David Bohm and Rouault’s clown

Appreciation of contemporary art doesn’t always come easily.  We “know what we like” and often resist the unfamiliar.  It has always been thus – to the educated eyes of French art connoisseurs in the 1860s the new paintings of the Impressionists were ugly beyond belief.  Yet a mix of curiosity and patience, coupled with a willingness to suspend our preferences, inevitably causes a shift in perception.  Physicist David Bohm was a man with a seriously scientific mind; he was tirelessly curious about the dynamics of creativity and thinking.

In the remarkable collection of letters exchanged between Bohm and artist Charles Biederman,  The Bohm–Biederman Correspondence,  Bohm describes an encounter with one of Rouault’s paintings of a clown.  It’s a fascinating and delightfully honest account of the way the painting literally rearranges his perception, revealing a two-way energetic “flow” between the painting and himself.  He begins by confessing that he found Rouault’s paintings difficult to like, but that a deeper engagement caused his perception to “give way to a remarkable new steady vision which I can best describe as seen in a new dimension.”

 

Georges Rouault - Clown, ca 1937

Georges Rouault, Clown ca 1937

 

I should perhaps [mention] here that my first reactions to modern art were almost entirely negative.  However, in some respects, I have changed my mind.

For example, with regard to Rouault, I first felt that his pictures were very discouraging and depressing.  Gradually, I began to see them in a new light.  In particular, last year in London, I saw a picture of his, The Old Clown …

At first, it seemed to be rather a mixed up set of patches of colour.  But gradually, it began to take shape. In particular two patches struck my eye, one in the face of the clown and another outside him, which seemed to complement the first.  My eye began to move back and forth from one patch to the other, a pulsation was established, and suddenly it ceased, to give way to a remarkable new steady vision which I can best describe as seen in a new dimension.  It was not so much that the clown became visible in three dimensions, this was true but only a minor point.

The major point is that there seemed to be a flow or a current in which the whole being of the clown poured outward to reveal itself, all his feelings, thoughts and emotions etc., and a counter-flow in which the outside (including the viewer) was drawn into him, to emerge again in the outward flow.  It was a very striking experience for me, one that I shall always remember.  Whether the artist intended the picture to be seen in this way, I don’t know of course, I would be interested in knowing whether it struck anyone else in this way.

David Bohm
Bohm–Biederman Correspondence, Vol 1: Creativity and Science
Edited by Paavo Pylkkanen


Charles Biederman


Also see:  scientist meets philosopher (David Bohm in dialogue with J Krishnamurti)


David Bohm, Paul Cezanne and Creativity – F David Peat, a close collaborator and friend of David Bohm, shares insights into Bohm’s creative ideas and process.


 

the art of nondual nonfinito

A review by Jonathan Jones recently posted at The Guardian – The definition of artistic greatness: Unfinished … Works from the Courtauld Gallery – has prompted me to reblog this post from wonderingmind studio First the post, then some tasters from the review.


 

Cézanne and the art of nondual nonfinito.

Or – getting emptiness exactly right

 

Paul Cézanne - La Montagne Sainte Victoire, vue des Lauves

La Montagne Sainte Victoire vue des Lauves, 1901 – 06, Paul Cézanne

 

As Cézanne aged, his paintings became filled by more and more naked canvas, what he eloquently called nonfinito. No one had ever done this before. The painting was clearly incomplete. How could it be art? But Cézanne was unfazed by his critics. He knew that his paintings were only literally blank. Their incompleteness was really a metaphor for the process of sight. In these unfinished canvases, Cézanne was trying to figure out what the brain would finish for him. As a result, his ambiguities are exceedingly deliberate, his vagueness predicated on precision. If Cézanne wanted us to fill in his empty spaces, then he had to get his emptiness exactly right.

For example, look at Cézanne’s watercolors of Mont Sainte-Victoire. In his final years, Cézanne walked every morning to the crest of Les Lauves, where an expansive view of the Provençal plains opened up before him. He would paint in the shade of a linden tree. From there, Cézanne said, he could see the land’s hidden patterns, the way the river and vineyards were arranged in overlapping planes. In the background was always the mountain; that jagged isosceles of rock that seemed to connect the dry land with the infinite sky….

And yet the mountain does not disappear. It is there, an implacable and adamant presence. The mind easily invents the form that Cézanne’s paint barely insinuates. Although the mountain is almost literally invisible – Cézanne has only implied its presence – its looming gravity anchors the painting. We don’t know where the painting ends and we begin…

– Jonah Lehrer: Proust Was a Neuroscientist

 


 

Michelangelo - The Awakening Slave ca 1520 - 1523

The Awakening Slave, 1520 – 23, Michelangelo

 

The greatest works of art in the world are unfinished. This is not a provocation. Leonardo da Vinci’s dreamlike, infinitely suggestive sketch of a painting The Adoration of the Magi, Michelangelo’s tortured Prisoners struggling to attain human form from blocks of rough-hewn marble, Cézanne’s fragmentary, unending studies of Montagne Sainte-Victoire – for me these unfinished masterpieces literally are the definition of artistic greatness.

 

Leonardo da Vinci - Adoration of the Magi

Adoration of the Magi, 1481, Leonardo da Vinci

 

When artists like Cézanne, Monet and Degas started leaving their paintings in an ambiguous and aleatory state in the late 19th century the bourgeoisie were shocked. Where were the immaculately detailed meadows full of identifiable flowers, the clinically exact nudes and historically accurate costumes they had come to expect?

