Theme: Solid

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.Flowing; Boccioni and the States of Mind

Walking in a train station. You stop in the middle of the building. You have a look at the clock that shows the time. There are people who are rushing to the train and people who, calmly, are waiting seated on a bench. A river of crowds is coming towards you, another one comes from your back. People passing, people going.

In a train station the sensation you mostly get is the one of flowing. Starting from the flowing of time shown on the clocks until the continuous movement of people that overwhelms you. Everything deals with shifting. But there is not only the perception of physical movement; there is also a dynamic stream of feelings, of thoughts, of states of mind.

The excitement for a new travel. The dynamism of the environment that catches us. The anxiety to be late. The tranquillity of being on time. The sadness for leaving. The loneliness of the ones who stay.

There is an artist, Umberto Boccioni, that managed to catch all of this and to put it on canvas. The title of his pieces “States of Mind” (1911) are in fact about the psychology of the transitory state of human beings, set in the environment of the train station. Boccioni analyses the dynamism of our mind states shaping them with strong colours and lines, making a sense of movement typical of Futurism. The latter developed at the beginning of the 20th century and it was mainly based on the sense of progress and innovation, especially scientific and industrial. The main concern for the futurists was the expression of movement and dynamism.

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Umberto Boccioni
States of Mind – The Farewells
1911
Oil on Canvas
96.2 x 70.5 cm
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York City, US.

In the first painting “The Farewells” he depicts the moment of the departure. The environment of the train station is like a turbine that captures us with its chaos. The swirling and horizontal lines convey a of disorder that overwhelms everything and everyone. The steam of the train, the noises, the voices, the hugs and the sadness of the leaving people are mixed up in this dynamic turbine. The train, the mechanical prodigy of that time, is inexorably arriving and is going to separate the hugging people.

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Umberto Boccioni
States of Mind – Those Who Go
1911
Oil on Canvas
70.8 x 96.5 cm
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York City, US.

“Those Who Go” is the next painting in the sequence, and it is probably the one that mostly conveys the idea of flowing. The theme of the leaving is shown with strong, thick and blue lines that flow like arrows, overwhelming everybody. The act of going is a movement that, like a river, takes everything with it. The heads of the people seem indeed to be pierced by the lines and cut by the dynamism. A sort of melancholy emerges from the faces. It might refer to the perception of the movement that, in any case, is uncontrollable. It might refer also to the uncertainty of the travel. Who knows where this travel is leading. It is the state of mind of the ones who go.

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Umberto Boccioni
States of Mind – Those Who Stay
1911
Oil on Canvas
95.9 x 70.8 cm
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York City, NY, US

“Those who stay” is the last image of the series. It always convey the idea of flowing but this time it has a different aspect. It has a vertical push, a sense of gravity and heaviness that oppress the environment and the people. The vertical lines are like the bars of a jail that imprison the characters in their immobility. It is the state of mind of the ones who stay. The ones who can’t experience the movement of the travel, the dynamism of the train. The ones who, in a sadness conveyed by the green colour, have been left on the platform.

“States of Mind” are like a sequential film that illustrates the psychology of a travel, but also of the human kind in general. The human being is everyday crossed by contrasting feelings and diverse states of mind. It is a continuous flowing that has always characterised us. It is the flowing of life.

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