Tag Archives: art

The Little Prince at The Fullerton

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On Monday I went to view The Little Prince Art Collection up on display at The Fullerton. The collection consists of 14 sculptures crafted after the illustrations in the book. The sculptures were really pretty and true to the illustrations. I felt quieted walking amongst them, lifted into the vast, contemplative, star-filled universe of Saint-Exupery’s imagination. There’s something peaceful and childlike about all his drawings and writings – and I guess it is that simplicity and sincerity that makes the story of The Little Prince all the more endearing and moving to people living in the complicated world of today.

Now I feel like trying to read Night Flight again.

***

“I am looking for friends. What does that mean–‘tame’?”

“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. It means to establish ties.”

“‘To establish ties’?”

“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world . . .”

***

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The Little Prince sculptures will be on display in Singapore at the Fullerton Hotel until 31st May 2015.

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The days that we wander/wonder

In the first few days after summer began, I spent a lot of time walking aimlessly about, struggling to figure things out in my mind and feeling a little confused inside.

During one of these drifting afternoons I stumbled upon an exhibit entitled The Days that We Wonder/Wander – a display of works revolving around the themes of journeying and mental dilemmas.

The installations were calming somehow. There were lots of silvery, shattered things, representing fragmented mental processes. I saw words and images that emboldened and dazzled and enveloped, and I think these things will stay with me a for a long while.

That day, I thought about the way our minds shimmer and shift and shatter, the days that we spend wandering inside ourselves trying to understand, the ways that we all reach for balance and stability, control and safety, coherence and perfection.

It’s rather like standing in a dark night on snowy ground after a snowstorm has passed, watching the stars fall one by one from the sky, filled with a sense of brokenness and a little bit of boldness, a willingness somehow to shine bright if only with fragments. And the heart wrenching words of Sylvia Plath come to me again: why am I given / These lamps, these planets / Falling like blessings, like flakes / Six-sided, white / On my eyes, my lips, my hair / Touching and melting, Nowhere. 

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Dual/Duel by Zen Teh

For friends in Singapore, The Days that We Wander/Wonder is at Jurong Regional Library until 20th May, and is held in collaboration with CHAT.

My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

asherReading this book was rather like swimming. I could only dive into a few pages at a time before having to stop and breathe. This is a beautiful book, full of tenderness and trembling. It is a journey through different kinds of anguish, the anguish of a child, and the anguish that fuels a need to create. It is about art as an expression of being, and how such expression inadvertently causes hurt. It is a book about “the unspeakable mystery that brings good fathers and sons into the world and lets a mother watch them tear at each other’s throats”, about “dreams of love”, “nights of waiting”, “memories of death”, about things which should be remembered but are forgotten, about love that overwhelms yet cannot find its voice to speak, and most of all about the Master of the Universe, whose suffering world, Asher concludes, cannot be comprehended.

The world – so full of love and memory it is. So full of suffering love and painful memory so powerfully expressed in the aesthetic mould chosen by Asher for his major works. And that mould is none other than the crucifixion, where one mystery is chosen to answer another.

 

It is difficult to pick quotes from this book, because it is so full of poignant running prose that loses its significance when is taken out of context. Nevertheless, I have attempted to jot down some parts for safekeeping:

1. “The fact is that gossip, rumours, mythmaking and news stories are not appropriate vehicles for the communication of nuances of truth, those subtle tonalities that are often the truly crucial elements in a causal chain. So it is time for the defence, for a long session in demythology. But I will not apologize. It is absurd to apologize for a mystery.”

2. “Often on Shabbos or festivals, I would see him in the living room, studying Talmud or a book on Hassidus…

‘Why do you study that so often, Papa?’

He smiled faintly and his eyes grew dreamy. ‘My father liked to study it often, Asher’”

3. “‘It’s wrong rivkeh,’ Her sister said. ‘The boy will have scars.’ Then she said, ‘Rivkeh, it is forbidden to mourn in this way.”

My mother was very still.

‘The torah forbids it?’ she said quietly. ‘It is forbidden? Yes?’

‘Yes,’ her sister said.

‘But there are scars everywhere,’ my mother said. ‘And who will hold my pennies?’”

4. “There was his face, very clearly; not truly his face, but the way I felt about his face. I drew his face inside my head. I went to my desk and on a piece of blank white paper drew how I felt about his face. I drew the kaskett. I did not use any colours. The face stared up at me from the paper. I went back to the bed and lay on it with my eyes closed. Now there was ice and darkness inside me. I could feel the cold darkness moving slowly inside me. I could feel our darkness. It seemed to me then that we were brothers, he and I, that we both knew lands of ice and darkness.”

5. “’No one likes my drawings,’ I said through the fog of half sleep. ‘My drawings don’t help’

My father said nothing

‘I don’t like to feel this way, Papa.’

Gently, my father put his hand on my cheek.

