Friday, October 4, 2013

Passing this on from Robert Genn

I have been back in the US for over a month now. Still no painting yet - except for the walls etc as we renovate the house. Hopefully real painting will not be far away as our things arrive from England tomorrow, to include all of my art supplies. Yahoo!

In the mean time I thought I would pass this newsletter on to you from a fellow artist named Robert Genn. Enjoy.

This morning Evelyn Dunphy of West Bath, ME, USA wrote, "Some time ago you wrote about the experience of feeling an overwhelming emotion in the presence of beauty. There was a principle named after the man who identified this feeling of awe. Who was it and what was the name of the principle?"

Thanks, Evelyn. You're probably thinking about my letter on January 18th, "The Stendhal Syndrome," where I talked about looking at beautiful art and having rapid heartbeat, dizziness and confusion. In 1817, the French writer Stendhal was discombobulated after visiting the Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence. It was a similar discombobulation I was to repeat in the same place in 2010. Fact is, most of us have had wobbly legs in public galleries when suddenly confronted with art we may have previously only seen in books or online.

Or you may have been thinking about my letter of March 29th, "Spinoza and me," where I wrote about one of my favourite Dutchmen. Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) felt that "all things are worthy of interest and study, including the tiniest animalcule or flower, and the universe itself."

Spinoza and Stendhal were not the only ones to be in awe of everything. "The world," said the Irish poet W. B. Yeats, "is full of magic things patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper."

That's it. As we sharpen our senses the world becomes a more awesome place. Artists of all stripes are particularly favoured to develop a high degree of awe. Our profession demands that we see more than others and apply our love and talent to exploit it.

On our recent painting ventures into the magnificent Bugaboo Mountains, artists would step out of the helicopter and start screaming. We called these involuntary outbursts "Boogasms." Only the seriously jaded were not having them.

A dictionary definition of awe is "an overwhelming feeling of reverence and admiration produced by that which is grand, sublime or extremely powerful." In modern times, a great deal of awe centres on the field of science. "The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable," wrote Richard Dawkins. "It is a deep aesthetic passion to rank with the finest that music, art and poetry can deliver. It is truly one of the things that make life worth living and it does so, if anything, more effectively if it convinces us that the time we have for living is quite finite."

Best regards,