Monday, October 15, 2012

An interesting way of thinking about the effects of art

In recently reading Helen Humphreys' 2004 novel Wild Dogs, I came across a passage that I thought expressed, in a really interesting way, the effects of an artwork on one individual.

Here, one character (a non-artist) is commenting on the work of his roommate, Malcolm Dodd.

I don’t think Malcolm Dodd is a very good painter, but what do I know about painting anyway? At night, when he is watching his pornography, I sometimes sneak into the room he uses as a studio and have a look at what’s on the easel. It’s usually a tangled web of lines and colours. If I look hard, I might be able to see a bowl of apples or a tree, but often the subject of the painting remains a mystery to me. I cannot really see the value in it, although I will often like a particular colour. There was a red in one of the paintings that was deep and yet shimmering, like the sun going down underwater. The red outlined what looked like a range of hills, and I did think about that red after I had left the studio. It did stay with me, not quite a feeling, not nearly a memory, but something lasting; so I suppose one could determine that painting a success—at least with me.

When I think about it, I think the red lasted for me as a taste lasts in your mouth after something you’ve just eaten. The taste is so much less than the food was, but it’s also something other than a memory because it’s the echo of something so recent. What is it then? It’s not a memory, but rather it’s a barrier against forgetting.

No comments: