Imagining Art

The latest book I’ve read (non-fiction during Lent) turned out to be rather full of fiction but I’m telling myself that it doesn’t count because it was about art. This book was one I’d looked at in the Maccrimmons catalogue and thought it looked interesting and then I was fortunate enough to be given it from the late +Alan Smithson’s library.

In Borrowing the Eyes of Others, Denis McBride takes some famous paintings, and some not so famous, and imagines an inner conversation between the world depicted by the artist and the world of our own experience. It is written in a semi-poetic prose style and draws you in to use your own imagination when encountering art. The book includes paintings by Giorgione, Magritte, Cezanne, Van Gogh and others and were originally written for a retreat so are probably better heard than read. But I still enjoyed entering into his world of ‘the good and the bad, the wise and the foolish, the crooked and the cracked’.

If you were to write a story about this jolly priest, what would it be? The author’s meditation begins:

I just received a letter this morning

which began: “Dear Monsignore Portobello,

since my eyes were first favoured by the sight of you

processing up the aisle, on a visit to our cathedral,

I have dreamed, time and again, of being your cook

because I have never set eyes on a man

who so looks like he adores food,

and I know you would cherish my generous portions.”

And so it goes on in a delightful dream of this missionary priest in the Philippines who loves to cook for his parish. And so it goes on, in a delightful manner. These modern day parables will make you look at art in a very different way and I loved it.

Of course, I am not new to the idea of imagining the story behind the picture. In fact, I remember walking round an exhibition with a certain Provost as we imagining the stories behind the sculptures by Ron Mueck.  In fact we were surprised at how many of them were Piskies – well in our minds anyway.


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