Category Archives: art

Retrospective On Liberty

Retrospective

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Eugene Delacroix (1798 – 1863)  “Liberty Leading The People” and my favourite Delacroix painting.

The louvre will host a retrospective of his most famous and also his scandalous works in July this year. It is billed as a once in a generation tribute to Delacroix, consisting of 180 works. Alexandre Dumas wrote that: “The genius of Delacxroix is not debatable, it is not demonstrable, it is something one feels.” Delacroix was acknowledged in his lifetime as the leading painter of the Romantic school, but not one who was idealistic, instead he was noted as being passionate about passion. Clearly his paintings are from the heart.

This painting is significant in France because it depicts the the 1830 revolution against Charles X. Liberty leads the people under the Tricolour – liberty, equality, and fraternity, over the dead bodies of struggle. Liberty is a type, a depiction of liberty goddesses. Liberty became a symbol of France and the Republic known as Marianne. Liberty has a long history and was early represented by the Roman goddess Libertas. Ever since there have been various representations, none so grand as the gift of France to the US which we all know as the Statue of Liberty. Latvia has the Freedom Monument in Riga, which is quite impressive to view.

The most poignant for me was the short lived Goddess of Democracy errected by the Democracy Movement during the protest in Tiananmen Square, the hastily constructed statue re-ignited the focus of the waning passion of the movement, only to be crushed by the Peoples Liberation Army (an oxy moron if ever there was one), as the protesters were dispersed, the statue was destroyed, but working from footage of the protest replicas appeared in – Hong Kong, Taiwan, Canada, and several in the US.

The statues, the painting, show how symbols can work to unite, galvanise, enthuse and encourage peopel to a cause. Delacroix shows how the principle of liberty is noble while the destruction of the Goddess of Democracy shows how little liberty is valued by those who hold power. This of course, was the irony of the first French Republic which degenerated into infighting, murder, and the macabre spectacle of the overworked guilotine. True liberty is hard won, and even harder to keep.

What I like most about the painting is the sense that liberty, equality and fraternity are important, and history shows we are drawn to these values to the point that we will gather and fight for them even if we have little chance of winning. The Goddess of Liberty, in whichever form she appears, is a torch, a beacon of hope to rally around. But I don’t see one at the moment! Perhaps this time around we won’t have a singular unifying symbol, but rather, many symbols.

In a more personal sense it raises the question as to what matters most in our lives. In daily practical application will I practice these values on public transport and in public spaces, at home, and in my work? Will I speak justice into the public space? Will I hold more than just my liberty as precious? Will I stand with others? If the WordPress community is any example, then my hope is well founded that I/we can hold and live those values.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Filed under art, community, history, life, mindfulness, Mythology, Philosophy/Theology, politics, quote

Elaborate Masks

via Daily Prompt: Elaborate

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An elaborate Renaissance Ball Mask. The masks were elaborate, but so was the ruse, an attempt to create mystery and tension, the possiblility of romance or illicit liasion. The masquerade was a feature of carnival season of 15th century Europe. In time masks became works of art. They were made of diferent materials, and bejeweled, like the one in the photo.

The masks we put on every day are not bejeweled, but they are clever, intricate, and very elaborate. If you want to read an early understanding the human mask, then Shakespeare is the one to read, and in particular, the ‘Taming of the Shrew.’ Psychologically, masks are a form of protection, we tend to mask anger, grief, anxiety, fear, a sense of failure, feeling like a fraud, needing to be the hero, the great intellect, and so on.

I have worked with people who use humour to mask what they perceive in themselves as a lack of sophistication. Others have thrown around biting sarcasm in order to keep others at bay. Some it is fear of success, so they play the incompetent. I have had the experience of never really knowing someone, at a funeral once I heard so much about someone I thought I knew, only to discover they had protected so much of their lives from public scrutiny, a compartmentalising. On another ocassion, when I was going through a difficult time, some said “I thought you had it all together” (like, really!!).

If we’re angry we may resort to condemnation, if we are grieving we might project happiness or amusement, anything but what we’re really feeling. That might be important at certain points in our lives, a boundary. But when it becomes avoidance, deception, fear, then we risk burying our true selves and others may never really know us. Even to the point that well entrenched masks become who we are. The question is, what are we trying to hide and why?

Jung developed the idea of the persona, the person we wanted others to know as ourselves, but not our true self.

I love this unattributed quote: “She threw away all of her masks, and put on her soul.”

That says it all. To dispense with the lie, the deception, which is really self-deception at best, the fear, and embrace our true selves, the raw self, the truly beautiful self. Created, bejeweled physical masks can be creations of great beauty. But the one who lives their true self, nothing could be more beautiful. We often use the phrase “warts and all”, meaning even our less good parts can be seen, our less succesful, less socially acceptable selves can be seen, yet this is healthy. The first step on the road of recovery is to know that we are never going to be perfect. And once we let go the ego, then masks become redundant because there is nothing to protect.

To put on our soul is to let go and find the juice of our lives and let that flow.

When we put on our soul, we are truly beautiful.

