It is three years to the month since I first visited my piece at the V&A and it is still in store, in the same place but this time the Black Magus was completely accessible. Then the rack could not be fully extended leaving the Black Magus trapped inside the cage, now the storage rack could be extended – not fully – but enough to expose the entire screen. Now I could see the Black Magus really close up - eye to eye - and take a decent picture.
My first impression, on this second visit, was how small, shabby and in need of repair it was as well as how very poor the painting really was. I had been looking at the V&A photograph and my own detail shots taken three years ago. While studying and contemplating the images I had totally ignored or failed to consider its physical condition to the same degree.
Having looked again at the photo, with the benefit of having seen the original again at first hand, I believe the V&A’s catalogue picture has been ‘Photoshopped.’ The rich golden corn ears of the mullions in the picture are quite dull and faded in the original, in fact all the colours are brighter, sharper in the V&A’s picture particularly the gold leaf, than those in the actual piece.
The framework has been repaired a number of times with replacement pieces added, there are cracks and some parts are broken or missing , while each of the four painted panels has vertical cracks along the grain. Comparing the three images - the V&A’s catalogue picture, my June 2008 and June 2011 pictures, the frame seems stable. The cracks do not appear to have increased or become wider or longer.
The image I had considered through photography was not the real, actual image. I was seeing what I wanted to see. In doing so I had effectively created two things the actual screen and my imagined screen. The latter had all that was the irrelevant removed - discolouration, blemishes, cracks , repairs, holes in the actual screen creating that ideal image in my head. With respect to René Magritte perhaps this is the image I should I have considered.
Thanks to the V&A staff for making my visit possible.
http://abarkleyfndcomp.blogspot.com/2011/04/final-project.html for the Magritte picture
John Berger and his BBC Television Series Ways of Seeing