Unreal Nature

November 19, 2016

The Ugliness That Surrounds Us

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:13 am

… The modern metropolis, a giant focus of our unsettled world, spreads out upon the land in widening rings of visual disorder.

This is from The New Landscape in Art and Science by Gyorgy Kepes (1956; 1967):

… We do not walk upon the earth but on pavements outlined with mechanical precision; the sun is caught in giant canyons between skyscrapers; the streets are rivers of trucks and motor cars. The rhythm of our human movement and respiration is syncopated with the beats of steel muscles driven by electricity or gasoline. Giant machines compete with the coordination and power of beasts; buildings of steel and glass outstrip the energy and strength of nature’s structures. Small electronic tubes rival with flowers in their delicacy and order; and, in the early evening, when all coarse details dissolve in the dusk, skyscrapers are purified to elemental shapes and like giant Christmas trees decorate the sky.

But the full benefit of this richer world is not yet ours. To open the way to a new unison with nature, man and technique, we need a common key for the old and new. Our civilization has not provided it.

The industrial world sprang up without regarding our human need to find what Walt Whitman called the “primal sanities of nature.” Our technical wonders have not provided us with the wide visions of harmony and order but, increasing without plan, have jumbled the basic wealth of the mechanical era into a dazzling kaleidoscopic pattern which shocks and numbs our sensibilities.

The modern metropolis, a giant focus of our unsettled world, spreads out upon the land in widening rings of visual disorder.

… This is the world we continue to reproduce, and this is the world that shapes our vision. For the face of our environment has always influenced us profoundly, inspiring our imagination and renewing or destroying our self-confidence. The first snow of the year, as it brightens the streets, brightens our minds and hearts. Our distorted surroundings, by distorting us, have robbed us of the power to make our experience coherent. When visual responses are warped, visual creativeness is impaired.

… And so artists made first principles their first concern: clear, strong colors; shapes pared down to geometric simplicity; forms true to the movements that generate them and to the functions that they perform. Their search was consistent; and they attained a unified vision built up with the images to which they restricted themselves. In this way, their forms became symbols for natural order. Abandoning nature in its subject matter, their art became nature again by its organic quality. Artists use this integrated vision to re-enter their environment, in order to reshape our surroundings and restore them to nature — a higher nature informed by human understanding.

… But, as Ruskin noted in their day, and Mondrian in ours, the world that is painted is only a fragment of the landscape. Its positive impact on us is not enough to counterbalance the ugliness that surrounds us and overwhelms us.

… The technical landscape must be brought into harmony with the rhythms of the seasons, the breadth of the sky, the resources of the land. It must be made to correspond to the biological and psychological requirements of men.

My most recent previous post from Kepes’s book is here.




Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: