This July

Paradise Cranes in a Field, 6 July 2018. Copyright 2018 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
I took this photograph of two paradise cranes. Paradise or blue cranes live permanently in this part of the Western Cape of South Africa. They are my comfort whilst the swallows are away (it is winter here from June to August).

I completed my first essay

After several drafts, I completed “On the Nature and Purpose of Art”. The essay explains what I understand art to be and proposes a working definition: Art is the stylisation of essential elements from reality in Literature, Music, Painting and Sculpture to create an eloquent representational or abstract work that is not merely a reproduction, recording, documentation, illustration or decoration of reality but a transformation of it, imbued with meaning.

I intend to demystify the subject of art in a series of informal essays. Next, I want to investigate what informs an artist’s work. I want to answer, for example, what draws an artist to a certain theme and subject, and to a certain medium and technique. Why does the musician choose one genre over another? Why does the painter paint in this style and not that? I want, in fine, to discover “Why Artists Create What They Create” (my working title).

I completed “Zephyros”

Finding the perfect words with which to clearly and concisely express an idea in rhyming iambic verse is no easy task. The four verses of “The Robin-chat” took a considerable amount of time to complete for that very reason, as did the two verses of “Zephyros”. Its original title was “The Pines”, a lyrical ballad about trees moving in the wind; but the more I worked on the poem, the more its focus shifted from the trees to the wind itself.

Eventually, it was clear that the wind must be the subject, and so I drew inspiration from an earlier work: the couplet I composed for The Zephyr and the Swallow. The zephyr is, of course, the literary description of a gentle breeze. It comes from the Greek Ζεφυρος (transliterated as “Zephyros”), the personification of the west wind (and also of spring), which prompted a new approach to the subject (and from which I took the new title).

Unsurprisingly, this significantly altered the nature of the poem. Most challenging was the task of matching the second verse to the first (with which I was pleased early on) to satisfactorily conclude the composition. I came, at last, to two versions of the second verse. The first had an expansive quality (first line: “His ballad blows across the land…”), whereas the second felt more intimate (first line: “A sonnet sounding sweetly…”).

My chief difficulty was that both of these worked. I would eventually choose the latter, only to change my mind shortly thereafter. At the time I tweeted “[T]he verse I have rejected is, in fact, the one I must choose!” (27 July 2018). I am now confident in my decision, and the poem has become one of my favourites—but then, so are they all. I am now revising the first of three poems dedicated to swallows, a subject of which I shall never tire.

I revised my artist statement

The goal of my work is to extol the beauty of nature—the fleeting and near insignificant moments that seem to affect me most. The familiarly beautiful in my rural surroundings evoke within me a sense of awe that I must endeavour to capture in poetry and music. This is the essence of my artistic vision, a subject I consider in the “Context Matters” blog post. In its closing paragraph, I restate my artistic vision and adopt a new caption.

A summary of my artist statement.
A summary of my artist statement.

Previously “Ambient idylls”, I now describe my work as “Idylls in music and poetry”. I elaborate upon my meaning in a social media post dedicated to the matter thus: “It is my view that Man should not be silent when moved by the grandeur of Nature, that he should burst out in adoration, if his disposition allows it, and extol what he observes in art! This is what Forgotten Fields has become—an act of adoration!” (26 July 2018).

Mentioned in this post

“On the Nature and Purpose of Art” (Forgotten Fields Essay)
The Zephyr and the Swallow (Bandcamp)
“Context Matters” (Forgotten Fields Blog Post)
@forgottenfield (Forgotten Fields on Twitter)

On the Nature and Purpose of Art

Der Mönch am Meer (The Monk by the Sea) (1808–10) by Caspar David Friedrich
Der Mönch am Meer (The Monk by the Sea) (1808–10) by Caspar David Friedrich

The Way We See the World

When we look at a painting, it evokes within us a combination of thought and emotion, a reaction that wells up almost involuntarily. It happens when we read a novel, recite a poem, view a sculpture, or hear a piece of music. Our response feels so natural—so correct—that it informs our judgement of the work, the artist and our companions. The source of these judgements is our view of the world, that is to say, our concept of the way things are (our reality) and our concept of the way they ought to be (our values). Through these concepts, we interpret our experiences. They are a vast collection of ideas about the human condition that comes sharply into view whenever we encounter a work of art.

These concepts exist in the mind: they are complex, often speculative, dis-integrated, ill-defined and confused. They are, moreover, by their very nature inaccessible to our senses and our conscious minds. We cannot examine them as we might any object in the physical world to gain insight into their nature and determine their implications. As such, they lie beyond the reach of the tools through which we best comprehend reality. Nonetheless, it is vital to our course in life that we think deeply and at length about the concepts that form our worldview, for they encapsulate our life philosophy and determine who we become. But to contemplate so great a subject in the realm of the imperceivable is no easy task.

