Tuesday, October 02, 2007

RECOVERING THE SENSATION OF PERCEPTION

Victor Shklovsky, who was a pretty smart guy, wrote:
Habitualization devours works, clothes, furniture, one's wife... and art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things.... The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects unfamiliar, to make forms difficult.
It's easy to understand what he means when you look at these brilliant pictures by illustrator and watercolorist Winslow Homer.

If you saw a boy in the woods with dogs, your eyes would recognize the subject and move on. But aaahhh, not so fast. Look at the wonderful service Homer has performed for you:



He has made commonplace objects unfamiliar, merging the patches of color on the dogs with the patches of color on the leaves. By showing us the abstract design in the world, Homer "increased the difficulty and length of our perception."



These stray branches would not be nearly so astonishing if Homer had not studied them with new eyes:



Another example is Homer's lovely watercolor of two girls standing in an orchard:




Homer seems to say. "Have you noticed the effect of the bonnets illuminated white from above and pink from behind? Or the shapes created by the dappled sunlight on their blouses?"



Your mind habitually allocates just enough attention to low hanging branches to keep you from walking into them. Homer shows you a display of leafy illumination that puts the grandest stain glass window to shame:



These pictures make you realize the extent to which we stumble like sleepwalkers through a world of familiar sights.

10 Comments:

Blogger Gary said...

Two fantastic examples, thank you for analysing them.

10/03/2007 3:41 AM  
Blogger jb. said...

amen

10/03/2007 9:09 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

I think it's a common condition: us humans miss all the details, lumping them together in bite size chunks. Ironically, in this, the age of the digital happy snap, we see even less than before. Perhaps a symptom of saturation? People back from holiday with a 1000 photographs have 'experienced' their trip less than the observer who sketched a couple of pictures in a notebook. To absorb something properly, one needs to draw it.

10/04/2007 7:30 AM  
Blogger Reggie said...

perspective is everything

10/04/2007 5:46 PM  
Anonymous Kev Ferrara said...

The poetry of these Homer pieces you've posted is matchless. The drawing, the color... He makes it all seem so effortless. Yet the mental candlepower to conceive of the aesthetic simplifications he displays is extraordinary. Then to render them with such effortless zen-like simplicity... almost like a master chinese calligrapher...

Well, all I can say is, it brings me joy and despair in equal measure. Alas.

kev

10/04/2007 9:57 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Reggie, well.... let's just say that perspective is a lot.


Kev, the pictures I post here thrill me, and I am so happy when they resonate with others out there.

10/05/2007 12:06 AM  
Blogger Matt Godwin said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10/05/2007 10:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Walking out the door to a unseasonable fog settled around the trees creating cathedral beams of early morning light does it for me....

Light is "a lot." ;-)

catherine

10/06/2007 6:30 PM  
Anonymous John Musker said...

Wonderful choices. Timely reminder. Thoughtful essay. Thank you.

10/09/2007 4:36 AM  
Blogger Nabin K. Malakar said...

Even the archives LIST look like art!
WOW!

11/02/2007 7:39 PM  

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