The philosophy of aesthetics is an amorphous, various, and perplexing thing. It can make your head spin. For better or worse, I've decided to just set out on my own little thinking journey. I'm going to write down what the aesthetic means to me.
And for me, the aesthetic consists of four extrusions from my assuming that reality itself is aesthetic:
1) dynamism -- the creation of and movement into a new space
2) shape -- the forming or crafting of time into a discrete object
3) subtlety -- the complex delving beneath phenomenal surface
4) the uncanny -- the bringing out of presence as the destabilized familiar
Music, painting, and poetry should be semblances of the basic aesthetic structure of reality. The world is comprised of the enigma of qualities. An adherence to the principle of quality is a necessary component of the aesthetic -- of the making and appreciation of real art.
All four of the above ideas are alive in the works of Beethoven, Van Gogh, and Gillian Prew. So these three will be good examples of what I'm talking about.
Beethoven's Grosse Fugue (Op. 133) pulses with spontaneous and energetic invention. It transforms time into an expressive mode according to the principle of intuition-guided-by-discretion. It moves beyond the quiddity of circumstance and goes into the fractal grooves of metaphysics and imagination. Finally, it extrudes from musical possibility an effect of haunting ambivalence.
Van Gogh's Langlois Bridge at Arles with Women Washing (1888) gives us color as the dynamic way we humans invest the world with soul and personality. It holds the temporal in a shape of intense and eternal relations. It converts the ordinary into transparencies of the spiritual. Finally, it inspires the finest (most granular) sense of a melancholy eeriness, even in the brightful morning.
Gillian Prew's poem "The Dying Season (for Milo)" opens up much aesthetic space, blooming volumes of contemplative activity. It seizes an hour of experience, re-casting it into contoured lines of rhythm and peripheral dimensions. It allows images to deepen from normal encounters to symbolic fathoms. Finally, it construes the paradox of mortality and loss as horizons of the quiet-breathed ecstatic.
The Dying Season (for Milo)
the fuchsias have fallen open and glad
their plucked tongues fanned still on the wintering stone.
tumbling upon them
with my day-heart and my needle lip
ruffling them to wreathes.
in the quickening turn the run of things
the birds fenced in by fog and wind
the browning days
the dug-in sun.
The dying season. And the rain comes
loud as a twinning sound
pooling in the dents that absence has left.
Copyright © 2012, Gillian Prew
Gillian Prew's webpage
Were I to attempt a formal conclusion of this meditation on aesthetics, I'd probably say something like this: the beautiful is sometimes darkly veiled, but the ugly is always apparent.