31 October 2011

Vanishing acts ...

"We are like sculptors, constantly carving out of others the image we long for, need, love or desire, often against reality, against their benefit, and always, in the end, a disappointment, because it does not fit them."

 Anaïs Nin

28 October 2011

Fragile Things ...

"The majority of people dismiss those things that lie beyond the bounds of their own understanding as absurd and not worth thinking about. I myself can only wish that my stories were, indeed, nothing but incredible fabrications. I have stayed alive all these years clinging to the frail hope that these memories of mine were nothing but a dream or a delusion. I have struggled to convince myself that they never happened. But each time I tried to push them into the dark, they came back stronger and more vivid than ever. Like cancer cells, these memories have taken root in my mind and eaten into my flesh."

Haruki Murakami 

27 October 2011

Fables and Reflections ...

“Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes, when you fall, you fly.” 

Neil Gaiman

26 October 2011

In Praise of Melancholy ...

"There are all kinds of silences and each of them means a different thing. There is the silence that comes with morning in a forest, and this is different from the silence of a sleeping city. There is silence after a rainstorm, and before a rainstorm, and these are not the same. There is the silence of emptiness, the silence of fear, the silence of doubt. There is a certain silence that can emanate from a lifeless object as from a chair lately used, or from a piano with old dust upon its keys, or from anything that has answered to the need of a man, for pleasure or for work. This kind of silence can speak. Its voice may be melancholy, but it is not always so; for the chair may have been left by a laughing child or the last notes of the piano may have been raucous and gay. Whatever the mood or the circumstance, the essence of its quality may linger in the silence that follows. It is a soundless echo." 

Beryl Markham

25 October 2011

I see you tonight ...

"It’s strange how dreams get under your skin and give your heart a test for what’s real and what’s imaginary." 

Jason Mraz

23 October 2011

Uncollected pieces ...

“We pass through the present with our eyes blindfolded. We are permitted merely to sense and guess at what we are actually experiencing. Only later when the cloth is untied can we glance at the past and find out what we have experienced and what meaning it had."

Milan Kundera

  4 Wings - "Penelope" (radio edit)

21 October 2011

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosh Final

It was 1517, the time of the Reformation. Catholics and Protestants were at war. How did The Garden of Earthly Delights survive this difficult time ? 

The Garden of Earthly Delights can seem profound to different people, for different reasons, and even to different societies and different eras. The next chapter of the story of this painting is about a quite an amazing turn around in how it was perceived. 

Hendrik III of Nassau kept the painting safe until 1938 when the Nassau family completely lost their power. The picture was inherited from Hendrik III of Nassau by his nephew William "The Silent", the protestant rebel who attempted to get Catholic Spain out of Netherlands. In this religious war that lasted 80 years works of art and books of knowledge were destroyed, burned in great public bonfires. Bosh's painting was a product of a liberal Catholic Renaissance. It could afford a degree of experimentalism that would be much more difficult once catholic protestant wars broke out, and fundamentalism was the score on both sides. 
In 1568 The Garden of Earthly Delights which might well have been in danger from its protestant owner, was confiscated from the Nassau Palace by Spanish troupes. In 1591 it entered the art collection of the Spanish king Philip II. He was Catholic and wanted to beat down the rise of the Protestantism, and he used the offices of the inquisition to do it. For Phillip II Bosh's art was basically, propaganda for Catholic values, besides The Garden of Earthly Delights, the king acquired other religious works painted by Bosh, including thi table top:

This curious work pictures heavenly goodness around the corners, Jesus ruling in glory on right corner, but he is also pictured in the centre, in the pupil of an eye and going around, the pictures of earthly badness. The seven deadly sins. Together they sum up the things we must not do. What will happen to us if we do it ? Where human existence is leading to ? What are the aims of God ? Where do we stand with those aims ? We all must be moral, we all must look within, and it is that moral imperative that those pictures are reminding us of. 

For the sin of lust, aristocrats feed each other, court each other and listen to the sound of aristocratic music, represented by the instruments in the picture. 

When Philip turned to the Garden of Earthly Delights, he saw that Bosh painted music as torture. Musical instruments, become torture instruments. 

And the theme of feeding was painted as a sign of sensuality, extended in the painting in many ways ... 

When humans gather in clusters, ready for food, is almost as if they have been grown themselves, like human fruit, fresh bodies ready for other bodies to enjoy. 
It is amusing for contemporary people, but for Philip II it was really serious, it was art exposing religious wrong doing. 

It was a time of religious high anxiety, people were checked for wrong thinking. For heresy they were often tortured. Paintings were checked for heresy and often they were burned. The inquisition went about this business with great enthusiasm and it was on this climate that The Garden of Earthly Delights with all this unpredictable weirdness and colours, sensuality, giant birds dropping fruits into the mouths of nude humans ... in the climate of religious paranoia, The Garden of the Earthly Delights survived. 

