...that I began to appreciate paintings by the Impressionists.
About 30 years ago. Half my life ago. I'm sure that others, from a more cultured background, came to those paintings at a much earlier age. I don't think I even knew those paintings existed until I was around 30 years old. Why did it take so long? It's all hazy.
I'm still asking myself the question: "What's the deal with Monet?"
I don't mean: "What can be said about the formal characteristics and rendered effects of his works?" I'm not interested in dry academic commentary on technique and theory of light.
I'm interested in thinking about Monet's artistic unconscious.
I think all great artists -- painters, composers, poets -- are fantasists. Their works are much less about documentary compulsions taking place in the real world (landscape, structure, diary) than they are about unconscious retrievals of substance from the far side. That's why great works have an unusual effect on us. Unconscious mood has come to presence in palpable shapes, and we are confronted with objects -- painting, sonata, poem -- that are infused with an otherworldly aspect.
I think Monet did more than accomplish a flecky capturing of natural transience. I think his fracturing of light and mardi grasing of shadow also transported into this world a metaphysical substance from somewhere beyond the waking mind.
|Under the Poplars, Sunlight Effect|
With Monet, fantasy -- the extraordinary -- comes to spiritual presence and combines its fibers with those of the ordinary -- the French scene. Like the painter, the composer is also a fracturing artist. The composer disintegrates time, re-imagines it as melody, harmony, and rhythm. Recasts time into new light and shadow, allowing an otherness to leak through. Like the painter and the composer, the poet is also a fracturing artist. The poet opens up language, re-energizes it into metaphor and cadential gesture. Recasts language into new light and shadow, allowing an otherness to leak through.
Perhaps at night, that fantastical unconscious substance latent on the far side of dreams filters into our dreams, creates that disquieting and wondrous background aura to our dreams. Then in the moody trances of great artists (Monet for this blog post), that fantastical unconscious substance makes its farther way into the created works.
|The Artist's House at Argenteuil|
Isn't there an aura of the ideal, of the farfetched, of the fantastic in a Monet canvas? What's deeply ironic about all this is that fantasy just might be the psychosis of the actual Real. The actual Real can't possibly be but is. Might not the impossible-actual be a suitable region for artistic appropriation?
Whatever the unconscious is, I think it's safe to say that it's connected to, rooted in all the subtle dimensions of being. Our DNA is most likely a mute semiotics, a chemical raconteur of the infinite weird. Monet, I suggest, painted in such a way that the psychosis of the actual peers out at us between painted flecks.
|Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge|
A great work of art is a palimpsest of the fantastic occurring upon the actual.
Now, don't get me started on Van Gogh, the Post-Impressionist. He did more than unconsciously dream fantastic substance from the far side into this side. He wrenched it from there and exploded it into here, revealed it in all its shocked, hysterical, naked coloration.