Tuesday, February 21, 2012

THE SUBLIME IN ART

Wanderer above the sea of fog - Casper David Friedrich


THE SUBLIME IN ART

What does one feel, when he looks at the painting of ‘Wanderer above the Sea of Fog’ by Casper David Friedrich, the German Romantic artist. The painting draws attention to the smallness and insignificance of an individual in comparison to the untamed and possibly hostile natural setting. In it one can even sense the immensity of the mysteries before us.
Well what is the Sublime? The sublime is defined as having the quality of such greatness, magnitude or intensity, that our ability to perceive or comprehend it is temporarily suspended. Does’nt it remind one of God? In Hindu thought, the concept of Brahman is beyond comprehension, is beyond definition. It is the same in all religions. When we stand on the shores and look across the oceans we are struck with wonderment and also a sense of fear at the immensity before us. The awe is beyond definition. The same sense prevails when we look at the night sky, the stars and the world beyond. One would want to merge with this immenseness.

Man in his quest to achieve an identification as a part of this Sublime expresses himself in various modes. He sees the flowering of his inner quest through the medium of his choice and in the process, proceeds on the way to sublimation.

So, it is when we stand before a painting or a sculpture or hear music we are transported to the world of the creator. Though this transportation and the ultimate effect is subjective, one cannot deny the fact of its effect on us.

Art is defined as the use of skill and imagination in the creation of aesthetic objects, environments, or experiences that can be shared with others. Man’s quest for self expression has always been there. We have evidence of this from the pre-historic cave paintings to contemporary art.

Hegel in his ‘The Phenomenology of the Spirit’ says that the understanding of any aspect of human life must be concerned with its history, its evolution, its genesis, or its roots, rather than with the empirical observation. So also art is an offshoot of the evolution of the human mind, which has passed various stages in the history of mankind. So we see the development from the prehistoric to Renaissance, Classicism, Realism, Romanticism, Impressionism, Expressionism, Cubism, Surrealism to Modernism and various movements. If one follows their development, one can see the themes varying from the  religious to forms of intense self expression moving away from the biblical, to representations of nature in all its glory, to subjective impressions, to distortion of reality to enhance the emotional effect. Of course art has now become so subjective that it is difficult to comprehend what the artist is conveying.

Art Appreciation is such a vast subject with hundreds of great painters, and movements, it is difficult to decide where to start, you get carried away. But there are individual preferences, like I said before, each one sees the sublime in any piece of art his own way.

The essence of Ayn Rand’s view of art is that an artwork presents a philosophy of life. “What an artwork expresses, fundamentally, under all of its lesser aspects is: ‘this is life as I see it.’

As I do not have words of my own to describe what the sublime in art is, I have borrowed the following passage from Hildebrand Jacob’sThe Works’

“All the vast, and wonderful scenes, either of delight, or horror, which the universe affords have this effect upon the imagination, such as unbounded prospects, particularly that of the ocean, in its different situations of agitation or repose; the rising or setting sun; the solemnity of moon light; all the phenomena in the heavens, and objects of astronomy. We are moved in the same manner by the view of dreadful precipices; great ruins; subterraneous caverns, and the operations of nature in those dark recesses... the sight of numerous armies, and assemblies of people ... the whispering of winds; the fall of waters in cataracts, or heavy showers; the roaring of the sea; the noise of tempests amongst lofty trees; thunder; the clash of arms, and voice of war.”

Monday, February 20, 2012

HAIKU 3



HAIKU 3




   Barren trees, fallen leaves,
white sheet spreads:
 old man waits.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

HAIKU 2






Dewdrops on the rose:
Soft fingers on the face,
Speak of tender love.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

LIFE – AN ENQUIRY PART- 1


 THE HOLOGRAPHIC UNIVERSE
Without an exception everyone in this universe has faced the question of the meaning of life. Once it starts, the process does not end. Whether one  finds the meaning or purpose of life is still a question. Why does man search? Is it on account of his mortality, his impending obliteration? We can each ask ourselves, why?. It has been the subject matter of all philosophy, like Plato said ‘Philosophy is a meditation on death’. Man’s quest for immortality has taken on various forms and has resulted in great thoughts, great expressions by way of the arts – sculpture, painting and music and great scientific inventions and discoveries. Here I am talking about the evolution of man, not as a biological but as a conscious being.

We always tend to initiate our enquiry from the earliest thinkers, from the scriptures, from our religion to the present day of scientific inventions and enquiry. What is it, that man has arrived at now, after the passage of centuries? How different is our thought process, building up on what has been thought before? Has man been able to come closer to the gates of immortality?

One of my good friends, Easwaran had posted an extract from Michael Talbot’s ‘Introduction to the Holographic Universe’, in our email group. It was fascinating to read the extract and made me want to read more. One of the main architects of this astonishing idea was David Bohm, a protégé of Einstein’s and one of the world’s most respected quantum physicists. So I read more on David Bohm. I am only putting forward certain extracts that are relevant to my process of enquiry, from David Platt’s article on ‘David Bohm and the Implicate Order'.

