I was having one of my paintings framed; when lo! The perception of Theo was abroad in the luminiferous ether at Aubergine Gallery in Wimbledon (photo of Theo on iPhone facing greeting card).
It is uncommon that I discover myself on the opposing side of Ralph Waldo Emerson in a realisation; yet, here I am. I am a visual artist; a distinction it is obligatory to deduce, as I am endowed neither musically nor in the written word. A correlation between Emerson’s and my assessments on the reception of styles of art and homage follows; engaging the assistance of The Conduct of Life: Art, as there exists a pronounced divergence in our perceptions.
“A jumble of musical sounds on a viol or a flute, in which the rhythm of the tune is played without one of the notes being right, gives pleasure to the unskilful ear…”
Reading these lines invokes images of David Hockney’s iPad drawings: by the side of his paintings from the 1960s, some observers may regard these wonderful discernments of the vista from his window in Bridlington as “coarse sketches.” Were I favoured enough to have engaged in discourse with my hero, I would have challenged thus: why cannot course sketches be exalted or intangible?
Are these airs of cultivation — as Emerson observed in The Poet — local? Is this common reception of the arts dictated by rules and formulae? Is it pretension? Such deference to these ideals is neither pure, nor is it love, when a shallow devotion adheres to predetermined doctrines of beauty. “They seem frigid and phlegmatic to those who have been spiced with frantic passion and violent colouring of inferior; but, popular writers.”
Emerson broadens the concept...”…a very cautious imitation of the human form on canvas, or in wax-work, – a coarse sketch in colours and the landscape, in which imitation is all that is attempted, – these things give to unpractised eyes, to the uncultured, who do not ask a fine spiritual delight, almost as much pleasure as a statue of Canova or a picture of Titian.”
Whilst it may be true that “envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide,” one must scrutinise both the “copyist” and his impetus. Simple impersonation or laudable veneration?
My friend Eric is a supremely gifted musician, who composes, sings and is virtuosic in myriad instruments. Today, whilst we were on FaceTime, he played for me an Italian lullaby, “Ninna Nanna” on mandolin; his performance — a mimicry?; he did not write it —was sublime. My own interpretation of Raphael’s “Study of the Heads of Two Apostles and of Their Hands” is, unequivocally, an impersonation: I beheld the piece at an exhibition, it was not available to purchase as a print and I’ve an inherent talent for drawing. This was an act of admiration executed by me for me, to bring gratification. In that same dialogue, a further challenge: why cannot imitations be noble or ethereal?
“…another deduction from the genius of the artist is what is conventional in his art, of which there is much in every work of art. Thus how much is there that is not original in every particular building, every statue, and every tune, painting, poem, or harangue!…”
Examine the motivations for so-called imitation. Is adhering or conforming to an existing style, as in Roman architecture or Renaissance painting, imitation? Emerson says “no,” and I concur. Though, in the cases of Eric and me, some degree of imitation is to be expected, accepted and even admired.
“Antonia has her flowers in a humble balcony, her birds, and an immense black cat; always addressed by both husband and wife as “Amoretto,” (little love!).”
~ RWE, Europe
This is dedicated to Jerry Coyne (https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/)…
It’s National Black Cat Day!
Happy day from my black cat, Theo.
Unfortunate and regrettable human superstition culminates in black cats waiting, on average, 13% longer, to be rehomed than cats of other colours. Lamentably, this also increases euthanasia statistics among black cats. Today, I join other admirers of these beautiful creatures in paying tribute to and making public my love for my beautiful black cat, and the other black cats in our lives. We also seek to raise awareness of those still hoping for loving homes.
Here is the link to Cats Protection for further information: https://www.cats.org.uk/black-cats
Please, if at all possible, adopt a black cat TODAY!
I am pleased to feature some photos of Theo..
“They seem frigid and phlegmatic to those who have been spiced with the frantic passion and violent coloring of inferior but popular writers.”