The Creation of the Concrete

We need, therefore, some way to experience these concepts directly, as if they were real: a mechanism by which we can render the invisible visible, the silent audible and the abstract concrete; a process that embodies in a perceptible work what is inherently imperceptible. This process must provide a means by which we may perceive a thought as an entity, and must, therefore, re-create what is real to express what is not real. Such a process must make accessible to our minds and senses a view of the world and deliver to us a work that captures fully and succinctly, in both its substance and execution, the concepts within that view.

Art is the purest form of this process. Its media are melody, language, colour and solid form, and it produces works through which invisible concepts can be directly perceived by the mind as abstractions (e.g. a theme) and the senses as attributes (e.g. a melody). The creators of art—artists—express in music, literature, painting and sculpture a set of values (their view of the world) and present it to us for contemplation. They do this through the application of creative skill, which they assiduously develop to create works that are valued not only for their aesthetic and technical excellence but also their emotional and conceptual power.

The Work of the Artist

The artist does this work of expression through the stylisation of essential elements from reality, producing an eloquent representational or abstract work that is not merely a reproduction, recording, documentation, illustration or decoration of reality but a transformation of it, imbued with meaning. Only such a work is a work of art. In music, this is done through composition in sound; in literature, through composition in language; in painting, through composition in pigment; and in sculpture, through composition in solid form. In these primary media, the artist enshrines the human psyche in distinct, directly experienceable manifestations that have, by virtue of their elements, the capacity to make a concept real¹.

Our experience of these works brings us face to face with concepts, engineering an interaction that is otherwise impossible. Suddenly, we are able to hear, see or think about our worldview as never before: through the realised worldview of another, the artist. Art shows us the values of the artist (its primary function) and in doing so, helps us discern and evaluate our own (a secondary function). When we react to a work of art, it is not a matter of mere taste: we react because, by its very existence, the artwork pronounces a judgement on us—on our view of the world. The better the artwork, the more exquisite the creative expression of that judgement and the more intense our declarations of admiration or revulsion.

The Function of Art

This reaction has little or nothing to do with correctness or objectivity. What we are saying is some variation of: “Yes, this is how I see the world” or “No, this is not how I see the world.” We rely on artists to make comprehensible and perceivable to us their view of the world, thereby illuminating our own. Without art, we would experience these concepts exclusively in the mind—as something nebulous, fragmented and remote. It is the sole purpose of art to make them accessible and fathomable. Artists create mirrors for the mind, giving us a glimpse of who we are, allowing us a moment to reflect on what we see.

Notes

  1. The process of integrating a concept into an artwork—the artist’s choice of medium, genre, theme, subject, inspiration, style, technique, composition and so forth—is beyond the scope of this essay.

This June

Paradise Crane in a Field, 8 June 2018. Copyright 2018 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
I photographed​ this paradise crane, the graceful national bird of my country (South Africa), in a field. They are also known as blue cranes, after their elegant pale-blue feathers.​

My label released its first album.

The highlight of June was Origins, the inaugural release of the Lonely Swallow label: a collection of six contemporary classical impromptus for the piano composed, performed and recorded by Affan at his home in London. The pieces ebb and flow with delightful melodies and tempos that gently transport you along—now light and lively, now quiet and reassuring. (Of these, “Origin IV”, the fourth track on the album, is undoubtedly my favourite.) I am honoured to have worked with Affan on releasing his first album. I hope you enjoy the work of this very talented musician.

I drafted an essay.

The subject of Art fascinates me. A graphic designer by profession, my field of study was the Visual Arts; yet, notwithstanding the theory, my conception of Art has always been nebulous, nuanced and pliable. I consider it fortunate that my pursuit of music and poetry has since forced me to think more intelligibly about the nature and purpose of Art. As a result, my understanding has become more clear, and to elucidate this emerging view, I have drafted a simple essay in which I attempt to demystify the matter. When completed, I shall post it here.

I resumed work on my poetry.

In the meantime, I continue revising the poetic sketches for the collection of poems I want to self-publish. Some are completed, some await rewriting, and some have been discarded. At the present time, I am writing “The Pines”: two verses about the sound of the wind as it moves through the trees. Even as I think of this theme, I smile. Writing these poems is a deeply fulfilling occupation. They are little celebrations of Nature—short, simple and sincere outpourings of admiration and awe. I cannot wait to share them in time!

Mentioned in this post:

Origins (Bandcamp)