19 December 2012

Ophelia by Sir John Everett Millais

Sir John Everett Millais's Ophelia depicts a calm, drowning Ophelia surrounded by lush, blooming nature. Shakespeare's Ophelia, mad with grief, falls while picking flowers. Millais presents her floating in the water, her head, hands, and dress not yet submerged. The dark pool of water at her stomach on which her garland of flowers floats hints that rest of her body will soon sink below the surface. Ophelia's expression shows no panic or despair. Her skin glows with life yet, not death. The looming leaves and brush around her seem to swallow her as much as the water does. The flowers and green brush on the far bank and the brown willow reach out over her, while the green in the foreground closes in on her. Millais has not generalized the flowers on the bank or in her garland. He carefully renders the poppies and violets as symbols of her death and faithfulness.

The attention to detail--in the natural setting, the fading glimmer of her gown, and her elegant repose--characterizes a Pre-Raphaelite style, but here the effect of these details seems more poignant. Millais has captured a specific, fleeting moment just after her fall but before her death, and he has immortalized Ophelia. Every reflection and flick of light give the impression of frozen time, and it suggests that Ophelia, though unchanging on the canvas before the viewer, had not always been so close to death and would not remain afloat much longer. Millais painting presents a crystallized moment between life and death.

10 December 2012

The time traveller ...

“Nothing thicker than a knife's blade separates happiness from melancholy.”
Virginia Woolf
Rainy Parisian Sidewalk Cafe by Lindsarm2

04 December 2012

The Name of the Wind ...

“Perhaps the greatest faculty our minds possess is the ability to cope with pain. Classic thinking teaches us of the four doors of the mind, which everyone moves through according to their need.

First is the door of sleep. Sleep offers us a retreat from the world and all its pain. Sleep marks passing time, giving us distance from the things that have hurt us. When a person is wounded they will often fall unconscious. Similarly, someone who hears traumatic news will often swoon or faint. This is the mind's way of protecting itself from pain by stepping through the first door.

Second is the door of forgetting. Some wounds are too deep to heal, or too deep to heal quickly. In addition, many memories are simply painful, and there is no healing to be done. The saying 'time heals all wounds' is false. Time heals most wounds. The rest are hidden behind this door.

Third is the door of madness. There are times when the mind is dealt such a blow it hides itself in insanity. While this may not seem beneficial, it is. There are times when reality is nothing but pain, and to escape that pain the mind must leave reality behind.

Last is the door of death. The final resort. Nothing can hurt us after we are dead, or so we have been told.”

Patrick Rothfuss