The inquisition office officially cleared Bosh's painting from heresy ... but how come if there is a picture of pig dressed as nun ...?

It is a beautiful pig seducing a man to sign a legal document, presumably signing away all his money. It is only right to satirize church corruption, the inquisition said. Church dogma can never be questioned, but actual church practice must always  be monitored. 

The Garden of Earthly Delights did not always have that title, we don't know what Bosh called it, but we do know that Phillips officials called it The Strawberry Painting. 

The key to this painting's power is that Bosh shows us that is possible to look inside your head without morality and come up with a picture for that feeling ... the art of the unconscious ... when the feelings we have but we don't know we have are shown by art. 

19 October 2011

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosh Part 5

The history of humanity begins with the creation of Adam and Eve, God comes down in His earthly bodily form as Christ the son and gives to Adam and Eve the gift of love.

The medieval mind thinks - the sin has arrived. But Bosh's Renaissance mind it is all about reinterpreting the old traditions, it sees the next step in the history of humanity, full of raising new life, sometimes natural, sometimes anti-natural, men riding beasts in an anti clock wise direction. It is our basic instincts, not enough ruled by God, too much ruled by the devil. 

The sad look of Christ at the sinfulness of man ...

... is counted by the cool and dispassionate look of the tree man ...

... which again is counted by the cruel look,  the black eye of the devil in hell. 

And hell is not the usual hell ... 

Bosh's paint does not portrait the conventional last judgement, it shows heaven and hell as places that your soul may not go to, it is about a state of  being. 
What are you ? You will have to look within ... 

Continues ...

17 October 2011

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosh Part 4

Bosh invented puzzling symbols to question the world and the puzzle extends to how he presented himself as an artist. We know he took his artistic name from the town where he lived 's-Hertogenbosch. 
In the 1960's Bosh's art was seen as mad, druggy and even satanist, but in fact he was a very religious man. He belonged to an association called The Brotherhood of Our Lady. The brotherhood's activities were centered in the medieval statue of Virgin Mary in the church. The brotherhood was an important social network, the measure of Bosh's respectability is that its members were mostly magistrates, clergy and nobility. They did good deeds in the town, like paying for hospital beds for the poor, they provided paintings for the church done by Bosh, all lost now, probably burned during religious wars after Bosh's death. The brotherhood's membership extended all over Europe, up to very high levels of power, it was through these connections that Bosh got his clients. 
Here he is, his real name was Hieronymus van Aken, born around 1450. In this self portrait, he is in his 60's .

But other self portraits by Bosh are much less realistic. It takes form by strange symbols that have to be worked out. 

The name of Bosh's city 's-Hertogenbosch, means the The Duke's Woods. Bosh born in that town, gave himself that word as his name - Bosh, bosh equals woods. Bosh was very interested in identity, so he draws a self portrait, a portrait of his artistic self that he had constructed, a very strange picture that combines images and words in a weird mix. 

The human soul, what really goes on back there? 
Bosh's symbolic self portraits were about "seeing" , his sense of art was peculiarly psychological to use artistic inventions to penetrate where people usually did not want to go. 

One of the most famous symbols of The Garden of Earthly Delights is this, hollowed out human being ... with tree trunks for legs ... this is Bosh, the tree-man, seeing in the darkness. Bosh is in the picture.

Continues ...

16 October 2011

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosh Part 3

Is Earth between heaven and hell ... where good and evil exist together?
We can look for clues in these other pictures painted by Bosh, where religion is more centre stage. When Bosh painted religious art, like many others renaissance artists, he placed religion within the humble textures of everyday life. The ordinary and the marvelous painted with amazing beauty. 

Prado Epiphany Triptych (central panel)

But in the same picture, there is a creeping sense of evil ... and it is beautifully painted as well. 

In the other religious picture, the Haywain, violent scenes go with sinister ... while presiding all the scenes, is Jesus infinite goodness above, and down below brute, hopeless badness - painted just as delicately as Jesus image. 

Back to the The Garden of Earthly Delights, detail and beauty are the most distinct features of this painting. In art, beautiful does not mean the thing depicted, but they way anything is depicted is done, beautifully, whether is a disturbing thing or a divine thing. 
The divine is absolute present on  The Garden of Earthly Delights, fused with the earthly and the hellish by beauty. 

When Bosh painted evil he looked for an inspiration in nature, Bosh painted unconventional demons. 

In the Renaissance times, religion starts to be what art says it is ... and Bosh started a tradition, a tradition of art that says something, but something that only the  artist knows. 

