Racing out of a fireplace

There are many reasons to visit Chicago, Illinois. 
In my case one of the top attractions was the opportunity to spend time in the Modern Wing of The Art Institute of Chicago. 
The Modern Wing was designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano. If you have not heard of him I will mention only two of the buildings in his impressive professional portfolio – the George Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Shard in London. That will explain some of my excitement. 
The Wing was opened in 2009 and hosts extensive exhibitions of modern and contemporary art. 
The notorious art lover Adrian and I hastened to the second floor of the gallery, where there is a permanent exhibition of the paintings of my favourite modern artist, the Belgian surrealist  Rene Magritte. 
Here the dream comes true – I am in front of his painting “La duree poignarde”. The story goes that Rene Magritte did not like the literal English translation of the title, “ongoing time stabbed by a dagger”, so it is known as “Time Transfixed”.
 Strange title and strange painting. 
In the centre of the canvas is a white-grey fireplace. It is build in a room with a wooden floor, a greenish-yellow wall and yellow-brown wooden wall panelling. The fireplace is solid and well structured. On the mantelpiece are a black clock and two candle sticks. A mirror with a golden frame hangs above. The viewer can see the back of the clock and one of the sticks in the mirror. 
Everything appears stable, customary, boring. Well, nearly everything. From the fireplace a locomotive, at full steam, forges ahead. It appears to be coming out of a tunnel and moving at top speed through the air. Nothing will stop it.
What is this? Of course, it is not possible that a locomotive can come out of a fireplace. Some awkwardness and confusion creeps in because it is difficult to comprehend. What does the painter want to tell us? If he wanted to shock or surprise us he has  definitely succeeded.
The only way to grasp some understanding is to try to get behind the confusion. 
Where could a locomotive accelerate from a fireplace? A possible answer is – this happens in our mind, consciously and/or subconsciously. That is how we formulate innovations, ideas, thoughts, dreams. 
On the other hand, a possible interpretation is that the solid structures we build in our lives are never able to stop the march of time and change, even if we try. 
Or, maybe so called ordinary lives as depicted by the familiar room and fireplace are full of magic and mystery, we just need to open our eyes to them. 
As the cliche says, take what resonates with you. Wrapped in my thoughts I move to the next room. There is a group of small children, having a workshop guided by two art teachers. One of the teachers finishes his explanation and asks for questions. A little boy raises his hand and asks seriously, “Sir, was this artist on drugs when he painted this picture?”
Every perception counts.


  1. Manifique Nina! Very well written 🙂

    • Thanks Catherine!Next post is about the Dali exhibitions!

  2. Chicago,Chicago,what a wonderful town. Chicago Fire, pizza, windy city, now art. Nice story Nina.

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