Poem for Slow Art Day

28, April 2014 § Leave a comment

slow art day

Aegean Center student and Slow Art Day participant Julia Robinson composed a poem about our experiences at the Paros Archeological Museum on April 12th. Julia has dedicated the poem to Jane Pack, our host.

Slow Art

Ten minutes
an eternity
before we calm,
slowly
seeing through
into the mystery
of the cracks
connecting
to the heart
that created
these wonders
millenniums ago;
hearts like our own.

Archilochos calls
up through time.
The bark of his dog
coming out of hiding
along with the silk
over his shield that
he didn’t bring home
nor brought him home.
A boy is found
carrying wine
celebrating
the power of poetry
of the power of brawn.
How did we never see?

We turn to a disc thrower
his faint throw intensifying
the longer we give him;
our minds becoming
as his feet –
slowing unfolding
from their bonds
spiralling out freely
into the movement
of timelessness.

We read the headline
‘Lion eats bull!’
A stone slab
in transition of dying,
comes alive
under our gaze.
We water the
dead with our presence
re-creating:
the god power within.

Blown away by stones
their graceful humility
plunges us into awe.
Ohh face long past sculptured
I cannot see you
the Siroccos of time
have stolen your fierce lines
I feel only your soft beauty
snaking into a bird
as you dominate
the serpent hissing
around your belted waist.
You were petrifying once
your black make-up
terrifying,
but like Ozymandias
the sands of time
have robbed you of your power:
We have lost our fear.
Where can we place it now?

Overwhelmed we are
by so many ghosts
of people who lived here
– Right here –
on this island
we now call our own.

Calming down
we ground in a funeral:
sling shots bearers
never had a chance against
the fighting arrows
walking through the battle.
We circle the urn
but stop dead at the figure
who rising
is depicted again
as they extract the spear
from his side;
ancient story board
animating his life
his death
telling of his tragedy.
Women, hands in terror,
look on aghast
pulling at their hair;
we feel it, and cannot move on.

Leaving a memoir of the past
the warrior remains inside
long gone;
we communicate with them
the dead
this arcane memory
worn thin through time
lives on all too faintly
as we gather around today
trying to grasp
what happened to you.
What happens to humanity.

Time moves on
we look at a head stone:
a man talking animatedly
as if this day would never end.
His last conversation
into eternity.
What is he saying?
To honour the dead?
Hubris of time;
we cannot read
only ‘have to’
name of the deceased
words for the dead.

Was his secret discerned
only by the patient woman?
Relationships
come back to life
the longer we gaze,
the longer we allow ourselves
to deepen in something
impossible to describe.

And so we end
with a perfect bottom
hands brush
yearning still to touch
where the sculptor
left his love
bringing bliss
into stone.
Pulling ourselves together
we admire his stability
contrasting his
strong light lines
with her, behind
as if her dress
would flutter away.
We return,
revealingly quickly,
to the wondrous buttocks
almost embarrassed
at our joy
of this undefended captive.

Slow art,
no need to rush pleasure
feeling the love
of the sculptor
as our own
giving the inanimate
our imagination.

Collapsing time
we gaze ourselves
slowly
into these statues;
for they belong to us now
they are ours,
discovering them
quite honestly,
within
our own hearts.

–Julia Robinson

 


 

Looking at “Hunters in the Snow”

16, April 2014 § 4 Comments

huntersbruegel-1

by Jane Morris Pack

To celebrate Slow Art Day I give my reactions to the Bruegel painting, ‘Hunters in the Snow”.

Stendhal, the French author, fainted the first time he laid eyes on Santa Croce in Florence. The “Stendhal Syndrome” as it is now referred to, is an overwhelming emotional reaction which sometimes accompanies the viewing of great art. The opposite reaction might be called “The Mona Lisa Syndrome” which is the disappointment many feel in front of this small, dark portrait about which they have such great expectations.

Several years ago I went to see my favorite work of art, ‘The Hunters in the Snow’ by Bruegel now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. I had known it only from reproduction. In anticipating my response I wondered whether I would be like Stendhal and faint in front of the masterpiece. My son promised to stand behind me when I first encountered the work, should he need to catch me. Of all the possible reactions I imagined, I didn’t expect to experience the one I had. I entered the room, found the painting, noticed it was larger than I had thought and then… I couldn’t see it. It felt like there was a curtain between my eyes and the painting. It communicated nothing to me, I felt no relationship to its story or its characters. I almost couldn’t see the colors or surface as though I was wearing dark glasses. Other Bruegel’s in the room were powerful and compelling. “The Gloomy Day” seemed to smell of loamy soil and an approaching storm. The yellow coat of a man in “The Conversion of Saul” made my heart thump, but “The Hunters in the Snow” was invisible to me. After six hours in the museum we left with no change in my response. The next day I returned to the museum and at last, the painting opened to me, the surface receded and the distant mountains shivered in the winter light.

*

The whine of tired dogs, the pitchy smell of wood smoke and the crunch of brittle snow fill the air. Dark trees etch into the grey green sky as ice skaters group and scurry across the frozen river. The hunters tramp through the crusted snow, pushing their exhausted legs toward home and warmth. Outside a nearby inn, a glowing fire melts the ground snow as peasants singe boar bristles in the flames. Nostalgia pulls on my memory, but for what place and what time? The scene is timeless and could be anywhere. It is said to be one of the earliest depictions of pure nature without religious overtones nor moralizing principals. Bruegel’s love of life, his catalog of human events and emotions, are here before us. How does this painting make me feel so much that is so hard to put into words?

