Language and Seeing

Extract from The Invitation by Barry Lopez as published in the last issue of Granta (n. 133), a thoughtful meditation on language and seeing:

“When I was young, and just beginning to travel with them, I imagined that indigenous people saw more and heard more, that they were overall simply more aware than I was. They were more aware, and did see and hear more than I did. The absence of spoken conversation whenever I was traveling with them, however, should have provided me with a clue about why this might be true; but it didn’t, not for a while. It’s this: when an observer doesn’t immediately turn what his senses convey to him into language, into the vocabulary and syntactical framework we all employ when trying to define our experiences, there’s a much greater opportunity for minor details, which might at first seem unimportant, to remain alive in the foreground of an impression, where, later, they might deepen the meaning of an experience.”

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Balloons

By Sylvia Plath

Since Christmas they have lived with us,
Guileless and clear,
Oval soul-animals,
Taking up half the space,
Moving and rubbing on the silk

Invisible air drifts,
Giving a shriek and pop
When attacked, then scooting to rest, barely trembling.
Yellow cathead, blue fish —-
Such queer moons we live with

Instead of dead furniture!
Straw mats, white walls
And these traveling
Globes of thin air, red, green,
Delighting

The heart like wishes or free
Peacocks blessing
Old ground with a feather
Beaten in starry metals.
Your small

Brother is making
His balloon squeak like a cat.
Seeming to see
A funny pink world he might eat on the other side of it,
He bites,

Then sits
Back, fat jug
Contemplating a world clear as water.
A red
Shred in his little fist.

Balloon Before Waterfall. Roman Signer. 1982.

Balloon Before Waterfall. Roman Signer. 1982.


Waterfall

Waterfall. James Dickson Innes. 1911.

Waterfall. James Dickson Innes. 1911.


La Perte de Pucelage

La Perte de Pucelage (The Loss of Virginity). Paul Gauguin. 1890-91.

La Perte de Pucelage (The Loss of Virginity). Paul Gauguin. 1890-91.

The Loss of Virginity relates a young girl’s sexual awakening to the natural landscape. Gauguin referred to the fox – a recurrent motif in his work – as the ‘Indian symbol of perversity’, though Breton folklore also identifies it with sexual power. The crowd of figures in the background may be a wedding party coming to meet the deflowered girl. Although painted in Paris at a time when Gauguin was closely involved with Symbolist writers and critics, the landscape is recognisable from other works that he made in Brittany. The model was Juliette Huet, a seamstress. She was two months pregnant at the time, and gave birth to their daughter Germaine while Gauguin was in Tahiti.

Text from Tate


Natural Orchestra

Sounds from my tree house at night (Trinidad). Listen to the sound of “silence”.
Musicians: frogs, crickets, geckos, beetles, etc.


Trivaux Pond

Trivaux Pond. Henri Matisse. 1916-7.

Trivaux Pond. Henri Matisse. 1916-7.


Arenig

Arenig, North Wales. James Dickson Innes. 1913.

Arenig, North Wales. James Dickson Innes. 1913.