Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry (1)

Jacques Maritain. The A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts. New York: Meridian Books. 1955.

An Experiment in Reading. I read this book as an experiment in reading. I had no interest in its topic. My sampling of its text showed me that it was incredibly dense and its sentences convoluted. The question I asked myself was this: what will happen if I use my method of reading, a method that helps to immerse me in books, even books as difficult as this one? I began by reading the first and last paragraphs of each chapter. And then I read one sentence a page through the entire book. Would I understand it? Would I become interested in its subject? What would I learn about creative intuition in art and poetry?

Draw you own conclusions.

Why read it? Creative intuition is the seed of art and poetry. Poetry is a process in communication between the artist and the inner spirit of the objects outside the artist. Oriental art concentrates on the inner spirit of the object, not the inner spirit of the artist. Western art has developed from the outside object to the inner consciousness of the artist’s mind.

Music is the greatest of arts because it goes beyond words to express the inexpressible.

Sample quotes and ideas. The ideas in bold-face print are my attempts to paraphrase the quote.

Art: “By art I mean the creative or producing, work-making activity of the human mind.” [Art: creative work of the mind.] p, 3.

“By poetry I mean, not the particular art which consists in writing verses, but a process both more general and more primary: that intercommunication between the inner being of things and the inner being of the human self which is a kind of divination…. Poetry, in this sense, is the secret life of each and all of the arts.” [Poetry does not mean writing verses; it’s intercommunication between the inner being of things outside of us and the inner being of the self. Therefore, poetry as Maritain defines it is the spirit or soul of all art.] p. 3.

“The Oriental artist would be ashamed of thinking of his ego and intending to manifest his own subjectivity in his work. His first duty is to forget himself. He looks at things, he meditates on the mystery of their visible appearance and on the mystery of their secret life force.” [The Oriental artist forgets himself and concentrates on the inner spirit of the things he observes.] p. 10.

“Better to say, a work of art is not simply an object fashioned by the artist and existing on its own. The work is brought to completion, the work exists, only when it is seen—as a meeting place where two minds (the artist’s and the beholder’s) join one another: it veritably exists only as a vehicle of actual ideal communication.” [A work of art is a vehicle for communication between the artist and the beholder.] p. 11.

Chinese art “…is a contemplative effort to discover in things and bring out from things their own engaged soul and inner principle of dynamic harmony, their ‘spirit,’ conceived as a kind of invisible ghost which comes down to them from the spirit of the universe and gives them their typical form of life and movement.” [Chinese art aims at the spirit which animates the things it observes and the artist contemplates.] p. 13.

“A…typical difference from Indian art appears in the major importance given by the Chinese artist to empty spaces, to silent times: because what matters above all is the power of suggestion of the work….” [For the Chinese artist, most important is the power of suggestion.] p. 14.

Oriental art is the opposite of Western individualism and never says, ‘I.’ It endeavors to hide the human self and to stare only at things…which reveals the secret meanings of things.” [From concentration on things to concentration on the subjective self of the artist.] p. 17.

“Western art has progressively laid stress on the artist’s self and, in its last phase, has plunged more and more deeply into the individual, incommunicable universe of creative subjectivity.” [The last phase is illustrated by Dostoevsky, Virginia Woolf and James Joyce.] p. 28.

To be continued.

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