Brain Food #704
Experiencing art as regeneration
Thoughts of the day
In honour of Blue Monday, the third Monday of January and what has often been described as the most depressing day of the year, we revisit Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, a treatise and examination of the colour itself, and all its associations.
Les Bluets is in fact a painting by Joan Mitchell, and what Maggie Nelson called her ‘favourite painting of all time’.
One of the most powerful forces behind art is how it is a constant process of regeneration. Art gives birth to more art. Much of its wonder lies in the interaction between disciplines: novels get reborn into films, photographs turn into poetry, a painting might trigger a train of thought that gets captured into words. When no idea is feeling original, perhaps the creativity and originality lie in the process, in the execution.
When feeling blue, especially in the midst of winter, one might be facing numerous dead ends, seeking answers, questioning the point of it all. The simple act of being exposed to something new can unravel a range of possibilities.
American writer Lydia Davis recounts her experience of encountering the painting, following a visit to Vétheuil and the artist’s old studio.
“Two things happened at once: the painting abruptly went beyond itself, lost its solitariness, acquired a relationship to fields, to flowers; and it changed from something I understood into something I did not understand, a mystery, a problem […] Eventually I began to find answers to my questions, but they were not complete answers, and after a time I did not feel the need for complete answers, because I saw that part of the force of the painting was that it continued to elude explanation.”
Davis eventually lets go of trying to find meaning in it, not because it was meaningless, but because the answers she was seeking lay beyond the canvas.
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