Gallery: Episode 1.9
Joan Miro, Bleu II
Bleu II, Joan Miro (1961), 106.3 x 139.8in. The painting is part of a tryptich, and should be mounted sideways, not vertically. Hung correctly, it is usually associated with serenity, purity, a feeling of well-being.
The issue of whether the positioning of this print was intentional or
accidental—and how resulting interpretations can even be construed as
meaningful—led to some interesting discussions. While nothing written about the
painting suggests it is about violence of any type, JAMBF felt that hung as it
was in the show, the image looked like a knife, dripping blood.
JAMBF: The shape of what horizontally would just be a streak of paint, by
coincidence is shaped rather like a knife, and the series of horizontal dots, on
Helen's wall hung vertically, look very much like red drops dripping from it.
The props people didn't necessarily get it wrong—a person (or character) makes
choices about the art they select to decorate their home and the way they
display that art on the basis of how it effects them. What art says to us may or
may not be the same thing that the artist intended it to say. The props people
would have done the same thing—they would have chosen pieces that looked right
for the show. They might have seen the vertical "dripping knife" image, rather
than the horizontal image of a whole lot of 'dots and a sensitive line on a
sea-blue surface' and thought it was fitting for Helen & Sean have it ominously
hanging like a sword of Damocles over their "connubial" bed and their
JT concurs: Even if it was hung wrong by mistake, the image was selected for that wall, and it was hung in a certain way.
So whether the set dresser (or "Helen") knew anything about art almost doesn't
matter. It's an image, we can take whatever meaning from it we want. And the
most obvious thought evoked by this image, the way it appears in the show, is
the one JAMBF mentioned. Even if it has nothing to do with the artist or the painting when it's in its customary setting (ie a museum, hung the right way),
a knife dripping blood is what it's doing in this context. Was it intended by the writers/director/set decorator? Maybe, maybe not. We'll never know what they intended by choosing the piece and hanging it the way they did. But the fact that it was hung wrong is actually an argument in favor of JAMBF's
interpretation, because by hanging the image incorrectly, they intended it to be
read in a different way than more traditional readings suggest.
EK comments: The degree to which we can interpret images (or anything else) should be set by the work itself, or it's not art, it's just random. However I do agree with JT's observation above, that the 'wrongness' of the reproduction's orientation opens the doors for greater leeway in how we might read this image. Regardless, the fact that an image typically associated with "serenity" was hung 'incorrectly' suggests that although serenity or tranquility was a feeling or quality Helen might have been searching for when she bought the print (perhaps hoping, as people do, that the print would set a 'mood' for the room), she hasn't achieved that yet. It's worth noting that the print is also prominent in a scene earlier in this same episode, 1.3 [02.34], where Sean and Helen tussle in bed and Sean suggests he'll "keep [Helen] prisoner" for the day. That this print is located where it is—in the bedroom, over the bed—and that it's not quite 'right'—does seem both suggestive and appropriate, given the trajectory of Helen's character in Bad Girls.
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