~ RWE, The Over-Soul, 1841
I love Morrissey: I have every breath he ever uttered in a recording studio. Naturally, I seized his autobiography, which hastily revealed itself to be indecipherable. Sans the promise of further punishment, I appropriated List of the Lost, which was…equally thus: someone had given Morrissey a thesaurus for his birthday, he ate it and evacuated his bowels onto the page.
I recollect the cautions of people I knew, some were well-read and erudite; and some heeded Critics: tread not there; it was eviscerated by Critics; it was rubbish. Though, I follow not; nor do I permit any person but myself to form my conclusions. The twelfth time I thrust it across the room was my moment of determination. Now neither did I acquiesce to my devotion to Morrissey when shouldering this endeavour. People seek Fashion. Mobs devote themselves to trends. Crowds pursue those things and people to which and to whom Critics steer them. They esteem Artists and styles which are favoured and beloved, whether deservingly or not; merely because they are.
The ostensibly mundane musings — or even “throwaways”— of well-known Artists or Writers are preserved. Whilst celebrated Artists are more often than not, endowed and worthy of prominence, alas; how often are those likewise revered who are not deserving (for my part, Banksy does nothing for me)?; how many are acclaimed solely via Critics or the Fashionable?
There is an ineffable quality of art, which is lost upon the Fashionable and pretentious, as it is received with obscene intent.
“Let an Artist scrawl a few lines or figures on the back of a letter, and that scrap of paper is rescued from danger, is put in a portfolio, is framed and glazed, and, in proportion with the beauty of the lines drawn, will be kept for centuries…How many copies are there of the Belvedere Apollo, the Venus, the Psyche, the Warwick Vases, the Parthenon and the Temple of Vesta! These are objects of tenderness to all. In our cities, an ugly building is soon removed, and is never repeated; but, any beautiful building is copied and improved upon, so that all Masons and Carpenters work to repeat and preserve the agreeable forms, whilst the ugly ones die out.”
~ RWE, The Conduct of Life/Beauty, 1860
Segue to discourse on Fashion. And the Gentleman. Fashion is garish and ostentatious; a facade; a performance, if you will; it is an outward manifestation and guides others to hypothesise about a person. A Gnntleman was held to be “a man of truth; lord of his own actions.” For the purposes of this discussion, one must conduct the distinctions current: from Gentleman to those of any gender who demonstrate gentility; which denotes good nature and benevolence and are those who maintain the distinction between Fashion and a heroic character.
“The point of distinction in all this class of names, as courtesy, chivalry, fashion and the like, is that the flower and the fruit, not the grain of the tree, are contemplated. It is beauty which is the aim this time, and not worth.”
~ RWE, Manners, 1841
Whilst manners appear intimidatory to the uncultivated; the latter can attain decorum and elegance, and when this occurs, the barriers recede. Fashion is vague, a facade, though lamentably, also powerful. Breeding and civility present badges of social distinction, and serve us; however, regrettably, out of them, Fashion is borne.
“Thus grows up fashion, and equivocal semblance, the most puissant, the most fantastic and frivolous, the most feared and followed, and which morals and violence assault in vain…Great men are not commonly in its halls; they are absent in the field: they are working, not triumphing. Fashion is made up of their children…”
~ RWE, Manners, 1841
In Gifts, the distinctions are drawn more succinctly: labour yields property; inheritance yields gifts.
These considerations about Fashion and more earnest respectability beg the question of whether the ugly buildings cited might be otherwise protected or reproduced if the fashionable deemed them…fashionable.
The potency of pretension and veneer…
The waiting list is extensive, patrons are required to pay in advance when booking, there are rules. One could be forgiven for thinking, “for the love of Caesar! Why bother?” Why? Because it is one of the most wonderful places imaginable.
The rules exist for one uncomplicated purpose: Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium on Bethnal Green Road is the home of sixteen cats; patrons are simply the cats’ invited guests. And the rules are not overbearing: do not wake any cat who is asleep, do not feed human food to any cat, do not pick up any cat.
Some of the cats napped for the duration of our 90-minute stay, some meandered about, some came for cuddles and some exhibited consummately captivating catness.
I could not think of more delightful way to pass a Saturday morning…