Where reality is bisected: commentary notes on some bisected painting pieces:
“This is not a pipe”: Rene Magritte
“Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (This is not a pipe) —Belgian artist Rene Magritte’s statement might enough to realize the simulated nature of reality where we are staying now. He painted a pipe with intimate detailing; inversely this floating object on canvas is not the same pipe which perhaps tobacco lovers use when they smoke. He paints suchlike object where clarification is not necessary to identify its characters as a pipe, the seer at best praises it for its artistic beauty and realistic postures.
Anyway, the artist creates a whimsy contradiction in seer’s mind by adding his handwritten statement just underneath the surface of the painted object. This statement claimed, —albeit it looked like a pipe but “this is not a pipe”; rather the object is more than else a pipe, and it deserves name due to its replacement in the new reality. The problem is that his textual addition now disbands seer’s perception about tobacco pipe. Michel Foucault in his reading of this painting piece marked Magritte’s statement a phonographic destruction of what we’ve perceived in our mind about the usability of a tobacco pipe and naming it. Magritte’s phonograph appeared as a reverse of it and provoked us to think about the object something other than this, maybe the memes of a tobacco pipe but not the same which we use in our daily life.
The handwritten text appeared here as the replacer of those images that we’ve used when we see somebody smokes tobacco pipe in our living surface. Magritte’s artistic approach forced a seer to imagine the tobacco pipe with new narration and phonographical abstraction. Foucault thinks, Magritte uses the simple statement and it appeared disturbing for the familiar object he paints. “This is not a pipe” —the textual representation now stranger than the image he paints. It leads the painting piece to create its own phonographics, images, and as well as the reality, which it prefers to mean the tobacco pipe by settling a new perception in seer’s mind.
Magritte’s artwork supplied clue again and that is, —order of things is not static as we usually think; the definition of a thing is intentional here; where it depends on its relation and interaction with other things. We are living in the space-time where everything is transitory, where frequent appear and disappear of things is more dynamic and uncertain despite their over-sure presence in the life-space. Here, in Magritte’s artwork, the pipe as an object is not adding a value until unless he added the handwritten statement just below the painted object. The simple statement “This is not a pipe” is enough to reconsider seer’s perception of the defined statement “This is a pipe’, which a seer got from the real world and now disturbed by the reverse statement created by Magritte in his canvas, to destroy his apparently axiomatic belief on the so-called “This is a pipe” type statement.
Here a new textual reality is created within the actual world where human discovered pipe for smoking. When we first think a wooden-made tubular could be used for smoking, at that moment it had no name, we named it as a ‘pipe’ just after the moment of testing its usability for tobacco smokers. Magritte rediscovers the same object in his canvas but changes the established perception by adding reverse statement and that is, “This is not a pipe”. If it is not a pipe then what it be? This question led seer to reinvent the textual representation of original things with new insight and interpretation as well.
Art interprets reality with its self-made definitions of real things or objects and that makes a difference. True artwork always tries to leap on the pond that was unthinkable a moment before and now claim to consider it as an essential part of reality. Michel Foucault, in his text, cleverly interprets the power of text as an image which Magritte creates here by adding a reverse statement, “look, what I paint you can think it a pipe, but to me, this is not a pipe”. Foucault mentioned in his reading:
Now, compared to the traditional function of the legend, Magritte’s text is doubly paradoxical. It sets out to name something that evidently does not need to be named (the form is too well-known, the label too familiar). And at the moment when he should reveal the name, Magritte does so by denying that the object is what it is…
“This is a pipe.” From painting to image, from image to text, from text to voice, a sort of imaginary pointer indicates, shows, fixes, locates, imposes a system of references, tries to stabilize a unique space. [See: This is not a pipe by Michel Foucault, Translated by James Harkness, 1981]
Magritte’s work reminds Jean Baudrillard arguments, he believes, “Simulacrum” doesn’t copies or memes “the real”; instead of it, the simulacrum of reality (for instance Magritte’s painting) contained its own truth through its self-generated representation of reality; we at best could call it “the hyperreal.”
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“Urizen”: William Blake
“Urizen” was might be the landing zone of British metaphysical poet William Blake where he tried to reach since from the beginning of his maddening questing on divinity and profanity of creation as a poet and artist. If God creates everything as a reflection of his own self-inclined Innocence then the question is inevitable, —why Evil exists in his creation? If creation is the divine whisper of innocent Almighty Lord then why Evil appeared as Experience to spoil the beauty of creation? William Blake was an intruder of that pitfall where Experience breaks Innocence like a fragile crystal. Mercy, pity, peace, and love were the symbol of Innocence in his poetic dictionary; where he bannered Experience as a pitfall against the divinity of creation.
