Tag Archives: esthetic arrest

Art and Eternity

20 Feb


My friend Linda tells me that there is a palpable feeling that exists around the works of the old masters. She says standing in front of a Caravaggio she felt a presence, a feeling. Another friend gets the shivers from Gustav Klimt’s, The Kiss. How is this possible? Is it the recognition of a perfect composition? The exact placement of paint on a flat surface that gets us? After all, it is just paint, a surface and light that gives us the experience. The painter is long gone. Or is s/he?

Does something of the painter stay after all?

In an article in the Kyoto Journal, Gunter Nitschke speaks to Ma, the Japanese concept of Place. In a beautifully written article, he opens up an understanding of place that is missing in western thought. The idea that place is not just about architecture or forms, but is inseparable from the potential relationships, feelings, intuitions that might happen in the space. Place is a combination of structure and the opening the structure creates. It is an ebb and a flow. It is as much about what happens in the space as in the space itself. It is about time, space, fullness, emptiness, potential.

When Ma is consciously included, it can become a unifying bond between the creator and the viewer. Ma is inclusive, relational. What is created is created to include the viewer. The viewer is seen as part of the creation itself. To me this is magical and wonderful. It also puts a responsibility on me as the viewer. Rather than just being careless and unconscious in my experiencing, I am called to participate. To be present to my experience. ‘Toko-no-ma’ is a display alcove in the traditional Japanese sitting room. In it is a floral arrangement or object of beauty, arranged by the host. This action of creation on the part of the host becomes a unifying force, an active thing – when it is met with an act of appreciation on the part of the guest.

Participation. Relationship. A feeling-state.The original character for Ma was composed of the ideogram for moon, 月, under the sign for gate 門. Closing my eyes, I am transported to an unspecified evening,  the sight of moonlight framed, enclosed, held by a garden gate.  I feel, in my imagination, that transaction that happens when objective facts, a gate and moonlight, magically become something far more, through my conscious observation. I participate with the gate when I add my feelings and life experience – ‘I’ flow in along with the moonlight.

The character for the moon is open at the bottom – 月. My mind wants to close it – to finish the pattern, so as to not leave it broken, hanging open. In a way it becomes the gate that allows me to enter into the space, to merge with it, and in this way become more than either human or gate. I think this is the relationship between creator and viewer. The artist creates the gate, the structure, existing in time, that provides an opening for our timeless experience to flow into. We transcend ourselves and for a moment, participate in eternity.

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