Thursday, January 24, 2013

On the nature of things

Two bouquets. 20"x16". Oil on canvas panel. 2011
I've been reading two books, and, albeit very different, they came to be linked in my mind. The first one is Stephen Greenblatt's "The Swerve": a fascinating account of re-discovery of Lucretius's "On the Nature of Things" by Renaissance humanists and its "second life" in the modern world. The second is Wassily Kandinsky's "Concerning the spiritual in art", which I've been rereading for the purposes the discussion in the Artlandea community on Google+.  

Lucretius's poem and Kandinsky's manifesto may seem to be near opposites in ideas they defend: Lucretius is all about (and for) materialism (or "atomism", as it was known then), and Kandinsky is all against materialism, especially for artists (although he obviously has nothing against "atomism" per se). Yet just as Lucretius's ideas were strange and dangerous in the age when he was rediscovered, so Kandinsky's ideas seem to be strange, and maybe even dangerous, in the climate of contemporary "art world". And yet just as Lucretius's poem was picked up, copied, re-read, and later printed (thanks to Gutenberg), so it seems there is an increasing interest in reading and discussing Kandinsky now (although it hasn't been hidden in any monastery, its newly achieved easy accessibility as a free e-book, thanks to Project Gutenberg, might have helped). 

And by the way, in case you are wondering, yes, the idea that everything consists of atoms was indeed considered dangerous, and in direct contradiction with the Christian faith (therefore false, and enough for Inquisition), not so long ago. For lack of better reasons for historical optimism, this can give one hope that maybe, just maybe, in about four centuries, religion will find some way reconciliation with the evolutionary theory, as well.       

Post a Comment