Wednesday, March 19, 2014

that we are less alone

"We live in a world of suffering in which evil is rampant, a world whose events do not confirm our Being, a world that has to be resisted. It is in this situation that the aesthetic moment offers hope, that we find a crystal or a poppy beautiful means that we are less alone, that we are more deeply inserted into existence than the course of a single life would lead us to believe....The energy of one's perception becomes inseparable from the energy of creation."

- John Berger

"The connections between high and low are complex. Let's take a look at one of Chardin's still lifes, perhaps his beautiful Still Life with Plums, which hangs in the Frick Collection in New York: what we'll see is apparently only a tumbler made of thick glass, some gleaming enamelware, a plate, and a bulging bottle. Through them, though, we'll come to love singular, specific things. Why? Because they exist, they're indifferent, that is to say, incorruptible. We'll learn to value objectivity, faithful depictions, accurate accounts - in an age so adept at exploiting falsehoods, particularly in Central Europe."

- Adam Zagajewski, from "A Defense of Ardor"

“At some point in life the world's beauty becomes enough. You don't need to photograph, paint, or even remember it. It is enough.”

- Toni Morrison

“It is in books, poems, paintings which often give us the confidence to take seriously feelings in ourselves that we might otherwise never have thought to acknowledge.”

- Alain de Botton, from The Architecture of Happiness

I've been thinking about still life. Inevitable that I keep circling back to the subject. Yesterday went through the still life shelf in my library and plucked Planets on Tables: Poetry, Still Life, and the Turning World by Bonnie Costello off the shelf. The first two quotations - the Berger and Zagjewski - were found in this book.

I suppose I'm past the need to justify my strange daily quest for things beautiful, for the aesthetic moment. I don't need to justify my need for finding beauty in the every day. I know that some would view this as a lightweight activity.

Still life painting has traditionally and historically been viewed as a lightweight genre. Just a bunch of pretty things on a table. Just stuff.

Yesterday Rob received a rejection from the Art Gallery of Alberta for inclusion in their biennial show. I think it's his third rejection for this show. He's actually been pretty regularly rejected for everything - grants, etc. Apparently people in this city aren't interested in actual painting, in looking at the work of someone who has been applying paint to canvas for thirty years. To me, that in itself would be interesting.

It's depressing, but you have to immediately come back to the work. To the pursuit of beauty.

And here I'm thinking of still life, as Zagajewski says, as incorruptible. And here I'm thinking of the purpose of making beautiful things - which is so that we may feel less alone.

That experiencing beauty, making beautiful paintings, that this is enough.

Mostly, it is enough.

And we need it. Beauty.

I do.


  1. Such a delight to see these well crafted photographs ♥ :)
    I'm glad I stopped here :)

  2. Rob's rejection must be a sting, particularly after many years of them. A few years back was the Red Deer College Arts Centre's 25th anniversary. My husband gave his (unpaid) soul to that building and that theatre program for decades. When they announced the line-up of who would be appearing at the big gala, he was conspicuously absent. I blew a well-deserved gasket, and I think it's perfectly fine to feel indignant for our loved ones when they're unfairly overlooked.

    xo K

  3. There's so much to say in response here. Let me say, at least, that I am saddened by Rob's rejection from the Gallery, it must be hard not to want to give it all up at times like these (I'm likely projecting and I sure hope he doesn't). I'm also saddened to think of any beautiful still life being considered lightweight. I can't help but think that anyone saying so isn't using such a statement as a prop for their own ego (I've studied a little art history, I understand where the statement comes from, it just doesn't convince me). Take care. Beautiful photos. :)

  4. well.
    it is their loss. and because of their loss... it becomes the loss of all the people that could have appreciated the beauty that is unique to rob.
    i didn't know that about 'lightweight.' i do not believe that for a moment.
    if that were true... then somebody needs to tell the collectors.
    there are hundreds and hundreds of lightweight paintings worth millions hanging in museums and homes by all the old masters of this world. pish. tosh.
    i love the toni morrison quote though.
    but unlike all that she says... i find i do have to constantly remember it. the beauty.
    and i have to have it. it's like air and water. i breathe it in.
    my heart to rob's this night.
    and always to yours.

  5. Thanks, everyone :) Admittedly, Rob is far more stoic than I am when these things happen. And it's true, that there are many, many people who love what he does, and who love still life, and love looking at the so-called overlooked. xo


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