Art


 

Nuns fret not at their convent’s narrow room;
And hermits are contented with their cells;
And students with their pensive citadels;
Maids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,

Sit blithe and happy; bees that soar for bloom,
High as the highest Peak of Furness-fells,
Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bells:
In truth the prison, unto which we doom

Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,
In sundry moods, ’twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground;

Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
Should find brief solace there, as I have found.

                                                      William Wordsworth 1806.

 

Many people say they have a problem with poetry because they are not able to understand it. At the same time they have no problem appreciating a piece of music, even though they don’t “understand” it, but still are able to appreciate it.

Art is all about correspondence. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and art is all about beauty, sometimes as beauty of thought more than visual, but never the less: Art lies in between people.

I often find today’s poetry is written more for the poet’s sake than for the reader. Even though I love modern poetry, like Eliot or Sefaris’ I have found that too much liberty in how to write poems often hinders the poetry from taking wings and lifting off. I believe that poets need limitations to steer them from their personal horizons and into those what can be shared with others. Eliot and Seferis both made use of technical limitations in their writing even if they did not always use the classical metrical limitations… (However it would be interesting to read a comparison of prosody between Elliott and the Victorian English poets – G.M. Hopkins is a metrical key here -or between Seferis and the classical Greeks – Eliot is a key there)

Metrical poetry frees the verse. It’s not about Iambic Pentameter or Hexameter. It’s about making use of the tradition (as Catholics we should have a deeper understanding of this) It’s not even about having rhymes or not. There is a difference between free verse and stapling words. By finding your restrictions, you give yourself wings.

 

 

Wordsworth
William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

If you consider mental illness or even depression as a breakdown of sociological patterns, the “one-directional stigma”, (that insanity is foremost a concern for the individual) looses it’s importance and significance. Insanity is a two way street. “Art” is of course situated in a social context but I find it interesting that insanity most often is a outbreak from the very same social context, without regard for its borders: Maybe these artworks speak to us in a deeper and more individual sense because of this?

The rare beauty that sometimes are the result of sociological failure can be a successful artistic expression. Communication goes beyond social conventions and intellectual interactions. Here are three examples of great artists who’s artwork did not function in the context of their lifetime: Herbert Khaury a.k.a Tiny Tim (1932 – 1996), Carl Fredrik Hill (1849 – 1911) and Erik Johan Stagnelius (1793 – 1823).

I’m not in any way comparing their artistic values or their supposed degree of insanity: They all have my most sincere and deepest respect. Both for their psychological strength as well as for their emotional inability that led them their own way. They all speak to me in the most individual personal way. Solo Dei Gloria!

 

Herbert Khaury / Tiny Tim:

Tiny Tim sometimes expressed rare beauty; far more interesting than other things that may have achieved more recognition. The beauty lies in the brief moment, being truthful to his own expression.

As an artist Tiny Tim didn’t take personal social considerations. He did not equip us with the necessary tools to label him or his intentions.

Tiny Tim was during his most commercially successful years in the sixties considered as something of a circus sidekick, but he was so much more. His musical preferences where more rooted in the late Victorian popular culture than in the mid 20th century American. He often applied his falsetto, staccato pitched very rich voice to modern songs like in I got you babe, here below, but it was in performing traditional tunes from 1890 to 1940 (as the above) that his true love lied. He was an expert on music from that time period and he had about 3000 songs in his repertoire.

 

 

Carl Fredrik Hill:

The painter Carl Fredrik Hill made beautiful paintings charged with emotions until he fell into insanity and was locked up. During his illness he sketched and painted on everything he could get a hold on.

CF Hill CF Hill
Paintings by Carl Fredrik Hill, late 1900-century.

Compare the two paintings above, they are made some ten years apart, before and after his illness. CFH was famous for his tree-studies and if you look at the branches on most of his trees you will find they resemble each another a great deal. In the latter painting the tree is however no longer a tree, even though it still have the characteristic grouping of branches: It gets transformed into a deer with gnarled branches, screaming with erotic undertones, as in the rut cry of the artist himself. At the same time, if you compare the branches, you will find it is the same tree…

The perfect image of a communication breakdown: his work was not functional any longer, they where merely the gibberish of a lunatic. And still: the artistic cry is perhaps more revealing and truthful to the artists inner emotions in the latter version. As communication in an artistic context the expression of Carl Fredrik speaks to us today, hundred years after his death. The communicational breakdown was telling us more.

