Throughout his life, John Lennon showed interest in different forms of art. The Beatle, who was loved by millions and despised by a few, was a creative mind that wrote some of the best songs in history. But he also did some acting and promoted experimental works such as Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Mole. There are also several of Lennon’s drawings floating around, proving that artists can branch out into other disciplines and use their creativity in more than one way.
The idea that a musician should only play and write music, while a painter should stick to the canvas is only an attempt to cage and control the creative process. Wassily Kandinsky is renowned for his paintings, but he also wrote books on art theory. Woody Allen is a famous filmmaker yet he plays in a Jazz band. And Kurt Cobain was an icon of grunge music, but he also experimented with painting, drawing, and photography.
The front man of Nirvana has become a legend not just because of his talent, but due to his untimely death, as well as the multiple theories about how or why it happened. To delve into Cobain’s life is to find a brilliant, lonely, disturbed, and, at times, depressive soul. According to his mother, had he not become a musician, he’d probably would’ve excelled in the visual arts or animation.
Cobain’s paintings perfectly reflect the ethos of his music. Despite Nirvana being more than just him, his presence seems to permeate the work. Wounded, deep, and nostalgic for moments in time that never existed, it seems to take over, grabbing our attention.
Between the Abstract Expressionism and shapes that seem to hark back to the archaic German Expressionism, the paintings depict a sense of violence. Red and black dominate the canvas. They don’t reflect the rock and roll lifestyle or the Grunge essence, but go further. The characters shown in these works are skeletal figures, with long limbs and smudged features that make their expression a mystery.
The musician’s pain, frustration, and desperation are evident. Yet this work only continues to prove how he did spoke for an entire generation. These paintings might not be of great mastery; however, they encompass what we all know about the Gen X.
Frustrations over childhoods gone by, realizing parents don’t have all the answers and that the future does not forecast anything good: the hopeful youth at the end of the twentieth century expected for something to happen, something that would change the boredom and passiveness of their daily lives, without knowing what that actually would be.
His last paintings and photographs served as cover art for demos and albums. One might even say there is a relation between the figures that haunted Kurt and the naked baby in the pool that appears on the cover of Nevermind.
The solid backdrops remind us of Richter; the elongated bodies hark back to Munch, or even Kokoschka. Yet we can’t compare the works of Kurt Cobain to those artists. His work belongs more to the Naïve style, full of spontaneous creativity that, had it been developed over time, could have evolved into something incredible.