30 Nov Lasting Impressions: Mia Chaplin on ‘The Day After’ by Edvard Munch
In this series, Between 10and5 speaks to artists about artworks that inspire them. Here, Mia Chaplin tells us about the lasting impressions of Edvard Munch.
Tell us how you came across the work.
I can’t remember when we studied German Expressionism in school, but it was around then that I became obsessed with Munch’s work. I studied his paintings in print because we didn’t have internet at home, and when our class was told to attempt a “copy” painting of a well-known artist it was The Day After that I chose. My version is still hanging relentlessly in the TV room.
What’s your impression of the artist who created it?
I think Munch was a man, who was fascinated at best and traumatised at worst, by the human condition. I think that he could feel the suffering of the world and found it sometimes overwhelming. His work was a world in which he searched for meaning and understanding in the deepest parts of himself.
Initially, what stuck you most about it?
I presume I was initially drawn to the ruddy palette of this work. At the time, I was very into black and red and believed blood to be the most subtle of symbols. I think what I am now most enamoured with is the composition, the rhythm of rounded shapes and the sharpness of the subject’s arm that cuts right through the soft tenderness of the curves. There are powerful tensions set up in this work that I think are symbolic and quite emotionally moving.
Did it teach you anything about the medium or the formal elements of art?
In retrospect I can see that Munch taught me the importance of composition seeming ‘right’. And that it is more important for a composition to feel right, than it is for the picture to make any logical sense. Basically, to use your heart and not your brain to describe a subject. Munch’s ‘black’ outlines give him more control over the composition and the movement of the viewer’s gaze. I use black lines in my own work to break up the surface of the painting and create rhythm.
What qualities do you admire about his work?
It is so evident in this work that Munch was emotionally engrossed in his process. The strong lines of the bed, the table and the blanket shattered by the most gentle handling of the figure. Her face and chest, her arm and her hair are painted with such sensitivity that you want to smell her and taste her. You can feel her and you can feel the artist and you can feel yourself. I admire the emotional universality of this work.
Why do you think it’s remained inspiring to you?
I continue to be inspired by this painting because it is everything I want my work to be; sincere and human. When I fear vulnerability this painting reminds me that if it comes from a real, considered place, emotion and vulnerability can remind people of their own humanity. In the current turbulent state of the world, I see vulnerability as being a powerful tool for making change on both a political and an interpersonal level.