Carl Fredrik Hill
Another painting by CF Hill

 

Erik Johan Stagnelius:

Erik Johan Stagnelius wrote romantic poems about misery & madness some 200 years ago. Most of his poems where found in a sack in his apartment, after he had died.

In one poem he speaks about who we can turn to when our inner soul is laid out in darkness and we even can’t sigh anymore… Who can help in desolate times? In perfect despair? Only the One Powerful Being, that from the darkness of the night made suns dance, the world creating Word…

Therefore, rejoice, O friend and sing in the deep dark of sorrow:
Night is the Mother of Day; Chaos the Neighbor of God.

God is more close, the farther away he seems. It’s like Jesus sleeping in the storm (Mark 4:35-41): This is where we can truly put our trust in Him; This is where we can be ruled to the fullest; Chaos is the neighbor of God.

Erik Johan Stagnelius

The poet Stagnelius
early 1900-century

 

 

To me insanity breaks out when you no longer can bear not being able to communicate from within the Chaos, the unbearable silence that keeps trying to express itself. The emotional numbness ridden by emotions.

I rather listen to people who live on the border, than those knowledgeable who know where they are. It’s the sense of being lost, that keep us out of regular vanities… (Instead we, madly, show off our vanity like we would a new born child)

– It’s the inability to express something that burst through limitations. Madness and depression is being deaf and mute to the mute and deaf. It’s the mutual agreements that keep us from meeting and agreeing. We should make an effort to let the mute be heard and speak to the deaf. No matter what side of the asylum walls we currently reside, we both needs to listen over the walls and trespassing the borders. Let’s sleep in the midst of the storm…

 

St Dymphna
St Dymphna, patron Saint of
mental and nervous disorders:
– Pray for us.

And just let me add these words of hope… 😉

– Let’s embrace emotional numbness, let us rejoice in abandoned hope: You must be really close now, at the least you’re very far off.

This is the fourth entry on medieval church paintings picturing scenes from the mysteries of the Rosary.

The early sixteen century pictures from Dannemora church below, pictures the three-fold mystery painted around The blessed mother of the rosary:

 

 

Our blessed mother is surrounded by three wreaths. In each wreath are five medallions and five decades of roses. Below are the five medallions, the five secrets of the joyful mysteries enlarged. At this Swedish site you can see more medallions from the great Rosary painting at Dannemora Church.

The Annunciation

Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.
(Luke 1:30)

 

 

 

The Visitation

For behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
(Luke 1:48)

 

 

 

The Birth

For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.
(Luke 2:11)

 

 

 

The Presentation

Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection.
(Luke 2:34)

 

 

 

The Finding

How is it that you sought me? did you not know, that I must be about my father’s business?
(Luke 2:49 )

 

 

This is the third entry on medieval church paintings picturing scenes which can be used when praying the Rosary.

The Luminous Mysteries, the mystery of light, was added by his Holiness John Paul the second. He used parts of the gospel that is a divine fulfillment of the traditional rosary that further deepens our understanding of the gospel and our daily life of praying the rosary.

I believe, however, that to bring out fully the Christological depth of the Rosary it would be suitable to make an addition to the traditional pattern which, while left to the freedom of individuals and communities, could broaden it to include the mysteries of Christ’s public ministry between his Baptism and his Passion. In the course of those mysteries we contemplate important aspects of the person of Christ as the definitive revelation of God. Declared the beloved Son of the Father at the Baptism in the Jordan, Christ is the one who announces the coming of the Kingdom, bears witness to it in his works and proclaims its demands. It is during the years of his public ministry that the mystery of Christ is most evidently a mystery of light: “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (Jn 9:5).
(John Paul II in the Apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae in 2002)

The added parts where all common spiritual images of the Middle Ages in Scandinavia.

