Thursday, 13 March 2008
Salvator Rosa's Demand for Silence
On the previous post's stern faced artist holding aloft a stoical insistence on silence in the absence of something of greater worth than silence(shown again in miniature glory)... A thought, possibly not worth bothering to note, but since otherwise it will vanish into the nothingness of nothingness I may as well rescue it from such a non-existent fate. Here it is, or at least is about to attempt to be in approximate justice to itself, though here I remark that many thoughts are written in more than approximate justice to themselves-the padding of the linguistic verbiage masking the inner dearth of significant substance of the would-be idea at hand. The humble idea I intend on unfolding will, however, be clothed in the very language of itself; which is to say one will not have to crawl around in a morass of shite, eloquent or otherwise, and then attempt to distill the essence from the tedious dross. In other words, do the bloody work of the artist for him, his having failed in the task. The discerning reader may wonder if I have just read Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain, a work which the artist ought to have distilled into roughly a third of its volume.
After all that, the embarassingly modest matter at hand. Which is the artist's demand for silence, or rather the figure in the painting's demand; an artist is no longer an element of an art-work; all we have is an art-work. The nature of a painting is its existence in the visual domain, just as music occupies the world of sound, and the lower spiritual species of literature inhabiting the much less pure world of language. So the experience of immersing oneself in looking at a painting is a pure sensory experience, a matter of light entering the mind. With music and the visual arts, one ideally makes of oneself a vacuum into which the pure sensory experience flows, an order of beauty and inner nourishing beyond the possibilities of language, in which the intellect is kept alive- the sense of self which guards the very doors of this self-surrender to pure experience.
Rosa's very request for silence in his painting is the sabotaging of this very silence that is the ideal painterly experience. Silence on the human level being essentially the absence of the linguistic world, Rosa has, in requesting the intellect's absence, allowed the intellect a gateway to reassert its existence. The nature of the thought the intellect feeds on is somewhat irrelevant, that it is present is all that it requires.
Given the existential anomaly of destroying silence by demanding it, the stern-visaged Rosa might still feel his point worth making, and fair enough. I wouldn't get too excited about the whole issue, and it is a superb painting.
One could theorise a little about much conceptual modern-art, thought to be a natural evolution of visual art, but instead merely the lower intellectual animal successfully staging a coup over the purity of painting, and sanctifying the incestuous analytical feeding on itself by the holy name of art. A possibly related extract from Victor Pelevin's latest:
"The bourgeoisie love Freud because he is so loathsome. For his ability to reduce everything to the asshole."
"But why should the bourgeoisie love him for that?"
"Because portfolio investors need prophets who will explain the world in terms they can understand. And who will prove yet again that nothing threatens the objective reality in which they have invested so much money."