Souls Aflame: Fire Evening

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Fire Evening, Paul Klee, 1929
Souls Aflame : Fire in Art
Curated By LIBBY ROHR

Seeing this rainbow under the tag of fire, I was immediately drawn to the vibrant blocks of color, surprisingly organized in composure from the volley of chaos usually present in paintings of this category. Looking at abstract works, I’m always reminded and grateful for art history class, knowing full well that I would have hated this painting a year ago, unable to see the form underneath the literal. Now, I understand. It speaks to me differently. It took a year of work for me to be able to look at this collage of shapes and see the image of the fire underneath. 

Paul Klee took a trip to Egypt, the year before this was painted. The landscape is said to have inspired several other paintings in this stratified style. The title helps the audience to un-riddle the image. Through it's undeniably abstract, Klee still manages to evoke a reality. The composition of this work spirals around the one block of red in the center. It's a bit heavier on the left side where there's more change in color. The particular stair step pattern is almost Fibonacci-esque in pattern, in a way that's calming to me, like sitting around a bonfire on a warm summer evening, in the desert. The particular shades of purple and green are pleasant and gentle, but the intensity of the flame comes in the contrast. At first glance, the lines appear sharp and defined, but upon further examination I see they're soft and although separate, like fire these segments are also one.

Now, I look at this work and I see the rising and flickering of the flame and the vibrant blue that Paul Klee uses from his many horse paintings, and I see beauty in the rectangles. I understand the fire consuming strips of greenery and feel the heat from the embers and watch as the purple ashes blow out and dissipate against the fading dark blue of the sky. It’s breathing. None of the shapes are perfect, and the colors dip and fade within their own blocks, as a real flame would, but it remains independent and strong. Vibrant and calm, warm against cool, but all united, like nature itself, in the cycle of creation and destruction.

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