 

 

 

The Baptism

This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
(Matthew 3:17)

 

 

 

The Wedding

Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye.
(John 2:5)

 

 

 

The Proclamation

The time is accomplished, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe the gospel.
(Mark 1:15)

 

 

 

The Transfiguration

The shape of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became white and glittering.
(Luke 9:29)

 

 

 

The Eucharist

This is my body, which is given for you.
(Luke 22:19 )

Here is the second entry on medieval church paintings. The pictures are from different churches from Uppland and Västmanland in central Sweden. They are painted by Albertus Pictor (2, 4 & 5) in the late fifteenth century and some are from Dannemora kyrka (1 & 3), from about the same time.

The Ascension is usually pictured as a pair of feet disappearing in a cloud or out of the picture.

 

 

 

The Glorious Resurrection of Our Lord

I ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God.
(John 20:17)

 

 

 

The Ascension of Our Lord

He departed from them, and was carried up to heaven.
(Luke 24:51)

 

 

 

The Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost

And I send the promise of my father upon you.
(Luke 24:49)

 

 

 

The Assumption of Mary into Heaven

Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?
(Canticles 6:9)

 

 

 

The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth

A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
(Apocalypse 12:1)

In the middle ages, in Scandinavia, there was a very strong devotion towards Mary. Many of the medieval church paintings depict scenes from the Rosary (as well as , of course, other scenes from the bible.

Here are five images that can be used when praying the sorrowful mysteries.

The first is a painting from the now burned down wooden church in Södra Råda in Sweden. (1490).
The second picture from Ösmo Kyrka in Sweden and is made by Albertus Pictor (1440-1507).
The third image is from Vrå Kirke in Denmark (1510).
The fourth is from Dannemora kyrka in Sweden (1520).
The fifth image is from Vitaby kyrka in Sweden (1300).

 

 

 

The Agony of Our Lord in the Garden

The Agony of Our Lord in the Garden

My Father, if this chalice may not pass away, but I must drink it, thy will be done.
(Matthew 26:42)

 

 

 

Our Lord is Scourged at the Pillar

Our Lord is Scourged at the Pillar

Then therefore, Pilate took Jesus, and scourged him.
(John 19:1)

 

 

 

Our Lord is Crowned with Thorns

Our Lord is Crowned with Thorns

And platting a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand.
(Matthew 27:29)

 

 

 

Our Lord Carries the Cross to Calvary

Our Lord Carries the Cross to Calvary

And bearing his own cross, he went forth to that place which is called Calvary.
(John 19:17)

 

 

 

The Crucifixion of Our Lord

The Crucifixion of Our Lord

And Jesus again crying with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
(Mathew 27:50)

 

 

 

Between 1854 to 1863 Gerard Manley Hopkins was educated at the Highgate school. For a couple of months in 1861 – when Hopkins was sixteen -the English poet R.W. Dixon was an assistant master there and even though they did not really got acquainted at that time, Dixon made such an impact on Hopkins, that seventeen years later Gerard wrote a letter to Dixon in which he expressed his high regards towards his old master and especially for his writing.

In response Dixon wrote a letter which I think draws a colourful image upon Dixons perception of Gerard as a young boy.

I think that I remember you in the Highgate School. At least I remember a pale young boy, very light and active, with a very meditative & intellectual face, whose name, if I am not vastly mistaken, was yours. If I am not deceived by memory, that boy got a prize for English poetry. I may be deceived in this identification: but if you have time to write again, I should like to know. I little thought that my gift to Mr. Lobb, which I had quite forgotten, would bear such a fruit.

The gift Mr. Dixon is referring to was his book: Christ’s Company, published in 1861. A book Gerard referred to – in his previous letter to Dixon – as a part of my own mind. Dixons memory was not vastly mistaken. The pale young boy was indeed Gerard Hopkins. And GM wrote back: The correspondence between Dixon and Hopkins evolved to a deep friendship and lasted a decade, until the very end of Hopkins lifetime.

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