An Ode To Romance
Love, in all its manifestations and messiness, is a fascinating subject. So much so that we, as humans, navigate it through art that imitates life in our attempts to demystify the relationships that connect us.
As Valentine’s Day draws near, reminders are everywhere. Whether or not you’re seeking a deeper connection with a loved one or yourself, let these representations of romance be your inspiration for the week ahead:
For centuries artists have sought to venerate the act of falling in love, but Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ Untitled (Perfect Lovers) from 1991, is one of the few works that seeks to represent love in all its imperfect glory. Initially set to the same time, these two identical inexpensive battery-powered clocks will — over time — fall out of sequence, before eventually being reset and coming back into alignment again. A poignant and powerful metaphor not only for the passing of time, but also for the often imperfect, yet enduring nature of love.
Set in Hong Kong, 1962, Chow Mo-Wan (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) and Su Li-Zhen (Maggie Cheung Man Yuk) move into neighboring apartments on the same day. Their encounters are formal and polite—until a discovery about their spouses creates an intimate bond between them.
At once delicately mannered and visually extravagant, Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love is a masterful evocation of romantic longing and fleeting moments. With its aching soundtrack and exquisitely abstract cinematography, this film has been a major stylistic influence on the following decades of cinema, and is a milestone in Wong’s redoubtable career. Whether or not you’ve seen it before, we highly recommend a watch this weekend.
Perhaps you’ve heard or seen adaptations of these two bestselling novels. Intimate and illuminating, they offer insight into the coming-of-age debilitating kind of romance we’ve all felt in some shape or form. Replete with gorgeous characterisation and quotes you’ll likely save in your journal, Rooney and Aciman’s work will have you aching and breaking in places you didn’t know existed. And if you’ve been meditating on your own approach, the great Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hahn’s How To Love is another life-changing read.
“Reconciliation can also be with your own self. If you don’t reconcile with yourself, happiness with another person is impossible.”
Gustav Klimt was one of art’s great sensualists, and few pictures express the rapturous union of two people quite like his painting, The Kiss. A man and woman are wrapped in a richly-embellished, gold robe. She seems to be kneeling, he seems to bend his head to kiss her — though it’s near-impossible to tell where her body ends and his begins. In an oft-quoted remark, Klimt said that “all art is erotic”. No painting sums this up better.
afternoon, when you’re walking upstairs
for lunch; cutting broccoli into perfect spears
while the rice in the cooker is boiling.
Would you ask first, that he strip away
the layers of the past – the times you washed
together in darkness between whispered words
and the husky calls of nightfall’s birds.
We leave you with a performance of Liebesträume No.3, part of a set of three solo piano works by Franz Liszt, published in 1850. Translating to “love dream” or “dream of love” in German, it is a composition that belongs to the Romantic era – that of Chopin, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and so forth. This era in the 1800s marked a shift from very perfect, precise Classical music to highly emotive, “feeling” music. Close your eyes and drift away to its flowing, long held notes and stirring arpeggios.
Article banner: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Au lit: Le baiser, 1892.
Article cover: Jim Dine (b. 1935), The Beast, 1999.