Pearls from artists* # 107September 3, 2014
* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
If the proper goal of art is, as I now believe, Beauty, the Beauty that concerns me is that of Form. Beauty is, in my view, a synonym of the coherence and structure underlying life (not for nothing does Aristotle list plot first in his enumeration of the components of tragedy, a genre of literature that, at least in its classical form, affirms order in life). Beauty is the overriding demonstration of pattern that one observes, for example, in the plays of Sophocles and Shakespeare, the fiction of Joyce, the films of Ozu, the paintings of Cezanne and Matisse and Hopper, and the photographs of Timothy O’Sullivan, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, and Dorothea Lange.
Why is Form beautiful? Because, I think, it helps us meet our worst fear, the suspicion that life may be chaos and that therefore our suffering is without meaning. James Dickey was right when he asked rhetorically, “What is heaven anyway, but the power of dwelling among objects and actions of consequence.” “Objects of consequence” cannot be created by man alone, nor can “actions of consequence’ happen in a void; they can only be found within a framework that is larger than we are, an encompassing totality invulnerable to our worst behavior and most corrosive anxieties.
… How, more specifically, does art reveal Beauty, or Form? Like philosophy it abstracts. Art simplifies. It is never exactly equal to life. In the visual arts, this careful sorting out in favor of order is called composition, and most artists know its primacy.
Beauty in Photography by Robert Adams
Comments are welcome!