“A remarkable feature of a hologram is that if a holographic film is cut into pieces, each piece produces an image of the whole object, though the smaller the piece the hazier the image. Clearly the form and structure of the entire object are encoded within each region of the photographic record.
Underlying his innovative approach to many different issues was the fundamental idea that beyond the visible, tangible world there lies a deeper, implicate order of undivided wholeness.
there is evidence to suggest that our world and everything in it -- from snowflakes to maple trees to falling stars and spinning electrons -- are also only ghostly images, projections from a level of reality so beyond our own it is literally beyond both space and time”
Bohm gives the analogy of a flowing stream:
“On this stream, one may see an ever-changing pattern of vortices, ripples, waves, splashes, etc., which evidently have no independent existence as such. Rather, they are abstracted from the flowing movement, arising and vanishing in the total process of the flow. Such transitory subsistence as may be possessed by these abstracted forms implies only a relative independence or autonomy of behaviour, rather than absolutely independent existence as ultimate substances".

So my enquiry starts with the fundamental idea that has been arrived at by one of the world’s eminent scientists, that “beyond the visible, tangible world there lies a deeper, implicate order of undivided wholeness”.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A DEDICATION TO FRIENDSHIP


A Dedication to friendship

There were those who had stayed and in time moved along, on their way. Then there were those who had stayed but for a brief while. Though both have left, they have left their impressions.

There are those who have stayed through all these years and continue to stay, for they have chosen to be an integral part of my life.

They are those, who chose to be close and still are. They have remained, and inspire me, each in his own way. They are people I look forward to, to share my joys and they are there in times of pain to comfort me.

These are people who have come at different stages and grown along with me, keeping me company. After all, what are friends for. No demands only acceptance in this relationship.

It has been a long time since I expressed myself. Now I have the time and the urge to put forth what I have within me and which has been crying for release. Though I started blogging in late 2009, I remained silent throughout 2010 and midway through 2011 when I went through a phase, a change in the pattern of my life.

It has been my endeavour to reach the fiftieth posting in my blog and dedicate it to my friends. This is not an original idea of mine, it was Nandu who started it all when he made a special mention of me in that fiftieth blog of his. I was overwhelmed. You can say that Nandu set the goals -

I read it, enjoyed it but could not add my comment. What could have I said, “thank you”? May be through this posting I can continue what Nandu started. He will understand, that he has opened the gates. Now I can say thank you to all my friends

This is “A Dedication to Friendship”.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

HAIKU


 HAIKU
 
photograph by jon miller whitney

sculpture in Musee D'Orsay, Paris
 The mist on the ground:
The veil on her face,
Hides many a mystery.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A TRIBUTE TO ALBERT CAMUS - THE OUTSIDER


A TRIBUTE TO ALBERT CAMUS- THE OUTSIDER

“An awakening of conscience, no matter how confused it may be develops from any act of rebellion and is represented by the sudden realisation that something exists with which the rebel can identify himself, even if for a moment.” From ‘The Rebel’  by Albert Camus.

It all started with Camus thirty seven years ago, when I read his book ‘The Fall’. The first of his that I read and which till this day remains one of my favourites. I remember reading the book while travelling on the bus from Chembur to Flora Fountain in Mumbai (then Bombay), a good one hour drive. I can best describe the effect the book had on me, in Camus’s own words, when he wrote about Andre Gide’s impact on him “He untied deep down inside me a tangle of obscure bonds, whose hindrance I felt without being able to give them a name.” since then I have not left any of his books untouched.

His tryst with the absurd in his ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’ and his subsequent exploration in ‘The Rebel’ stand as the highlights of his work. However it his novels that create the full impact of his philosophy. The Fall is a monologue, while The Outsider and The Plague are his outstanding novels. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1957.

Jean Baptiste Clamence of ‘The Fall’ and Mersault of ‘The Outsider’ perhaps best describe Camus own personality, though he is best known for his creation of the Outsider. Colin Wilson in a wonderful analysis of the  Outsider in his book also titled ‘The Outsider’ covers the works and lives of various artists - including Kafka, Camus, Hemingway, Hesse, Lawrence, Van Gogh, Shaw, Nietzsche and Dostoevsky - Wilson explored the psyche of the Outsider, his effect on society and society's on him.

Wilson says, ”the outsider is a man who cannot live in the comfortable, insulated world of the bourgeois, accepting what he sees and touches as reality. He sees too deep and too much, and what he sees is essentially chaos.”

‘The Fall’ is a first person narrative of Clamence, a monologue. It is more in the nature of a confession and reflects Camus’s quest for personal authenticity. He believes that the meaning of life and the nature of ‘the good’ are beyond human knowledge. In fact we can deduce that it is Camus’s confession to the world as to who he is and in the process cleanses himself.

It is in ‘The Outsider’ that Camus creates his most powerful personality. The outsider or the stranger is a person who does not care what society thinks of him and does not feel the need to succumb to what society expects him to be or thinks of him. It is the idea of free will that is brought out in this novel. Mersault’s is indifferent, that is why he is considered a stranger to society. It is while contemplating his impending death that he is forced to introspect. Only in formal trial and death does he acknowledge his mortality and responsibility for his own life. His emotional honesty overrides his self preservation, and he accepts the idea of punishment as a consequence of his own actions. To Camus it is the individual who can give a meaning to his life.

