Ant Walk at the Frog Pond

Taking an ant walk with your eyes along the porous surface of the veil of light that hangs perpetually before your eyes.  That’s my idea about what realism is.  I speak of that veil of light that coalesces to form the image of things inside the mind.  Wake up, open the eyes, and there’s the world, waiting. 

A meticulous realism can be many things.  For some it’s a virtuoso performance of throwing down lines one at a time .  They assemble like a magic act to make recognizable objects,  captured in what we count as amazing detail, while the audience responds with gasps and childlike clapping.  But realism can also be the felt-out path, as much the muddle of true reality as the persuasive life-like picture.  True reality comes with contradictions and stereo vision and some assembly is required.  In reality, any line is both here and here, depending upon which eye you consult, left or right.  True reality is also your unfolding attention, the fact that you notice one thing before another.  A true picture of one’s perceptions includes all the lies as well as the truths that God knows.  True reality is as much what I think as what’s actually present, for who is to refereeIn truth we cannot quite make out sometimes what reality is when perception is so elusive and experience so unfinished.  Time rolls along continuously bringing more and more reality to bear upon us.

So I take my ant walk with a pencil.  The ant walk describes with line the path an imaginary ant travels chaotically across the surfaces the artist draws.  If my watching follows the footfalls of those most delicate and quiet padded feet, what will I discover?  The drawing is a log of a journey in intimacy, and the world is my apple.  That ant of imagination chooses the path by desires too arcane for comprehension.  I choose only to watch and record, being the amanuensis of a mystery.  A docile pencil, a companionable creature of imagination.

Today’s “ant” walked to the frog pond, drawing the contours of this odd tea pot.  I like to get into the small aspects of the object where planes turn on a tiny pivot, where a line bends, where many shades of light and dark converge.


Art Quote du Jour

I have been thinking of the freshness of memories and of their power to lend enchantment to the distant past, and I have been marvelling at the way in which our minds involuntarily suppress and brush aside anything that spoiled the charm of those happy moments when we were actually living them.  I have been comparing this kind of idealization, for such it is, with the effect that great works of art have on the imagination.  A great painter concentrates the interest by suppressing details that are useless, offensive or foolish; his mighty hand orders and prescribes, adding to or taking away from the objects in his pictures, and treating them as his own creatures; he ranges freely throughout his kingdom and gives you a feast of his own choosing ….

En réfléchissant sur la fraîcheur des souvenirs, sur la couleur enchantée qu’ils revêtent dans un passé lointain, j’admirais ce travail involontaire de l’âme qui écarté et supprime, dans le ressouvenir de moments agréables, tout ce qui en diminuait le charme, au moment où on les traversait.  Je comparais cette espèce d’idéalisation, car c’en est une, à l’effet des beaux ouvrages de l’imagination.  Le grand artiste concentre l’intérêt en supprimant les détails inutiles où repoussants où sots; sa main puissante dispose et établit, ajoute où supprime, et en use ainsi sure des objets qui sont siens; il se meut dans son domaine et vous y donne une fête à son gré ….

                                                                                                                                                           — Eugène Delacroix, Journal, 28 avril/April 28, 1854

                                                                                                                                                             [translation, Lucy Norton]