I love this painting very much.
It’s by the Belgium painter René Magritte, and it’s called the Treachery Of Images. The french writing translates to ‘This Is Not A Pipe.’
We live in information overloaded times, and it’s interesting how someone like me can come across someone like René Magritte. There are two really obvious ones – The Beatles Apple logo is based on an apple from a Magritte painting, and Paul Simon wrote a wonderful song called René And Georgette Magritte And Their Dog After the War.
I love the Simon song. It is one of my favourite Paul Simon songs – and that says a lot. Just like Magritte’s work, Simon’s song is a surreal thing, but somehow very tender and sympathetic. It’s basically an imaginary story of René Magritte and his wife and dog, living in New York, dancing in hotel rooms, listening to 50s Doo Wop. Bizarre and lovely.
But the real way I cam across Magritte is this painting is used in a comic. Scott McCloud’s Reinventing Comics. In it, he uses this painting as a larger talk about art.
And that’s why I love this painting. It reminds me to not get too up my own arse when I fall in love with a song, a painting, a movie, a book, a whatever.
I mean – This Is Not A Pipe?
It’s most clearly a pipe, right?
It has many pipe like features.
Actually, it doesn’t. It’s a painting. Wikipedia tells me it’s Oil on Canvas.
Well, it’s not even Oil on Canvas. It’s a jpeg. Pixelated little lights on a computer screen. My Dad would find it hard to smoke out of this pipe. It’s pretty much light. So, ok, Magritte is right. This is most definitely not a pipe.
I like it because art is about trying to capture something. People painted huge elaborate scenes to try and capture a moment. Or a place. Or a portrait. But at the end of the day, it’s not the same. And for hundreds of years of painters saying, hey, this is what this actually looks like…well Magritte gave all that the finger.
Treachery Of Images is like someone in a movie turning to the audience and going ‘This is all a bit of bullshit, isn’t it?”
And it is. All art is bullshit. And you have to question what you learn from it. You don’t really know someone just because you listen to their songs. You don’t know an object just because you read a book on it. It’s the great lie of art. To make you think the art can represent something else.
I tried to buy a print of this when I was in Brussels. But everything is closed there on Mondays. They are also building a Magritte Museum that opens next year. So maybe they’ll buy this painting back and I’ll actually get to see it.