It is in ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’ that he explores the plight of the individual in a meaningless world and likens it to the punishment meted out to Sisyphus by the Gods of rolling a rock up a hill which would continue to eternity. The individual in such a situation faces two situations. One he is confronted with the absurdity of the situation and commits suicide or he rebels. The theme of the Absurd is explored. ‘The Rebel’ is the sequel to ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’. The idea of rebellion in its various manifestations is explored here. This rebellion is on account of the basic contradiction between man’s continuous search for clarifications and the apparently meaninglessness nature of the world.

Albert Camus other novels and plays, but I have briefly tried to cover the underlying philosophy of his works. He died at the age of forty six in a road accident. Two of his novels ‘A Happy Death ‘and ‘The Last Man’(left unfinished) were published posthumously.

This is a tribute to a man, who through his writings has inspired so many, and made us look at ourselves with honesty, to strip ourselves bare of the hypocrisy inherent in us. As Hermann Hesse says in his book ‘Demian’ – “the life of everybody is road to himself”.

Friday, February 3, 2012

STILLNESS


Stillness

My dear friend,
We ‘ve been conversing,
For years on end,
In search of that stillness,
Without any end.

There have been moments,
With stillness all around,
Without any movement,
In the air or the ground.

And there was stillness,
When I sat and gazed,
Far across the mountains,
Totally amazed.

There it was once again,
All along the sea shore,
As I walked in the rain,
The droplets and the waves froze,
And the sea was still, and so was I.

And as the setting sun goes down,
And the darkness around has grown,
The bird on the tree has stopped its song
A muted stillness comes along

Sometimes in the midst of all this crowd,
I find myself alone and still,
And once again as they start to move,
I also move against my will

And as I see through her eyes,
Feel the tenderness there within’
My heart for a moment cries,
Can’t time now stand still.

But these moments don’t last me long,
I am back again, where I belong,
To my own kith and kin,
In the midst of all this din.

When will these moments ever last?
Is it when I find,
the silence in my heart,
and in the stillness of my mind?


gssubbu

LANDSCAPE PAINTING - TURNER AND CONSTABLE


 CONSTABLE'S LANDSCAPES

CARRO DEL FENO

I thought it appropriate to discuss two of my favourite landscape painters, after my last two postings ‘A Tribute to Van Gogh’ and ‘Appreciation of Art”. Both contemporaries, and were British, and both great landscape artists with different styles and approach. They both were exponents of Romanticism, an artistic movement of the late 1700s to mid-1800s that emphasized an emotional response to nature. I am referring to Turner and Constable.
STAY AT HOME



Joseph Mallard William Turner (1775-1851) and John Constable (1776-1837), though both are referred to as exact contemporaries, their approach to depicting nature deferred. While Turner sought to capture emotion, perpetually aiming to be extraordinary, Constable sought to capture the grass, the skies, and the British countryside as it was, with its farms churches and bridges as they were. Turner was referred to as the Philosopher while Constable was the scientist.
SALISBURY CATHEDRAL


When we talk of a landscape, we always visualize the blue skies, green pastures, a lake dotted with small cottages all around, with snow capped mountains in the background. We see the lighting, the shades and the serenity.


To the Romantics, landscape painting meant, a scene was a potential subject, a source for creation of an art work. “The Romantic landscape painters did not seek to control nature, they sought to capture the fascinating, ever-changing and unpredictable moods of it through scale and treatment of space, brushstroke and new relations of color to tone.The Romantic landscape painter often sought to capture the sublime, with a strong emphasis on sensation ”.


 
TURNER'S LANDSCAPES
SHIPWRECK
When we look at the paintings of Turner and Constable, we are struck by the different feelings they evoke within us. While we feel the overwhelming power of Turner’s paintings, the paintings of Constable convey tranquillity and calm. Both of them great creators. The difference in approaches may also be due to their backgrounds.
      GOLDAU

Constable’s background belonging to the farming community and the surroundings of the countryside in which he was brought up has had a profound influence on his paintings. While Turner was affected by a bout of depression and travelled extensively. In most of his paintings one can sense his love for the sea.
ERUPTION OF VESUVIUS


Both painters represented the Sublime in its various aspects, Turner the powerful and overwhelming and Constable the tranquility and calm. Both looking for the truth and depicting it in their own way.
SLAVE SHIP



Turner can be considered as the forerunner of the latter day movements of Impressionism and Expressionism


If we look at the impressionistic painters such as Claude Monet we see the effect of Turner in the way they depicted nature. But you find their tones are much softer but the similarity in style can be seen. The powerful and overwhelming nature of Turner, can be seen in the expressionists like Van Gogh



The purpose of this posting is to pay a tribute to these great painters. I can only pen down the effect their works had on me. Every time I look at their paintings it is with awe. I have posted some of their paintings here just to enhance the effect of what to say, as actual words fail me.