Where Movement Ends

Winter has come to New Zealand, and with it grey skies, moody days and biting cold on my morning walks. I have fallen into a steady meditation schedule,  early morning in my studio, my light the glow of the gas heater. Sacred minutes. My cup runneth over.

The urge to paint is back – after almost half a year. My paintings make me happy. In the half light of the days I peer into the emptiness at which they point.

A17
Mixed Media on Paper

I have been vacillating about my blog forever. Not routine procrastination, just doubt about the need for this world to have one more blog post released onto it. Most of all I am stalled by the lack of a strong opinion about one side or another, having seen all sides have a backside, and the artificiality of the personality and its opinions.

Gearing up to write a blog post became for me almost an act of in-authenticity. In the words of  T.S. Eliot, the action of one who prepares “a face to meet the faces that you meet”.

Not to imply anything, but my doubt about speaking or staying silent reminds me of the near silence of T.S. Eliot at the outset of his career as a poet and critic. Perhaps he too was stalled by the notion that any venturing out in the gesture of opinion was a move away from authenticity.

In the brilliant book, The Invisible Poet, T.S Eliot, author Hugh Kenner wrote that the study of the philosophy of F.H Bradley helped Eliot by freeing him:

“…from the posture of the ironist with his back to a wall, by affirming the artificiality of all personality including the one we intimately suppose to be our true one; not only the faces we prepare but the “we” that prepares; …A view of the past, a view of himself and other persons, a view of the nature of what we call statement and communication; these delivered Eliot from what might have been, after a brilliant beginning, a cul-de-sac and silence.”

 

IMG_E4444
Pastel on Paper

On my walks I think about authenticity and its ghostly fragility. I am not surprised that the concept provided enough material for Lionel Trilling to write a fascinating book about Sincerity and Authenticity. In my reading, Trilling regards authenticity as a more mature cousin to Sincerity, which is dismissed as a social construct:

In short, we play the role of being ourselves, we sincerely act the part of the sincere person, with the result that a judgement may be passed upon our sincerity that it is not authentic. (Lionel Trilling, Sincerity and Authenticity)

Authenticity takes us in a different direction:

A very considerable originative power had once been claimed for sincerity, but nothing to match the marvellous generative force that our modern judgement assigns to authenticity, which implies the downward movement through all the cultural superstructures to some place where all movement ends, and begins.

(Lionel Trilling, Sincerity and Authenticity)

 

This is part of the same discussion in which Trilling quotes (again) Eliot:

‘The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality’.

 

IMG_E4445
Pastel on dark blue Canson Paper

Should we speak or remain in the authenticity of silence? As always, Rilke has the last word on this. In his poem, “We must die because we have known them”, he ends with:

...
But the grown man
shudders and is silent. The man who
has wandered pathless at night
in the mountain-range of his feelings:
is silent.

As the old sailor is silent,
and the terrors that he has endured
play inside him as though in quivering cages.

(Rainer Maria Rilke)

 

Thanks for visiting my blog! Special thanks to all followers and supporters who have recently encouraged me with kind and thoughtful comments.

 

 

12 thoughts on “Where Movement Ends

  1. First a comment on your work. It looks to me like your quiet period has resulted in some fine painting. All artists be they writers or painters need fallow time, I think.

    Authenticity. I bristle at the word. I really do. How is art “authentic”? It is a creation of our imaginations, a representation through an individual’s eyes manifested through cultural context. Writers create an “other” and painters create an “other”, too. We are guided by a need or an impulse or something inside that wants to get out. Sometimes that thing is “nice”, sometimes its wild and cruel. Which is more authentic? Argh. I don’t know.

    And silence. Hoo boy. There’s a loaded topic. There’s a big difference of course between elective silence and being silenced. I love the blog world because it gives those of us who may never reach the “official” world of publishing a voice, a place to be heard and I value that beyond measure.

    As always, your posts elicit strong feelings (authentic ones!). Thanks for waking me up this morning. – Susanne

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for your comment Susanne. And your kind words on my painting. When it comes to the concept of authenticity, I think both Trilling and I are more interested in authentic BEING. For example, next time you arrive at a party, gently ask yourself if you are being authentic (I can’t say as opposed to what). To me, it seems there are grades of truth in the self, sorry to use the cliche of the onion, but as one gets closer to the core, I find I lose at least some of the urge to speak out. It may be different for others, but that is my dilemma. 😀
      Your site is great. I started reading some posts and found that once I read a first paragraph I could not stop. A sign of a fine writer for sure.