The duality between Innocence and Experience in God’s creation led Blake to think about the divine eternity and reunification of soul and body in light of his own metaphysical symbiosis. He then created his own mythical God, the “Urizen”; as many years later we see American Horror fictionist HP Lovecraft creates “Cthulhu”…, the mysterious and unnamable cosmic God who represents the un-ended terror of afterlife creation in the universe. G. Keynes mentioned Urizen as the “supreme God” and “creator of the material world” in his book about William Blake’s life and literature. He made some details about the artwork that Blake illustrated for his book. The long beard gowned man who is sitting on earth as kneeling down position he caught by himself on the web of dual creation (the divine love is one hand and the demonic servitude of cruelty in other hands) and now tried to pull out the net surrounded by him. He actually caught by the “Net of Religion”, as Blake mentioned in his book with strenuous poetic diction:
Till a Web dark & cold, throughout all
The tormented element stretch’d
From the sorrows of Urizens soul
And the Web is a Female in embrio
None could break the Web, no wings of fire.
So twisted the cords, & so knotted
The meshes: twisted like to the human brain
And all calld it, The Net of Religion
… [See: The first book of Urizen, Chap: VIII by William Blake]
History of poetry marked William Blake as a romantic and maddening metaphysical poet, but his ways of searching the essence of creation were not as naive as history depicts. Urizen is discomforting for them who love metaphysical symbols to enjoy the transcendental mystery of life, Blake might gonna far beyond to warn them that, the mystery of creation is a terrifying battle between innocence and reverse; except for this, creation certainly a vague hegemony of Christian God. Blake’s poems and artworks are the reverses tell of sanctuary where the so-called religious God exists with His contradictory novelty.
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The Mystic Mountaineers: Hokusai and Cezanne
Art lovers know well how Japanese art form once influenced European impressionist and post-impressionist artists. Japanese life and its connectivity with meditative simplicity made a deep impression to the European artists. Nature of Japanese artistry where it connects an artist to paint his feeling about the purpose and destination of human life despite to stand on the transition, it impressed Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Cezanne and as well as other genius artists of pre and post-impression eras. The essence of Haiku silently flows down in the Japanese art form. Haiku, where a poet is very parsimonious to express his feeling about the worldly nature of life with verbosity, instead he chooses utterly few words to make the meditative image of life.
Japanese are habitual to convey the essence by tradition and it insists an artist to represent the meditation that he got and owned now through the neighboring influence of Buddhist and Taoist tradition. The Japanese art form, whatever it be, a poetry, drama, pottery, ceramic or woodblock or calligraphy…all elements vibrates the different moods of life with simplicity and innocence and meditative silence. When it connects Japan’s Natural Landscape, we see how the simple ink color appoints itself to depict the inner flavor of the human soul by contrasting it with Nature oriented objects. The same flow fluxes over the meaning of life when it represents the sexual vulgarity in contrast to the Geisha woman or exhibits the vicissitude of a Samurai. Japanese artistry might be the finest one which shows how the Watercolor or Woodblock painting can talk with strong emotion by carried deep spirituality within.
A unique form of artistry where life represents the allegiance and its contravention without hampering the inner mystery, that is, nothing can resist as permanent except for the uttering jingle of silence. Life echoed as just Basho painted in his famous Haiku, “The old pond-/ a frog jumps in, / sound of water.” The true nature of Nature always stays like the old pond; the jumping frog breaks the silence for moments, but the pond going to its original state soon after when the jumping moment has gone over. This eternity is the ultimate mountain peak of life where everything is destined to take its flight for eternal rest or the next recreation.
Katsushika Hokusai, the great waver of this feeling perhaps the first one who disseminates Japanese meditation through his “more within the real” artworks. His relentless fascination of pinned the Fuji Mountain in woodblock with different landscape beckons the same essence of life. Humans are fated to face the sea waves, and they are destined to go down from the mountain peak; contrary, they are hypnotized to climb the mountaintop, to feel how life going condensed in the silence when it embrace death.
Hokusai influenced Cezanne. The French painter was going through the same fascination to paint Mt St Victoire over and again. Both were passionate to represent the objective of life by choosing the mountainous landscape of this living planet. What we see these are not enough, but what we feel when we see “these”, it might be more precious to realize the real essence of life. A real object always hides its originality as like Basho’s old pond. The duty of an artist could be there, he should jump into the pond to discover the hidden treasures by using his inner visionary. This is the spiritual journey of an artist. Hokusai and Cezanne did this job with profound artistry by subjected the mountain and paint it over and again.
…Continued to the next chapter…
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… Humans are fated to face the sea waves, and they are destined to go down from the mountain peak; contrary, they are hypnotized to climb the mountaintop, to feel how life going condensed in the silence when it embrace death…