Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I See A Darkness

Guido Reni (17th century), St Sebastian, Oil on canvas, and X-ray of the painting carried out as part of conservation by the Auckland City Art Gallery, NZ

Darkness: "We have considered darkness as a cause of the sublime; and we have all along considered the sublime as depending on some modification of pain or terror: so that if darkness be no way painful or terrible to any, who have not had their minds early tainted with superstitions, it can be no source of the sublime to them. But, with all deference to such an authority, it seems to me, that an association of a more general nature, an association which takes in all mankind, and make darkness terrible; for in utter darkness it is impossible to know in what degree of safety we stand; we are ignorant of the objects that surround us; we may every moment strike against some dangerous obstruction; we may fall down a precipice the first step we take; and if an enemy approach, we know not in what quarter to defend ourselves; in such a case strength is no sure protection; wisdom can only act by guess; the boldest are staggered, and he, who would pray for nothing else towards his defence, is forced to pray for light."

Blackness: "Though the effects of black be painful originally, we must not think they always continue so. Custom reconciles us to everything. After we have been used to the sight of black objects, the terror abates, and the smoothness and glossiness, or some agreeable accident, of bodies so coloured, softens in some measure the horror and sternness of their original nature; yet the nature of their original impression still continues. Black will always have something melancholy in it, because the sensory will always find the change to it from other colours too violent; or if it occupy the whole compass of the sight, it will then be darkness; and what was said of darkness will be applicable here."

Edmund Burke, On the Sublime and Beautiful


bruno said...

stunning piece of (found) art. Adds such dark depths to the original facial expression. Insight?

'I see a darkness'...Bonny Prince Billy?

Thanks Jacky,

jacky bowring said...

... yes, the x-ray intensifies the angst somehow, as though it's a psychic rather than physical device, revealing the inner state of things...
"I see a darkness," in my mind, is always the Man in Black ...
cheers, jacky