Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Jon Jaylo’s “A Song for Alice” at Sotheby’s Auction, with my description for Sotheby's Catalogue

A Song for Alice, oil on Canvas by Jon Jaylo
Below is my brief review of Jon Jaylo’s painting “A Song for Alice,” which was published in the Sotheby's Catalogue.


Jon Jaylo's “A Song for Alice” is an allusion to Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in wonderland, sans Alice, which is substituted by a young mustached boy wearing a 19th century top hat, gleefully singing toward the audience or to Alice, for that matter.

Nestled on the boy's hat are the four human figures with animal heads: a frog with trumpet, a rabbit with clarinet, a red–headed bird with saxophone, and a cat with guitar: an ensemble of unlikely musicians accompanying the boy's musical feat. The backdrop is laden with theatrical elements – the nocturnal scene, the rolled scarlet curtains, the silhouettes of foliage, the dartboard circles, the golden landscapes with still flowing stream, the horizontal railing, and the checkered floor – creating an illusion of space beyond the canvas.

Looking at the painting with its evocative title "A Song for Alice," one cannot help but entertain the thought behind that 1865 controversial and classic novel, which the literary critics dubiously linked to the shadowy persona of Lewis Carroll as a literary writer and mathematician. The author was described to have proclivity in the company and friendship with children rather than the complicated adult relationship.

Who is Alice in Lewis Carroll's life, the real eleven-year old girl Alice Liddell from which he derived the title of his fairy tale story? The same question can also be asked: Who is Alice in Jon Jaylo's life and what role does she play in this particular painting?

Although the pictorial narrative of histrionic characters does not suggest any obtrusive reference to the adventure of Alice in Wonderland, the boy in the painting represents 'Alice' with a naiveté presence whose dazzling eyes is full of innocence, wonder, and imagination. Evidently, through the boy's 'expressive' countenance, one can take a glimpse on the artist's penchant for childhood fantasy and dreamlike portrayal of images not only in this particular painting, but also in his previous works.

Jaylo's oeuvre, in general, recurrently depicts a magical world, which is bereft of complications, where logic and reason is almost absent, where the distinction between the real world and fantasy is obscured by mystical reality. It is a world that the artist lost in his boyhood but found later in his aesthetics, detached from the convolutions of human existence, where he can be a child again without anguish or sorrow. Call it an 'Alice's World Syndrome,' a created reality from the child's perspective that characterizes innocence, enchantment, adventure, and wonder.

In the end, the artist is asking the same question: Who is Alice in our individual lives?

© Danny Castillones Sillada