The Books of My Numberless Dreams

Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

“You yourself told me how Sheikh Muhammad the Master of Isfahan burned down the great library containing the paintings he had renounced, and how he also immolated himself in a fit of bad conscience,” he said. “Now let me tell you another story related to that legend that you don’t know. It’s true, he’d spent the last thirty years of his life hunting down his own works. However, in the books he perused, he increasingly discovered imitations inspired by him rather than his original work. In later years, he came to realise that two generations of artists had adopted as models of form the illustrations he himself had renounced, that they’d ingrained his pictures in their minds–or more accurately, had made them a part of their souls. As Sheikh Muhammad attempted to find his own pictures and destroy them, he discovered that young miniaturists had, with reverence, produced them in countless books, had relied on them in illustrating other stories, had caused them to be memorised by all and had spread them over the world. Over long years, as we gaze at book after book and illustration after illustration, we come to learn the following: A great painter does not content himself by affecting us with masterpieces; ultimately, he succeeds in changing the landscape of our minds. Once a miniaturist’s artistry enters our souls this way, it becomes the criterion for the beauty of our world. At the end of his life, as the Master of Isfahan burned his own art, he not only witnessed the fact that his work, instead of disappearing, actually proliferated and increased; he understood that everybody now saw the world the way he had seen it.”

From “My Name is Red” by Orhan Pamuk, translated by Erdaq M. Guknar

I could not leave that cantankerous rant as the first post to greet visitors on such a lovely day. And it is and has been lovely. It’s not very white with temperatures at a balmy 5 C–yes, compared to typical December temperatures this is balmy–but the sun shone brightly and everyone was out with family or close ones shopping, goggling at llamas at the park, jogging on the trail, taking the dog out for a walk or finding that last-minute gift. I was grinning the minute I stepped outside with friends and am now in a much better mood.I do not have any of my books nearby or I would quote a chilling excerpt from Other Electricities by Ander Monson. It is the winter book to own, if you didn’t know. The only winter poems I really love are Snow by Archibald Lampman and Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (which I got on my ‘O’ level exams and almost squealed with delight) but they feel a bit too familiar, done and comfortable. So, I went searching for some art.

Christmas — Santa Reading Mail by Norman Rockwell

(1935)

santa.jpg

Isn’t it something? I think I’ve found my new favourite image of Santa. In this painting more than anything else he really does look a loving grandpa who would give you the warmest hug you ever had and the best gifts and a lot of love. The halo adds rather than detracts from this. I love it, which is odd, because I’ve never seen a Rockwell work that I’ve liked before.

Another one that radiates the same cheer and reminds me of the Scrooge with Alistair Sim is Merrie Christmas Couple Dancing under the Mistletoe.

A Christmas Carol by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

(1857)

christmascarol.jpg

I picked this one both because the colours are bright, full and gorgeous, really glowing, very festive and also because it’s a puzzle. I notice the little settings of the nativity scene beneath her harpsichord (?) but what’s the idea behind that? And what kinds of plants are those hanging from them? Are they going to put all those things on the shelf in and on her hair and why? What about that repeating pattern on the tapestry (of sorts)…grrrrr I don’t suppose any of the professors would appreciate if I called their houses on Christmas eve to decode the painting for me. I have no time to google it all now (if that would even work) so for now, simply enjoy “A Christmas Carol’s” beauty.

A Medieval Christmas — The Procession by Albert B. Wenzell

(1898)

procession.jpg

My word. This one is marvellous. It is all pomp and circumstance, elaborate excess and gravity with everyone showing the utmost reverance for the ritual pageantry. It’s rather startling to see the altar boy’s gown being more or less the same as the ones altar boys in Catholic churches are wearing all over the world still. I think that aristocrat at the back is trying very hard not to smile. This painting is imparting so much which reminds me one of the major reasons I love paintings.

Christmas Eve, Swiftwater, New Hampshire by Aldro Thompson Hibbard

Here is the last. This is what a proper northern Christmas should look like: heaps and heaps of snow, sleigh rides and mountains lurking in the distance. I am enjoying this Christmas a lot more with a painting of such a scene as opposed to actually living it. Happy, Happy Christmas!

swiftwater.jpg

All images are taken from the Art Renewal Centre. Click on images to get bigger scans.

The Good Fairies of New York by Martin Millar

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson, NBA winner 2006

Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife by Sam Savage, LBC Autumn 2006 Pick

Vintage Nabokov

It feels good to know and care for people so wonderfully receptive to heavily placed hints.

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The Economist may have convinced me to acquire Messud’s The Emperor Children (from the library, if it’s there). It is more likely I have been subliminally coerced by the universal adulation. Or I was in a good mood.

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There is a good review of The Immoralist by Andre Gide at Conversational Reading. I love reading good reviews because they take me to literary places undiscovered or overlooked. A lot of people’s disdain for critics stem from the unwarranted, unjustified, egotistical idea that their experience is the only one that matters.

Stacey’s visual representation of her experience with Evensong by Gail Godwin is not to be missed. Too funny.

You must visit Japonisme. Lotusgreen presents a lot of intriguing, impressive Japanese or Japanese-influenced art with informed commentary.  It is my new favourite site.


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