Continues ...

13 October 2011

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosh Part 2

The right panel of the The Garden of Earthly Delights gives us a glimpse of decay and death, human bodies turned into something demoniac. 

But back in  the garden, the way the beauty of the picture works, is that you are always forced to look at the details, which can turn from harmless to repulsive. But the beauty of the picture also works to make the repulsive seem familiar. So if you know what is like to be inside of one of these eggs kissing a man ...

Even though it is hard to believe, it is still a religious painting and Bosh reworked religious ideas using popular sayings of his time. Sayings about life going hopelessly wrong for example. In those days, in the part of the world where Bosh lived you would say "it is a real owl's nest" . 
Owls did not suggest wisdom, because they are night creatures, they suggested alarm, they were negative. 

The problem is, many of the sayings of Bosh's time are lost now, so when a symbol is unclear, you have to think about the overall nude. For example, a couple in a clinch means love making.

Everyone, everywhere greedily devouring fruit.

So the overall nude says the middle  picture of the The Garden of Earthly Delights is picture of unrestrained appetite. The human animal not caring what it does. 

And a note of alarm ... 

Continues ...

11 October 2011

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosh Part 1

The Garden of Earthly Delights is a triptych painted by the early Netherlandish master Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450–1516), housed in the Museo del Prado in Madrid since 1939. Painted in 1505, it reveals great complexity of meaning and vivid imagery.

This work it is a religious work like no other. Painted during the Renaissance, it is full of disturbing symbols. When you look at it you think - this is when weirdness in art begun.

The symbolism of this remarkable painting appears to be right out of a nightmare. Figures intertwine in such fantastic and intricate patterns that the eye becomes easily confused by the complex imagery. People mingle deliriously with plants, animals and monsters, and all are leaping, dancing, running, copulating, defecating, and tormenting each other with an almost convulsive frenzy.

The Garden of Earthly Delights

The painting is composed by three panels, which were kept in a castle with the wings  closed. The room was surrounded by other artworks, sculptures and it was considered the room of curiosities. Great men were invited to visit the room  and were amazed by this work once the shutters were open.

The Garden of Earthly Delights with outer panels closed 

From the outside all you can see is a white globe.  But from the inside, it reveals a very different picture, very hard to understand.

Bosh was confusingly modern for his time, he had a freaky imagination - funny and at the same time sinister. There is lots of interpretations of this painting, but no one really knows for sure what The Garden of Earthly Delight is about. Bosh never wrote anything about it and nobody noted down anything he said about it. We know virtually nothing about Bosh's life from the date of his birth till his death. All we know about him is that he was famous for painting religious works, altar pieces, but not conventional religious imagery. The Haywain is an example of Bosh's way of painting religious themes. It looks like a normal altar piece at first glance, it has a scene of hell in the right with  people being inventively  tortured, on the left panel there is a scene of paradise with Adam and Eve, but in the central panel where normally should be a picture representing the history of humanity, he painted a meaningless picture of a bale of hay with people pushing it to nowhere.  

Like the Haywain, The Garden of Earthly Delights looks normal at first, it also shows a kind of hell on the right panel, heaven on the left and humanity in the central picture.

Left panel representing heaven 

Right panel representing hell 

Central panel representing humanity
The most intriguing part of the painting is certainly the central picture, it  has made people think and stare for hundreds of years. It is full of different human experiences. To contemporary people it looks like surrealism ... to the people that looked at it 500 years ago it was all about morality. 
The beauty of the picture is on its intense detail, but the horror of it is there too. Beauty and evil go together, like in a dream.

Nude humans living in a world of weird fruits ...

Human fed fruits by giant birds ...

Nude humans in hunting parties, looking for fruit ...

Continues ...

09 October 2011

A Fraction of the Whole ...

“A question with no answer is a barrier that cannot be breached. In other words, it is questions with no answers that set the limits of human possibilities, describe the boundaries of human existence. ” 

Milan Kundera

The fisherman and the Syren by Lord Frederick Leighton 

07 October 2011

Rediscovering the hidden life ...

"What is truly profound is thought to be stupid and trivial, or worse, boring, while what is actually stupid and trivial is thought to be profound. That is what it means to fly upside down."

Dallas Willard

Ophelia by Alexandre Cabanel

05 October 2011

When the moment comes ...

"Dread remorse when you are tempted to err, Miss Eyre; remorse is the poison of life." 

 Charlotte Brontë (Jane Eyre)

The Remorse of Nero after the Murder of his Mother by John William Waterhouse

03 October 2011

He Still Moves Stones ...

" You have a stone in your heart, and some days it's so heavy there is nothing to be done. But you don't have to be alone for it. You should have come to me. I understand." 

Patrick Rothfuss