 

Claude Monet - The Roses, 1925 - 26

The Roses, 1925 – 26, Claude Monet

 

Why is the unfinished such a powerful thing in art? The answer is in our minds. A brightly complete work of art leaves nothing for our brains to do. Unfinished art on the other hand provokes the imagination. It invites the onlooker to collaborate with it. Our relationship with the artist is suddenly much more intimate – Michelangelo’s chisel marks left on his incomplete statues are breathtakingly personal.

Less is more, and it is genius.

– Jonathan Jones

Unfinished … Works from the Courtauld Gallery, 18 June–20 September 2015


The absence invites the Presence. “It is there, an implacable and adamant presence.” The forms are barely insinuated, implied, yet they “anchor” the work, and the mind easily participates in the act of co-creation.

Where does the painter end and the painting begin?  Where does the painting end and the viewer begin?  Who can say?  This, as Jones observes, is the real genius of great art.


 

what does the poet see?

Visual language is poetry in its own right, yet when a poet with the capacity to view a painting without bringing the common interpretation of its language to bear, other, deeper and wider dimensions of perception can arise.  Poets sometimes employ another – usually visual – work of art as an entry point to their own creative expression and there’s a name for this form: ekphrasis.  Often the resulting poems convey a deeper symbolism than is obvious; they can open up a surprising new dimension of meaning.  (I wrote more about ekphrasis in this post about Howard Nemerov‘s poem, Vermeer.)

The work of haiku poet Gabriel Rosenstock has been featured on this site several times – he’s almost our unofficial poet-in-residence. (You’ll find links to his other pages below.) Well-known for his collaborative haiga with photographer Ron Rosenstock, Gabriel recently sent me these examples of his ekphrastic haiku. He includes three versions of his haiku – Irish, English and Japanese. (The latter are translations by Mariko Sumikura.)

The artworks are by Marc Chagall and Rene Magritte – details are included at the foot of the post.

 

Chagall-Rosenstock haiku 1

 


 

Chagall-Rosenstock haiku 2

 


 

Magritte-Rosenstock haiku 1

 


 

Magritte-Rosenstock haiku 2

 


 

Magritte-Rosenstock haiku 3

 


 

Magritte-Rosenstock haiku 4

 


 

Magritte-Rosenstock haiku 5

 


From top:
Marc Chagall, Le Violoniste Bleu,1929
Marc Chagall, Cover, Souvenir Program for Ballet Russe, ca 1945
Rene Magritte, Le Mal du Pays (Homesickness), 1940
Rene Magritte, Golconda, 1953
Rene Magritte, L’Inondation (The Flood), 1928
Rene Magritte, The Pleasure Principle, 1937


Books by Gabriel Rosenstock

Blog: roghagabriel.blogspot.ie


disappearing in the haiku moment

a glimpse of a god

rosenstock & rosenstock

being in love with light


 

Blake’s eternal delight

When the “old” version of the awakened eye website was being transferred to this site, many shorter pages were edited out.  It seemed they would be better shared as posts.  This is the first – a collection of quotes from William Blake, along with some examples of his artwork.


[Blake] held that the way to truth and higher consciousness was through the contemplation of art. He proposed that by immersing oneself in art, a person could experience it not just as an aesthetic but more akin to the meditative exercise a mystic performs in preparation for achieving a higher state of spiritual enlightenment.

– Leonard Shlain in Art & Physics

[For Blake] every act of the imagination, every union of existence and perception, is a time-space complex … in which time and space as we know them disappear.

– Northrop Frye in Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake


 

The eye altering, alters all.

– William Blake

 

William Blake: Albion Rose, from The Large Book of Designs copy A. © Copyright the Trustees of the British Museum.

 

To see a World in a grain of sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower.
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

 

As a man is, so he sees.
As the eye is formed, such are its powers.

 

If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.
For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through the narrow chinks of his cavern.

 

William Blake: Pity, detail. Metropolitan Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. Robert W. Goelet, 1958 (58.603). Photograph © copyright 1979, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

First thought is best in art.

 

He who binds to himself a joy
does the winged life destroy;
but he who kisses the joy as it flies
lives in eternity’s sunrise.

 

William Blake: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, copy C, 1790 (Morgan Library and Museum): electronic edition

 

Every man who is not an artist
is a traitor to his own nature…

 


Find more images and in-depth information here:  siteslab at UNC


Drawings of William Blake (Dover Fine Art, History of Art) – Edited by Geoffrey Keynes


to see clearly is poetry

 

John Ruskin - Rough sketches of tree growth, pen and neutral tint.

John Ruskin: Rough sketches of tree growth, pen and neutral tint.

 

Let two persons go out for a walk; the one a good sketcher, the other having no taste of the kind.  Let them go down a green lane.  There will be a great difference in the scene as perceived by the two individuals.  The one will see a lane and trees; he will perceive the trees to be green, though he will think nothing about it; he will see that the sun shines, and that it has a cheerful effect; and that’s all!  But what will the sketcher see?  His eye is accustomed to search into the cause of beauty, and penetrate the minutest parts of loveliness.  He looks up, and observes how the showery and subdivided sunshine comes sprinkled down among the gleaming leaves overhead, till the air is filled with the emerald light.  He will see here and there a bough emerging from the veil of leaves, he will see the jewel brightness of the emerald moss and the variegated and fantastic lichens, white and blue, purple and red, all mellowed and mingled into a single garment of beauty.  Then come the cavernous trunks and the twisted roots that grasp with their snake-like coils at the steep bank, whose turfy slope is inlaid with flowers of a thousand dyes.  Is not this worth seeing?  Yet if you are not a sketcher you will pass along the green lane and when you come home again, have nothing to say or to think about it, but that you went down such and such a lane.

– John Ruskin


Quoted in The Art of Travel, by Alain de Botton

Image © University of Oxford – Ashmolean Museum


John Ruskin at the artisans’ gallery

seeing without shadows