyes: Buddha as a figure of intelligence, Jesus as a wise and candid adolescent to suffer the Passion. Later, we find these two always more peaceful during the Colored Period (1890–1916). But this time, the eyes are closed. Odilon Redon, The Christ of Silence , c. 1895–1898 Where is this Master Buddha going with his halo perched? This floral effervescence is a great classic at Redon. Alternative symbol of the conscious, the subconscious, the divine… Above the Buddha is birth, spiritual blossoming. Moreover, he does not close his eyes to the world, but turns his gaze inward. Inside the being, as at the bottom of the microscope. In the telescope of the infinitely small, all the fluorescent cells look alike: ficus, butterfly, couch grass, man, earthenware, fern… Enough to zoom out on his condition, enough to go beyond his small envelope of flesh. As a nice starting point to come to terms with oneself and the universe. It could make this great whole dizzy, but not at Redon. This visionary - always intrigued by the trajectory of existence - even embraces the fall gently. Doesn't his withered tree of awakening give way to a fresh new shrub? The big wheel spins slowly. Everything is calm in this starry night, far removed from the vortex of Van Gogh for whom fearlessness is not on the program. The clinic for the tormented of Saint-Rémy should not be far away. Less winding, the Redon path could well lead us to an Ayurvedic center. Facing the Buddha, everyone can then meditate on their trajectory while waiting for the evening meal to be served. On the menu, this will be a unique dish: a large bowl of ferns, for a communion with Mother Nature. Beaux-Arts magazine: Louvre - Ravioli.
The mystic is the initiated. The one who extracts himself from everyday life to question him. The question asked is complicated: "What am...