Hiding in layers
the weapons of deception
my real is naked

©Paul Cannon

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under art, creativity, Haiku, history, life, love, mindfulness, poetry, psychology, quote

A Vague Thought

Vague

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‘Great Wave Off Kanagawa’, ‘La Vague d’Hokusai’ or ‘The Wave’ – by Katushika Hokusai (1760 – 1849) an artist and printmaker of the Edo or classical period. Hokusai was a prolific artist, and his paintings were popular in his lifetime, and in Europe and have become world famous since. It has been said that Monet was deeply influenced by Hokusai. He originated Hokusai Manga (manga = random drawings, so no connection with the modern usage of manga), a body of reference for other artists (some fifteen volumes).

In this painting, the waves have claws and are menacing, the humans in tiny boats are, by comparison, vulnerable and at the mercy of nature. Mt. Fuji in the background also dominates, the only natural thing not threatened by the water.

The connection to vague is of course the French translation = a wave of panic swept over me. So, in French the title implies what the painting is showing, the wave about to sweep over the fishermen.

Hokusai was concerned for the decline of society and was also seeing the end of the classical period. The painting shows judgement, the wave about to sweep over the fishermen and the community was a judgement on the people. I would retitle it – Nature Strikes Back.

The perspective of Hokusai is striking, because he is commnicating that the way Japanese society was behaving – it could not, should not continue.

But that is more real for us today because we have intervened in nature, with chemicals, polution, clearing, salinity, depletion of species, nature can strike back as a result of the changes it faces. Researchers have long been saying that weather patterns are changing, rainfall has changed, the earth’s atmosphere is warming. The positive is that there are many who are working hard to get our attention and change that.

In a more personal sense the painting speaks of consequences, if we don’t care for ourselves, if we don’t check our excesses, if we don’t care for others, then there are consequences that will affect us. Without reflective time, without some quiet within the daily, without healthy diet and exercise, without love and loving, without the capacity to listen and to share, to be creative, we are at risk of life sweeping over us with claws waiting to consume us. Mindfulness is not a mystery, it simply learning to to put our ego drive away and focus on the real self and its potential and relations. to use a cliche – stop and smell the roses.

But unlike the fishermen in the painting we are not at the mercy of such things, we can (we must) stop and take time, and we can work together on the crises that seem to surround us. And not in the least to begin to challenge the work ethic which will consume us first if we don’t.

Nature rises up
the claws of consequence
time to paint

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Nothing Can Dim Your Light

via Daily Prompt: Dim

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As the sun starts to go down the light dims inside and the stained glass is accentuated, allowing the colours to shine and wash over the reveals, and framed by the darkness, they look fabulous.

It only takes one candle to light a whole room, a sliver of light to reduce the darkness, the sun refracts and lights the night. The dimming of light is not an end, it is a change, a moment to focus the light. Light in the dusk, in the night, before dawn, is appreciated, more precise, much more beautiful. The colour of sunsets could not be unless the light dark contrast occurred. Without some dimming, we’d never see the stars as we do at night.

Sometimes we might feel a bit dim, as if the light has diminished somehow because the struggles of life lay us low, and perhaps we don’t feel that we shine. But it is the struggle that enables us to shine in our own way. I think of the many people I have encountered in life so far and the brokenness many of them have experienced, and yet the hope, the love, the spark of life was still there at the core, just needing nurture, a response, a friend, a touch … just like the stained glass window, as the light shines through into the darkness, the colour washes through, the light shines in, and there is beauty, warmth, energy … Sometimes, without ever realising it, we are that window.

Maya Angelou’s words speak to this: “Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.”

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Astral Weeks

via Daily Prompt: Astral

The title song and opening track of Van Morrison’s 1968 album ‘Astral Weeks.’ Morrison said that the song represented transforming energy, and a renewing or rebirthing energy, dying in order to be reborn. It was Morrison’s take or twist on Astral Projection, and out of body experience. He encountered this in a personal way when he visited his friend, the artist Cezil McCartney in Belfast in 1966. McCartney had a painting which inspired Morrison. He said the painting embodied astral projection.

What is interesting is that the music critics said that the song, and the album, the voices and sounds were other worldly – astral also means from another world. So in that sense the album works and on every level. The album also coincided with Morrison’s wrangle with Bang Records, his move to America and marriage – a lot of upheaval and a lot of pressure, which is reflected in the songs and the mood. The album is a depature from rock and pop and moves into the jazz territory that became his stock in trade. Which leads to the question as to why he named his album Astral Weeks when jazz great Charles Mingus had one with the same name in 1964.

My experience of music is that it transports me. For a time music took me to worlds beyond myself, deep in my imagination, in my youth, when I needed to escape pain. I can still place elements of Lord of the Rings in moments of Led Zeppelin (the film ‘The Song Reamins the Same’ shows how Zeppelin enjoyed a medieval and sometimes Tolkinesque imagination, and some of their songs reference Tolkien) or Bach. There are many hits of the past where I can remember a place, a smell, a situation. I find music both energising and relaxing depending on the genre. Music still takes me to other worlds. Van Morrison is one of my favourites too, and he takes me to other worlds.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Steam Punk Costume

via Daily Prompt: Costume

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(Photo: i.pinimg.com Maria Berseneva Photography)

Steam Punk is a sub-genre of science fantasy/science fiction, but is more commonly referred to as speculative fiction. It combines 19th century art and design forms, clothing in particular, with elements of steam powered machinery, and other mechanics of that era. It is, in short, a design aesthetic. Steam Punk proposes an alternative 19th century history, and is therefore anachronistic,  often set in Victorian England or the “Wild West”of America. Its philosophy is a combination of Victorian industrial progress and the hope of the 19th century art and literature. There’s a slogan that is used in Steam Punk circles – “This is what the past would have looked like if the future had happened sooner.”

