Moments of Recognition

The koi swim in the pond of imagination, but otherwise have been pretty neglected by me.  I love my koi, but other projects have interjected themselves into my life, and I’ve had to put the koi temporarily aside.  Still, I see the pictures each day — most of them — and my thoughts wander off into wonderings about when and how I’ll resume work on them.  When you put something like this aside, a part of your soul is still invested there, and parts of your mind still work the problem, still linger around the edges of a wish.

I got a book from the library on the American impressionists, American artists of the 19th century who had visited France and were inspired and influenced by the modern French painting of that time.  Got the book to help me think about landscape.  Actually I even own a copy of the same book, but I got this copy because I saw it and remembered that it was interesting and realized that I would most likely never locate my own copy.  (Regular readers will recall that house-keeping is not my forte.)  Anyway, I opened one of the pages and landed on a reproduction of this painting by John Singer Sargent, Stream in the Val d’Aosta.

Then I had one of those lovely “ah ha!” moments.  All of what one sees in the amazing way that Sargent scatters light and color across the canvas — his rendering of and evocation of the higgly-piggly spilled out arrangement of rocks and colors, reflections and patterns, among the wet and the really wet, expresses exactly what I’m longing for in my koi.  That spilled-across-ness of light and water.

I don’t know whether the koi should be catagorized as “landscape” or not.  Certainly the meaning of landscape applies to them as well.  The koi as I understand them characterize a separate world that parallels human imagination.  The koi transport one just as fully as a landscape communicates a mood or narrates a meaning.  And John Singer Sargent in this amazing painting has certainly mapped out the territory I’m seeking to discover.

Sometimes you happen upon a correspondence like this, and it’s such a lovely delight — this finding of a kindred spirit, the discovery of a teacher-fellow traveler.

I started the koi painting above last October.   My painting is so flat compared to his.  Granted mine’s “in progress” and also the angle of recession in space is different.  But I look at the Sargent and realize the qualities I’m missing, the things I need to be seeking.  Well, all that from an innocent trip to the public library ….

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