What’s in a Title?

Cardboard TownsAs some of you may have noticed, the titles of my paintings are usually what’s intended for “incongruous”. I often get asked what the heck I mean with them, so I’m writing down a couple lines about this nasty habit.

In an interview that appeared on the first issue of the Journal Of Urban Cultural Studies, by professor Benjamin Fraser of The College of Charleston (and that you can download here), I said:

Portrait of bagpiper | Ritratto di zampognaro

Portrait of bagpiper | Ritratto di zampognaro, acrylic on canvas, 70×100, 2008

“[…] The titles of my paintings never reflect what’s depicted in the painting – I find this superfluous, redundant. Why write ‘Town at Dusk’ under a picture showing a town at dusk? That’s just to make an inventory. For me, it’s better to write a title that has nothing to do with the picture. The link, or the crush, between the image and the words becomes interesting, sometimes humorous even if mysterious or just stupid. So my titles are usually absurd, preposterous, and they often make me laugh. For instance, there is a series of Still Lifes that actually are not still lifes, being urban landscapes instead; there is a series of Portraits that are not at all portraits – for instance, Ritratto di Zampognaro/Portrait of Bagpiper has just a huge industrial building in a reddish evening sky in it. Others communicate a series of instructions or warnings: best before, area under video surveillance, authorized personnel only, to be kept dry, keep out of reach of children, etc. – slightly sinister phrases that you find on a box, on a door, in the street and that I use as preposterous titles. I owe this to Dadaism and surrealism, Magritte in particular.”

This applies to sketches as well: the Fried Sketches, the Sleepy and Awake Sketches, the Hungry Sketches, and so on.

I’ll add now a few more or less silly & serious speculations, in no particular order, that should be taken just as light entertaining material.

  • The Time Machine interpretation: such titles could work as a cheap Time Machine both for the past and the future. For the past, in case of canvas reuse they might refer to what was painted before, so they’d be relics of a faded era, a matter for historians or archaeologists. For the future, they’d prefigure what will be painted on it one day, an outlook on things to come – as in a cheesy-charlatan prophecy.
  • The Revolutionary interpretation: such titles could undermine the widespread tagging system in social network information era. No google, twitter or fb tag could work properly with these titles, unless you (or someone else) add the correct, dull one. It’s you, not the painting, that is mashed into the aforementioned system.
  • The Uncertainity Principle interpretation: if you are looking at the painting you can’t read the title, and vice versa. Such titles demonstrate this principle. A lot of people just love this largely misunderstood little idea of Heisenberg’s Quantum Mechanics and use it absolutely over the top, so why not to do it here, anyway?
  • The Huckster Interpretation: just a (not so) clever strategy to draw attention and get followers, buyers, honour and wealth. If that’s so, I’ll tell you the day this really happens.

What else? Well, it’s up to you, now. If you have anything to say about this, just write it out.

mb

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