It has been used in film, ‘Cowboys and Aliens’, ‘Wild, Wild West’, ‘Van Helsing’, ‘Hellboy.’ There are elements in the historical episodes of Dr. Who, and in the literature of Jules Verne

As with Cyber Punk and Cosplay, the costumes are a matter of personal taste and design.

I love the creativity of those engaged with the costumery, it fires the imagination, and I can see its appeal. I could look at this stuff for hours.

But my Steam Punk wouldn’t be Steam Punk, nor would it be a romanticised version of some era, though it would be a combination of eras and hopes, and therefore framed idealistically. My alternative history would be based around eschewing violence, all violence, from sexual, to gender, to poltical, playground (not sure if there’s a difference there), domestic, class, environmental, and well, violence. I want to see creative costumes of compassion, respect, care, inclusion and integrity. I want industrial strength love of all kinds. I want costumes that shout justice and mercy.

Johnny it's Rotten
punked, but not forgotten
the blossom weeps
©Paul

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Bewildered

via Daily Prompt: Bewildered

Bewildered was a song by one of Asia’s most popular singers Leslie Cheung, who sadly took his own life in 2003. (I have worked in the area of suicide prevention for years, but even though I know the technicalities of suicide, I am still bewildered by it, which, I guess is hardly surprising as I’m not in that space).

Cheung was a very gifted person, a successful singer and a successful actor. He had/has a huge following. I recognize his name from acting – if you ever saw the movie ‘Farewell My Concubine’ then you have seen Leslie Cheung in action. I couldn’t find a version of ‘Bewildered’ with English subtitles, but even so, I quite liked the experience of listening to him sing in Cantonese, and watching him perform/act on the clip. Cheung is considered to be one of the fathers of Cantopop, which is a genre of Cantonese music. Which reminds me of personal truth – I don’t always need to understand something in order to enjoy it. In fact, I can sometimes enjoy the unknown or not understood more than if I did understand or know. Which is an even greater truth, I don’t need to understand everything. Sometimes mystery is good for the soul.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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He Had No Inkling

via Daily Prompt: Inkling

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Why Pisssaro? Did I have an Inkling? Not really, but I loved this quote by him:

I remember that, although I was full of fervour, 
I didn't have the slightest inkling, even at forty, 
of the deeper side to the movement we were pursuing by instinct. 
It was in the air! (Camille Pissarro).

Such humility, such openness, no guile. But equally such boldness, passion and energy. Pissarro, an impressionist and neo-impressionist painter was considered by the younger ones, Renoir, Cezanne, Gauguin, as the father of the impressionist movement, and their master and mentor. But, as Pissarro states, it wasn’t a forethought, there was no intenional movement at first, there was no plan, they just went with their creativity, their energy.

It says to me that if you try to be profound, if you try too hard to be the one, to be noticed, it becomes forced, even fake. The impressionists didn’t try to be impressionists, they simply worked at their painting and it became something, and eventually, beyond them.

Pissarro also helped to form a painters collective. In that sense, he was also showing that we bring our self to bear in the work we do, but we can really grow and flourish in community. He had no inkling, but he gave himself fully to his passion and creativity. His impressionism has left its mark.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Carved Salt

via Daily Prompt: Carve

 

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One of the places we visited in Poland was the famous salt mine at Wieliczka. The tour of the mine was certainly worth it. There were many highlights along the tour. One in particular was this carved scene – The Last Supper – found in a stunning chapel where there were many other religious carvings. If you look at the right of the photo you will also see a pilar, part of the elaborate, carved architecture throughout the chapel. It still grabs my attention, to think it was carved from salt. Salt of course gets more than a couple of mentions in the Bible, and is used as a metaphor for spiritual vitality in the New Testament. We came home with a grinder of salt from the mine for our culinary vitality, which we have jealously guarded and measured out, more for sentimental reasons. We have salt lakes here that yield edible salt, but after that tour of the mine, and seeing the beautiful architecture and art carved in the walls and ceiling, salt is not the same.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Treat

via Daily Prompt: Treat

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It’s hard to explain, but for me it was a treat to see ancient indigenous paintings at Uluru on two of our visits. There is something about the self encountering the work of a community from a different time. To think that hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago someone painted this story or series of stories for us to enjoy and learn from now, and into the future. It was real treat just to see it and experience th efact that this was ancient, this was created by a person so long ago, this was part of a meaning for a culture so long ago. A treat and a privilege. But it also made me wonder – what will I leave for future generations, what impression will I leave, what will they learn from me? What is my gift?

Paul,

pvacann.com

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