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  2. I’m glad you’re back, Fritz. We never know who is reading and how they may be touched or what effect we may have when we post our blogs. I’ve enjoyed your artwork, your insights, your thoughtfulness. Please keep posting.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi Fritz. I like the first painting a lot and the last one shines.
    If Eliot and people with things to say/art within dont find or create personality as a tool of expression, then he and we are all way worse off. Of course its a game, but its fun and necessary too, island-life is not good for me even as an introvert. And we/Eliot can chose whatever judgements resonate and ignore the rest, authenticity has a thick skin. Welcome back (and yes, it has got crazy cold after such a great summer!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Alistair! Thanks so much for your comment. What you say about using personality as a tool of expression has got me thinking…it is definetely a component, as is the deeper self (if there is such a thing); this would make a nice PhD thesis!

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      1. Hi, as a complete amateur at philosophy (and art!), isnt the deep self, which I equated with authenticity, an observer free from emotion, and, in contrast, isnt art, even very representational art, an expression of and request in return for an emotive response and/or personality, I dont think as deeply as you however, simple country boy! but I enjoy that you make me Think PS good win for the Boks under Kolisi!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi Alistair – In response to your second comment below: to be sure, I am definitely no philosopher myself! You posed the question “isnt art, even very representational art, an expression of and request in return for an emotive response and/or personality?” – a very good question. I don’t know the answer, but I will say this not as an ideology but an opinion out of interest: I think if your statement is right, one can still expect to find grades of development, or maturation, in the emotional response. The personality is very fickle, it changes with the weather and circumstances. But as the deeper character and connection with one’s deeper self develops over a lifetime, perhaps there will be a “deepening” of one’s artistic impulse also, whatever “deepening” may mean in practical/visual terms.
      On this issue, NZ’s own C.K. Stead wrote: “Eliot’s ‘escape from personality’ is an escape from ‘opinion’ and ‘rhetoric’ which he, in common with Yeats, felt had marred poetry written in the mid-nineteenth century; second that the escape is made, not away from the self, but deeper into the self, ‘below the levels of consciousness’.”
      It is interesting for me to think on these things, but I have no illusions about an absolute right or wrong. Thanks for your comment!
      [PS: Yes indeed a good win for the Boks. I gave up on watching rugby a while ago, too many Saturdays of disappointment when I watched the Boks. The All Blacks are so dependable it is almost boring to watch. A great team!]

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  4. Im not clear on much but I am reasonably so on the need for emotional response. If landscape is indeed a metaphor (Tal-Coat), if it belongs to the person who looks at it (RWEmerson) it must say something to us, push buttons – pride(excessive?) and personal identification with the NZ landscape and sentimentailty/nostalgia are the 2 big factors here I think, probably elsewhere too. I sold a painting of a lake once – the woman said her father used to drive a tractor round it and once drove into it. Having the image will trigger that for her daily, the quality of the art itself is very secondary. But thats “good art” to me, otherwise its a bit pointless if nobody reacts, if they buy it to match the curtains or because its technically good. We are talking to people without using words.

    Agreed, those triggers will (must) change over time with new experiences – everybody hates McCahon until they see more of it (some of us anyway)! And some our earlier pieces look less good (as you have noted!) .

    I dont know enough about poetry to respond to the quote re Yeats etc – perhaps the lawyer in me, but I find it easy to separate opinion/personality/ego from “fact”. I like opinion in art, Banksy etc- tell me about mans impact, city culture etc, challenge is good. Selling artist personality as a buy my work strategy is a whole other thing.

    PS Coincidentally, I read today CKStead’s comment that the NZ obsession with landscape is a form of romanticism ” in which topography becomes a substitute of human society” – he thought (1961) that reflected our inablility to create a new enlightened society here and our inarticulateness. I’m thinking about the quote per above but I dont agree with the reasons – as a 7 year old in 1961, i think we have moved on 90% from that, we are much more confident in our (minor) place in the world and our (still to be fully defined) hybrid culture.

    That ended up longer than intended – dont feel you have to respond if you dont care to but thank you for making me think!

    Like

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