Venus in Aries: Willem de Kooning
“Art never seems to make me peaceful or pure.”
Willem de Kooning, April 1946
How Willem de Kooning worked made an impression on visitors. He would sit for hours contemplating a painting and then pick up a brush and attack it intensely and decisively.
“The ‘Women’ had to do with the female painted through all ages, all those idols, and maybe I was stuck to a certain extent; I couldn’t go on. It did one thing for me: it eliminated composition, arrangement, relationships, light – all this silly talk about line, colour and form – because that was the thing I wanted to get hold of.”
Willem de Kooning, 1962
De Kooning painted the Woman Series I-VI in post-war New York where he was part of the art scene that was developing abstract expressionism. De Kooning was one of the artists championed by critics of the time as an “action painter”. This series — apparently — caused a stir.
They are extraordinarily aggressive pictures. In real life, they are large and looming. Some critics say these mashed figures are a critique of how women were treated by society; others say that they are an actual attack on the idea of “woman” in themselves.
Whatever the artist’s intentions, the results are disturbing, and I think we can see some of that Venus-Jupiter conjunction in Aries. Red, angry, dominating, stripped back, large — this is no ordinary Venus.
Note that de Kooning’s Mars and Venus are in mutual reception, and there is a heavy sensuality about the paint itself in these pictures which seems redolent of Mars in Taurus.