Beyond Optical Vision

Happy birthday, Paul Klee.

On this day in 1879, Paul Klee was born. This morning’s post is adapted from Klee’s “Ways of Studying Nature,” and uses found phrases from Klee’s writing.

How can an artist not study nature when they are part of it? The method is going to vary with changing perceptions of one’s position in space, time, and the cosmos. I don’t mean to disparage the delight of novelty, but a clear view of history should save us from seeking it at the cost of an honest view of nature. For yesterday’s naturalists, the focus was on the precision of optical appearance, but the art of seeing on other planes was neglected. Today’s artist is a creature on a star among other stars, with a sense of totality of space. To witness the appearance is to meditate on what is beneath it. Anatomy becomes physiology, but there are other ways to behold, as with contact through a cosmic bond. All ways meet in the eye to synthesize an inward vision vastly different from the original image, yet without contradiction. Those blind to nature will label such depictions degenerate, but here is a new naturalness, the image of divine work in translation. 

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Paul Klee: The Thinking Eye. The Notebooks of Paul Klee, Vol.I, ed. Jurg Spiller, London and New York, 1961, pp.63-67.

Also featuring Paul Klee: What They Said While They Were Leaving