Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Arnolfini


I got a ticket for the Canaletto exhibition. What possessed me? Too much money for the ticket, too much people in the gallery, too much bright, shiny detail in most of the paintings.  But redeemed because I had to wait an hour for my time-slot and therefore wandered and washed up in front of van Eyck's turbaned man, whose copy and reverberations I was looking at just the other day, and next to him, in a sublime small room, the Arnolfini Portrait. As though I'd never seen the latter famous painting before. The balance of light and space. Space held upwards and outwards by his upraised hand. Light on their pale, northern faces. The weight of that central space that shifts downwards as you look, towards an apex in the white-hemmed lower folds of her gown. Gulping as the space falls inside me like the downward-shifting centre of gravity I sometimes feel at my core when I've been sitting in meditation for a while. This falling egg-shape full of light and space between the figures (actually not falling, but suspended - an illusion of falling just as in meditation I'm not falling, but only centring, settling). The egg, head, face... and pleasure crackles in my tensing and un-tensing jaw muscles like eating ice-cream on a hot day. I never felt such extremes of aesthetic pleasure when I was younger. Might it keep getting more and more intense as I come to it with an increasingly heavy frame of age and experience, an increasingly visceral knowledge of the shape and texture of things? That is something to hope for and be curious about.

5 comments:

Dick said...

You capture brilliantly the activity within all that stillness, Jean. I always admire your eye-to-hand coordination when you write about the visual!

Lucy said...

I hope it may, for you and all of us.

Happy New Year, Jean.

jkdavies said...

lovely words to describe one of my favourite pictures, thank you!

Beth said...

Again, you've captured something essential about the looking-at-art process and put it into words...this picture has fascinated me for a long time too, maybe mostly because of that green, which just does something to my brain.

Happy New Year!

liliannattel said...

I saw the painting fresh with what you said--I wish I could see it in 3d. Someday!