Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Two seasons in one day

Oscar Wilde, in his essay ‘The Decay of Lying’, proposed that ‘Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life’. My understanding of his argument is that art provides a structure and a way of looking at the world, and that the ‘perception filter’ that results is our only window on the world, hence to all intents and purposes is the world, at least for us. We understand objective reality subjectively and art plays a key role in revealing that reality to us but also colours how we see it. Taking the example of London fogs, Wilde explains that we see these as beautiful because ‘poets and painters have taught the loveliness of such effects’. I’m not sure I buy that entirely, but I do think that art plays a key role in 'making strange' or making us look again at what otherwise would appear quotidian and banal. This certainly is often the case with art that takes natural history as its subject, giving us fresh perspective on familiar animals, plants and landscapes. One of the things I like about Dunc's work is the transformative power of collecting objects together.

That act of making strange can also occur naturally. This morning, as we set off on our bikes, a thick fog limited visibility to 40 yards or so. Familiar shapes reared out of the mist, with trees, birds and hedgerows suddenly appearing silhouetted, forbidding and alien. Some miles into our ride, the sun suddenly broke through and the mist dissipated almost immediately, leaving a warm, blue-sky day. Such a quick transformation of the landscape, from autumnal mist to summer sun was slightly unnerving, but made me revel again in nature’s constant renewal. Although we cycle those lanes every day, there is so often something new, something startling, something strange to see or experience, I can’t imagine getting bored of it. I am sure that art I have enjoyed plays a role, but I am conscious as well that this act of writing encourages me to notice, to enjoy and ultimately to share my delight.

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