‘It’s not a pretty world, Papa.’

‘I’ve noticed,’ my father said softly”

6. “I remember that night very clearly, the texture of it darkness, the echoing resonance of its sounds. I lay in bed in the enveloping night and felt myself one with all the vast and endless arc of the universe, felt myself as raw flesh connected to near and distant pain… to draw, to make lines and shapes on pieces of paper, was a futile indulgence in the face of such immutable darkness…”

7. “’It’s only a taste,’ my father said once, looking out across the buildings and trees. ‘But remember, Asher, some tastes remain a long time on the tongue. A taste of the Ribbono Shel Olom…’”

8. “’The world is a terrible place. I do not sculpt and paint to make the world sacred. I sculpt and paint to give permanence to my feelings about how terrible this world truly is. Nothing is real to me except my own feelings; nothing is true except my own feelings as I see them all around me in my scilptures and paintings. I know these feelings are true because if they were not true they would make are that is as terrible as the world. You do not understand me yet, Asher Lev, my little Hasid…’”

9. “The girl sat very still, bathed in sunlight. I looked at her and worked carefully, translating her body into lines, making choices, each curve, each subtle change in the flow of her flesh, necessitating and interpreting choice of line”

10. “Do not try to understand. Become a great artist. That is the only way to justify what you are doing to everyone’s life.”

11. “I worked for – what? How could I explain it? For beauty? No. Many of the pictures I painted were not beautiful. For what, then? For a truth I did not know how to put into words. For a truth I could only bring to life by means of colour and line and texture and form.”

12. “He listened attentively to what I was saying. But there was nothing in his intellectual or emotional equipment to which he could connect my words. He possessed no frames of reference for such concepts. He could not even ask intelligent questions. My world of aesthetics was as bewildering to him as his insatiable need for travel was to me”

13. “And it was then that it came, though I think it had been coming for a long time and I had been choking it and hoping it would die. But it does not die. It kills you first. I knew there would be no other way to do it. No one says you have to paint ultimate anguish and torment. But if you are driven to paint it, you have no other way.”

14. “I did not know, but I sensed it as truth”

Artists, Metaphor and Synaesthesia

Over the years many have noted that there seem to be a disproportionate number of artists, writers and musicians who have synaesthesia.

Synaesthesia is a condition where two senses are activated at the same time. Some synaesthetes see colours when they hear music or see numbers, others may spontaneously adopt a particular body position when they hear a particular sound. In an article in The Guardian, synaesthete and singer-songwriter Soraria says, “”Tuesdays are always yellowish, Mondays are white. And numbers have shapes.”

Brain scans reveal that Synaesthetes actually experience simultaneous activation of usually separate areas in the brain. And one interesting observation is that the most common types of synaesthesia involve the activation of pairs of brain areas that are very close together.

From this, it has been suggested that synaesthesia is due to an excess of cross-connections between certain brain areas (Ramachandran and Hubbard, 2001). Hence, whenever one area is activated (numbers), the other is activated at the same time (colours).

This could explain why Synaesthesia is more common in artists and poets. The cross-wiring hypothesis proposes that cross-wiring enables “linking to seemingly unrelated realms in order to highlight a hidden deep similarity”.

Ramachandran and Hubbard present a metaphor from Shakespeare – “It is the East and Juliet is the sun”. Reading this, the brain “instantly forms the right links”. We understand that Juliet is like the sun – warm and radiant, not that she is a ball of Hydrogen.

The writers explain – “We can think of metaphors as involving cross-activation of conceptual maps in a manner analogous to cross-activation of perceptual maps in synaesthesia”.

So while we all have a capacity for metaphor (and indeed all experience synaesthetic links to a certain extent), synaesthetes are born meaning mappers.

Doesn’t that just make you want to have synaesthesia? What a world to sink deep into, one unseen, yet ever tangible as your senses get entangled in these shifting currents, the density of meaning.

Ramachandran, V. S., & Hubbard, E. M. (2001). Synaesthesia--a window into perception, thought and language. Journal of consciousness studies8(12), 3-34.

 

Snapshots from Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined

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1. Our names, tangled in colour

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2. A woven space, a safe space.

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3. “How light reflects and how light is contained is the stuff of architecture”

SAM_13104. The place where we began, will we find it?

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5. “…the proportions of the rooms, their sequence, the way they open – simple things, but which taken together suggest something more complex”

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 Visiting the Sensing Spaces exhibit at the Royal Academy today, I rather felt like I was in a gigantic playground. In that childlike state of mind, it was easier to understand what it meant to engage with the spaces – to take in their colours, shapes, masses, proportions and lighting and see how they made me feel.

 I thought I would try to give snapshots of what was meaningful to me in the spaces, rather than capture and upload the entire exhibit. (To see anything in a photo before experiencing it yourself rather spoils the magic, so I think.)