Signing Off: Paul Klee’s Insula dulcamara

Pike, C. D. (2014) Signing Off: Paul Klee’s Insula dulcamara. Word & Image: A Journal of Verbal/Visual Enquiry, 30 (2). pp. 117-130. ISSN 0266-6286.

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Abstract

Paul Klee’s painting Insula dulcamara (1938) has been the focus of numerous reviews and analyses in academic and popular literature on the artist over a period of many years. However, most such readings fall short of a comprehensive interpretation of the composition as a whole, and assume – implicitly or otherwise – that the painting’s black markings are not readable as ‘writing’ in any linguistic sense. By contrast, this paper offers a novel analysis of the painting’s ‘way to form’ grounded in Klee’s writings on his own compositional practices, biography, and approach to meaning-making, and in so doing demonstrates a compelling perceptual gestalt in which the painting’s black markings are configured as a graphical abstraction of the name ‘Paul Klee’; the configuration as a whole constituting the artist’s signature. This signature is taken as the prototypical basis for a plausible reconstruction of the composition’s ‘way to form’ via Klee’s unfolding thematic meditation on life, death and identity. The paper explores some implications of this analysis for the long-standing debate over authorial intention versus potential signification as valid bases for interpretation in art and literature. Exploiting the thematic coincidence of authorial death and signature in both Insula dulcamara and the writings of Jacques Derrida, it is suggested that the painting may be seen as iconographically exemplifying – if not actually resolving - issues at the heart of the notorious ‘Death of the Author’ debate that dominated late twentieth century critical discourse.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Paul Klee; Insula dulcamara; Signature; Intention
Subjects: N Fine Arts > N Visual arts > N0061 Theory. Philosophy. Aesthetics of the visual arts
Divisions: pre Nov-2014 > Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences > Applied Social Sciences
Depositing User: Dr Chris Pike
Date Deposited: 18 Feb 2015 16:46
Last Modified: 18 Feb 2015 16:46
URI: https://create.canterbury.ac.uk/id/eprint/12738

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00