Art is the projection of reality through illusion – and you’ll perhaps agree that’s about as accurate as you can get with such short a definition standing for what I hold to be the epimyth of some thought-provoking story I stumbled upon in utterly serendipitous manner.
Regardless its grades of enhancement or focalisation, art reflects- and the anecdote I’m about to share invites to ruminate on exactly that.
It all concerns an ancient, highly metaphorical contest between two radically dissimilar artists, a Chinese and a Greek respectively, whom Alexander the Great once commanded to decorate opposite walls of a vault so he could flaunt, in good old Western fashion, the creative superiority of his race.
Only the denouement thwarted this purpose.
Medieval poet Nizami relates how, when the time expired, a curtain previously placed down the middle of the room was elevated to disclose the duo’s work. Since the Chinese polished his wall, while the Greek took to painting his, the first perfectly mirrored the latter with no disparity in drawing or colour, save for the fact that “one was giving and the other receiving”.
Naturally, Alexander’s bemusement prevented him from giving a prompt verdict and the curtain was lowered for an interlude of pondering – at which point he realized the Chinese “picture” was mere deceptive reflection.
Does this enigmatic story imply, as a few Met curators believe, that “the active production of images and the passive reception of visual stimuli are both aspects of artistic activity”?
Alexander resumed to declaring a tie, considering each superior in his metier.
But have the hustle-avid synapses of our ever sedulous brains genuinely been satisfied by it?
Can’t we add more flash to Nizami’s anorexic conclusion?
And to further prolong the rhetoric Cicero-like:
Is art more reflection than representation?
Patricia Beykrat – the Roving Aesthete