On Beauty (Chapter-2)

Abdullah Motaleb
Art & Literature, Story
On Beauty (Chapter-2)

i realise, i am hasty in this conversation. some paragraphs are difficult to read, some are confusing. i have repeated myself. i have tried to eliminate confusion, where possible. this is an apology.

in my small world, i’m working on limited information. for years i had been collecting information. i had forgotten where these information came from. it seems that after all these years these information are being connected in ways i never thought of. even during my study i had to economize on what i needed. i had concentrated on a few topics. there had been some predispositions in the choice of the topics. the modern had been around me since my childhood. we lived in houses that were rectangular “boxes” with horizontal window openings, not necessarily well proportioned, but roughly following the idea of cubical volumes of bauhaus. when i came to germany i ended up in a town named augsburg, highly charged with roman history, then the renaissance later. the holbeins came from this town, the welzers, the family fugger are still in the town. when i was sent to learn german, i had gone to a small alpine town, murnau. kandinski, gabrielle muenter, javlensky had been in this town. when i went on my first school trip, this was to florence. i realized all these just recently. i had no choice but to follow the bauhaus ideas, look deeper into the renaissance. the bauhaus, the renaissance, these were the leads that fell into my hand without my asking or doing. no teacher or school had set me on these tracks. i had no use for post modernism. deconstructivism touched me so far as we were looking into the russian constructivism and de stijl deeply at the time. the deconstructivists, whoever they might be, had also been sparing with the same period in art. that my childhood favourite reading was a russian book only adds to the predisposition of dealing with the russian moderns.

i had been collecting information for a long time. this collection had begun without my knowing. it had been random, unconscious. it began with the gazing. later, there were the schools i had visited. they passed on information in a more organized way. the information came in portions and separated in subject matters. this was like a dinner table. we all sat around the table and the food was on the table. there was a difference. though the food, the rice, the vegetable the meat were separated a child would learn to mix them in a certain way. eating rice only and then the vegetable, later the meat would not have been satisfying. the rice would have been dull. i had learned to mix them. it may have been the  mother first, who had mixed the meal and fed the child. it was tasty. the grandmothers, the aunts might also have done the same. the child began to realize that they all had their own way of mixing. the same food would taste slightly different. the child may have gone from one person to the other, try from their plates, note the differences. the food would be mixed with the hand. the same hand would feed the child. the hand may have added to the taste. the child would remember the intimacy, the closeness. the food and the hand would add a new layer to the act of eating, the primary need. trust and bonding would be the other layers now melting into the primary need. the table where the school had served information lacked these layers. information became dull. the school, serving information, had its own need the in forming mediocrity.

the schools did not teach me how to mix what was being served. each information came by its own. math was math, geography was geography. nothing seem to go together. very dull. i was also not sure, what i could do with the information that was being handed out. you will need these information later, in the future. i thought i had time, plenty of time. future was so far away, i could not see it arriving. I am still waiting for the future to arrive. there was no need to pay attention to what was being offered in the classrooms. i remember the rhythm of the learning of those days, but not what i was supposed to learn. it had also been difficult to respect those who were teaching. these teachers had been very dull and very boring men and women. some of these men and women were thought to be good teachers. the good teachers were those who were only more strict, they punished more if a child made mistakes, if a child did not obey. the children were taught to be obedient and to follow rules. they were only good at punishing and nothing else really. the table, breaming with exciting information, became colourless. i doubt if the teaches themselves saw excitement in the information they were passing on to the children. i was fed plain rice, plain vegetable here. they did not even bother to spice the vegetables. this did not make my future that was yet to come any easier. i had not been attentive in the classroom, sitting around that table.

i have not read much, but the writers have still shown me the way.

it was an art historian who wrote, in his books he would only discuss the works he had personally seen and studied. he did not want to rely on second hand information, come up with his own assessments. the idea attracted me. the writer had set up his own rules, he had explained why he had set up a particular rule. these rules began to make sense to me. so, i began to look at the works myself, make my own ideas. once i grasped some aspect of these works, i would collect more information, dig a little deeper. this has now become my rule. as i’m a slow reader, it becomes a rule to concentrate on the few books. this is a difficult rule as not all art works are close at hand. I would need time too. taking a quick glance is not enough. the images of a work do not show all aspects, there are works images reproduced in the books do not do justice to. books had been expensive. concentrating on few books would make sense. the museums had been expensive.

at some point i found a novelist. i don’t remember when or how. i rediscovered him in london, it was another simple coincidence. his colonial background, his disrootedness, his arrival in an english town made him close. he had wanted to be a writer, had to find his own way. he wrote that you have to read a book often. every time you will find a new aspect in the book. your experience reshapes the book, gives it a different twist. if you know a little about the writer, it drives the book again. if you know the time, the circumstances around the writer, this gives another depth. you begin to see the structure of the book, the making of the story, the construction of the book.the story may describe places and landscape. if you visit these places and landscapes, your imagination will melt with the smell your nose had picked up, add details your eyes had seen. you may have noted the weather when you had walked the place, the town, roamed the streets or the landscape. all these together gives a pleasure too. you begin to look at your own situation, reflect on your own point of view, while reading the book. another rule then.

the novelist, still quite young, not knowing what he would be writing about, went out to study in an english town. there was a world to discover. his father, once wishing to be a writer himself, had implanted the idea in his son. the father had shown a little of the beginning of the way. there had been books to read, of famous writers. the novelist, still quite young, was at a loss. he did not have a book to write, he had only the wish to write. reading the books did not help writing his own book. he had to find his way to writing. this writing would have to be different. the need for the difference had to do with his biography. it would not be easy. writing in the format of the writers before him, would not be possible. he went on a search. he had to define himself first. this defining is important. he had realized, he had been disrooted. this disrootedness showed him other possibilities. his way of writing is different. i could feel the urgency of this novelist, his desperation.the writer had explained his urgency many times, in many ways. i have borrowed this rule, made it my own.

i had come upon an artist through a physicist. i was absorbed with the physicist for quite a while. in an interview he had talked about beauty. an artist friend had blamed him for taking a rose apart, as a scientist, and ruining the beauty of the rose. the physicist didn’t agree to the argument. the physicist could not follow the reproach. he said, you look at the flower, its colour, you appreciate the smell, you dig a little deeper, find the atoms, the smaller world, see how the flower is put together. you see the bee that sucks honey, you ask, can the bee see colours? the scientist does not ruin the beauty, he sees the beauty in many layers. the scientist sees many interesting questions that rise from this closer look at the flower. when the physicist was asked why he does not like to talk to people who are not scientists, he said that’s not true and singled out one artist. that had made me curious.

i had been obsessed with the artist the physicist had mentioned for over a year. the artist had a few things to say. i was having a bit of a problem understanding what i was doing, why this urge for “zero detail”, why this urge for simplicity. i was drowning in the cacophony around me. the layers of the decorative was obscuring the view. i wanted clarity. even during my studies, i wanted clarity in my work. on days of frustration, my wife would help. we have worked it out together. my teachers were not much of a help. they were drowning in their post modernist world. less was not their idea, they wanted more. the old town I had lived in, once roman, so important during the renaissance, now has crumbled into mediocrity, a nondescript little town of no importance. it did not inspire. my drawings did not make sense to my teachers, they were missing lines. more lines, please. what lines? i did not see more lines than i had drawn. i thought, i had them all on my paper. no, they persisted. i had submitted those drawings with less lines. someone thought, the drawings were abstractions,not constructive enough. the building will look different, when built. they do not. only now, this artist provided a possible reasoning.


to be continued… ]

Releted Posts