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Sunday 13 February 2011

AN Epiphany : Vermeer meets Braque

Imagine that a painter paints a portrait of himself
and in the distance shows a mirrored image of himself
(rear view)before an easel on which both (the image
and himself) are busy with the larger portrait (a front view)
reflected in the second of two mirrors
(which, being just behind it, the image cannot see)
and tell me which you would most trust for its veracity -
you've one of three (be wary, though, for by your choice
you might define reality).

Now change the metaphor: three ancient manuscripts:
the first is the original. The analogy
is with the painter - who in the case above
is never seen, and in the matter of the manuscript,
exists in fragments and in "reconstructions" of the past
from later copies. Call the painter and the ancient manuscript
The Source. One copy of the document
is close in time to the original (a front,
one quarter view) from which a later copy
(corresponding to the front view of the painter) has come down.

Which will you take as your reality, the self-
depicter's (rear) view, incomplete because the features
are unknown, the now fragmented manuscript?
the self-depicter, out of sight, unknowable? the more
straight-forward image from the glass?

The mirrors show us look-alikes, but not the man.
(No man has seen the world's view of his face.)
It isn't just the blemish in the glass,
it's what can happen to the image when reversed.
(Try holding up this typescript to a glass
and think how with much greater subtlety
it might indeed make changes to your face.)
The look-alikes are filtered through the painter's brain,
the properties of paint and canvas take their toll,
the man is no more human than a doll.

He looks at us, but only sees himself.
We look at him and see a bit of us, a blemish
and what he sees of him.


This is a response to Writers Island's prompt of Epiphany. (Apologies for being late with this link.)


flaubert said...

Dave this is superb! I love
the thoughts behind it, from
the artist's point of view.
There are so many good lines
in this, it is hard to pick
just one.


Madame DeFarge said...

I love the imagery in this. I adore Vermeer and this seems an excellent subject matter to play around with.

Gloria said...

I love where this prompt took you. Absolutely fascinating thoughts and well written and enjoyed!

anthonynorth said...

Excellent descent into the nature of reality. It can apply to so much more than the subject matter.

Elizabeth said...

Ah, but if we are to choose one, we must first trust ourselves, for all things come to us through the filters of our own experience. Lovely dilemma you create. Fascinating read,


RJ Clarken said...

This has to be one of the more brilliant treatises on perspective I've ever seen. It gives me much to ponder...which may now keep me up later tonight than I originally intended.

Linda Sue said...

Great, now you've done it- my head just popped!

Rose said...

Outstanding! thorough use of the prompt word as well! I must admit it took a couple of reads to appreciate this wonderful piece! Outstanding!

Kat Mortensen said...

Ooh, this is DEEP, Dave. This line, "for by your choice
you might define reality" is almost frightening.
This calls to mind the cover of an old T.V. Guide magazine from when I was a child, wherein was photographed a scene of a room with a television set whereupon was another television set with the same scene and so on ad infinitum. Is there a word for this? I have always wondered.

Excellent piece, as usual.


Rachel Cotterill said...

Hmm, tricky questions - just thinking about it ties my mind in knots. Thanks for making me think :)

Anonymous said...

Is there a right answer to the conundrums you pose so skillfully?

Hannah Stephenson said...

Eek! Fantastic! I love the duplication and confusion, the focus on depiction. I love paintings that have other paintings/mirrors in them...like nesting dolls.

Dave King said...

Your comment is very much appreciated. Thanks for taking the time.

I agree - both about Vermeer and the possibilities of the subject. Thanks for the comment.

Hi and welcome. Thanks so much for your feedback.

absolutely. Much thanks.

You are correct. Without trust is no revelation.

I do hope you didn't end up sleep deprived as a result. Many thanks for your so generpous remarks. I felt very humbled by them.

Linda Sue
I think mine nearly did. Thanks for looking in.

Wow! Doubly humbled - but thanks so much.

I think there is a word for it, but it has long escaped me, I fear. I remember as a very small boy going into my Grandparents' bedroom where there were two full length mirrors facing each other. Of course, standing between them you got reflections of yourself almost to infinity - two sets! It used to set all kinds of thoughts racing in my mind. Thanks for your response, you've brought those mirrors back to min d and made me wonder if they had some influence below the conscious threshold.

Good to have you visiting and good to have your comments. Thanks.

Hi again. Thanks for your visit. Not for me, I don't think. There might be for you, though.

Hi and welcome to the blog. Your comments are very much appreciated. I agree with you re the duplication and confusion.

Kat Mortensen said...

I like that, "conscious threshold".
So many things below that threshold, aren't there? We can only hope to "scratch the surface", I think.

Dave King said...

I think that's true, yes, definitely!

Rallentanda said...

These are interesting concepts and far too complicated for me to address. However it brought to mind something that as a visual artist I have only been aware of in the last number years.Probably everyone knew this all the time as is mostly the case with a late bloomer's epiphany...that..an artist's interpretation of reality is much more and much better than actual visual reality because the artist unconsciouly adds all the emotional essence as well. Thus,this is the reason why painting is more important than photography ( although the same thing happens in good photography, but never to the same extent as painting because the photographic lens is capturing the real thing.)