*

The second day, I was finally able to see the painting as paint. The snow is not white but a warm grey brown. The figures are dark and mysterious, mostly silhouette, rounded though few details show. The yellowed branches in the foreground are far more important in the true painting than I had thought as they establish the plane on which the viewer stands, everything else sliding down the hill into deep perspective. The figures on the ice become progressively more transparent as they recede. Black birds rend the air, creating motion. The geometric shapes of snow topped roofs lend abstraction. But all of these elements do not explain the hold this painting has on my soul.

Color and linguistics

10, April 2014 § Leave a comment

russell barlow

Six years ago Russell Barlow came to Paros to tutor Gabriel Pack.  They read all the Greek plays and all of Homer, Herodotus, and Thucydides as well as most of the extant Greek literature.  Russell taught Gabriel drums,  they memorized the countries and their capitals.  It was a successful year for both of them.

Russell returned for a few days last week coming from Germany where he is studying on a Fulbright. He spoke to students and faculty last Monday night at the Center about linguistics, its various areas of study and a bit of its history.  In a humorous and charming talk he presented the quirkiness of language, its impact on our thought processes and the debates that surround that idea. We were all asked to participate and interact with the information so the room was lively and noisy as we tried out sounds and sentences. He talked about pragmatics, morphology,  semantics, phonology, and syntax among others.

The study of names of colors has played a large part in the investigation into the nuances of language formulation in the brain. Russell sparked a spirited debate when he spoke about the three primary colors as the photographers and the painters in the room each tried to dominate the argument (we have a running debate between the two groups). Russell offered us a middle path, suggesting the pairs red and green, blue and yellow. He suggests that true color perception lies between the overlaps of our capacity to read chroma.

We all enjoyed this glimpse into the linguistic mind and Russell’s evident enthusiasm for his subject. He will go on to do a doctorate in linguistics next fall in Hawaii.

Liz Carson for Slow Art Day

8, April 2014 § 1 Comment

metzkerphilly

In anticipation of Slow Art Day, Aegean Center photography instructor Liz Carson has contributed this description of Ray Metzker’s photograph “Couplets: Philadelphia 1968.”

Ray Metzker’s concern was always city life, its mechanical aspects and the people who inhabit it.  His subjects were often telephone poles and parking garages and the shapes and shadows created by these elements. His observations of modern day cities were timeless with an eye to the geometry of dark and light patterns. He was a meticulous observer of the sun noting its position so that he could return to a particular location when the lights and shadows were appropriate to express his ideas. This photograph is probably a spontaneous capture but some others were planned specifically to catch a passing figure in light or as a silhouette.

This pair of photographs by Metzker is a good example of using overall darks and lights to create dynamic action in an otherwise static composition. The bottom image has a strong triangle of dark in the lower right with a diagonal rising streak of light. Heightened contrast makes what would be an everyday scene into an dramatic event. In both photographs the figures are backlit creating dark silhouettes against the light. This draws your eye toward them as you try to decipher the details of their forms. The abundance of white in the picture counterbalances what could be a sinister feeling of the figures.  The light makes the character of the street more open and inviting and leads you on  to the open sky above.

Slow Art Day on Paros

7, April 2014 § 2 Comments

slow-art

The Aegean Center‘s Jane Pack will be hosting a Slow Art Day event this Saturday, April 12th, at the Paros Archeological Museum. Another welcome offshoot of the greater Slow Movement, Slow Art Day is about looking at and enjoying art slowly.

On Slow Art Day, volunteers and participants around the world gather at museums and galleries and spend an hour or two carefully looking at art. Afterwards, everyone reconvenes and discusses their experiences.

Show your support for Slow Art and join us this Saturday morning.

Time: 11:00AM

Meeting Place: Aegean Center. After a few introductory remarks, Jane will lead the group to the Paros Archeological Museum, where we’ll spend about an hour looking at a few pre-chosen pieces. The group will then walk back to the Aegean Center for a discussion.

Cost: 2 euro admission to the Paros Archeological Museum (1 euro reduced admission for children under the age of 18).

Sign up: You can sign-up here or just show up!

 

On Viewing Art

2, April 2014 § Leave a comment

Bronzino

Aegean Center studenti viewing Bronzino’s Descent of Christ into Limbo (1552) in the Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence

by Liz Carson

Because of my husband’s work, I get requests for a method for viewing art by friends and students. It does not matter if it is a painting or a photograph as they may be viewed with the same criteria.

First, stand far enough away to see the whole image and evaluate what components it’s made of: size, shape and tonality. This is part of the artist’s intent and not only the content of the image; if it is constructed with large blocks of dark it will affect your response long before you examine the details of the work.

Usually artists put the largest and darker elements at the bottom for weight and gravity; if they are high in the picture plane it can create a depressing atmosphere. Light, large blocks at the bottom can create instability but at the top they give openness and exhilaration.

After you have assessed the work  at a distance walk half way toward the piece and evaluate the contents. The content and the composition combine to deliver the meaning of the piece.

The overall atmosphere of a piece is as important as the details. Look where the light is falling on the objects. The artist wants you to notice this same pattern.

In a museum, don’t read labels until after you have perused all of the images in the room and decided what pleases you. Then move into position to look at the work from a distance first before you look at it close up. Read the label only afterwards as the work will communicate without words.

Liz Carson has taught photography at the Aegean Center for more than thirty years. She has shown her work internationally and published a photographic essay on the historical Church of One Hundred Doors located in Paros, Greece. Her husband is a poet and the art historian for the Aegean Center.

Where Am I?

You are currently viewing the archives for April, 2014 at The Chronicle.