Art VS Literature

Do you ever ask yourself pointless questions?

I often ask myself – “If you had to choose between your most preferred fine art pieces and your most preferred poems/books, which would you choose?” Now, obviously, I will likely never be in a situation where the answer to this question will be a matter of life and death, but perhaps this is why I ask myself these questions – the knowledge that my mind will be free to wander for as long as it cares to wander.

I have never come up with a solid answer (this is unsurprising for me), but I seem to lean towards written word. There is something about the fine art I’m drawn to that hits me with an instantaneous feeling, and I can tell from a considerable distance away that I will indeed enjoy a piece. Unfortunately it is not proper decorum to run in a museum, so I immediately make subtle haste to bypass all the other unfitting works to feast my eyes. Personally, I find the most satisfaction in deciphering what these feelings are and what it is about the piece that inspired this reaction. The longer I stare and become immersed in the artist’s work, the more possibilities I find to feel and draw from different emotions. I can relate it to my personal principles or life paradigm, periods of history I am interested in, or simply images I am naturally attracted to, …overall it fits somewhere within my life story. Typically, I will write the name of the piece and its artist down for future research and I will usually be haunted by the image for the rest of the day (or in some magical cases, for the rest of my life).

Perhaps my favorite painting in existence – Laocoon, El Greco

But, alas, here is where the answer to my nagging question can be found! I am constantly adding to my collection of post cards (miniatures of the paintings I will likely never afford a larger copy of) or even poster-style imitations, and though I love these pieces and stare at a few most days, they will never resonate the same way that my favorite poem or book does.

The only “museums” of written word to be found are libraries and book shops. If you are a self-proclaimed nerd such as I, you enjoy frequenting these often enough – searching for that next new thrilling read or collection of poems. The process is much more difficult than finding a new piece of art, for there is no curator to set the atmosphere, arrange, and attempt to catch your attention. First, you have to find the right section, then the right author, and ultimately a comfy place to sit where people won’t give you dirty stares for blockading the tiny row barely big enough for one. Oh, and, just to note, my definition of “right” constantly changes. The process is long, arduous, tiring, and the majority of times end in a fail. But, when you do happen to stumble upon that novel the satisfaction gained makes you forget that you had been sitting or standing for a considerable length of time and your eyes would have to be peeled off the pages if distracted without warning. Sometimes it takes a couple of pages, and other times, a few sentences (the power to do this rests solely with my favorite authors). My mind is taken to places without the physical boundaries a painting defines and I am free to be captivated by the words in a beautiful process of the author’s thoughts colliding with my own. In the case of my favorite poems and novels, there are lessons within that will last me a lifetime. I can reread these works and feel as if it is the first time, or relish in my new enlightened perspective and how this has changed my impression.

So, when I really think about which I would prefer, if say, stranded on a desert island, the answer would be my favourite works of literature. It is only written word that has the power to completely encapsulate me and have a lasting impact. Perhaps it is because the relationship is less instantaneous (I have a tendency to value that which requires effort), or maybe because of the intimacy one can gain with an author, or maybe it’s just the way my mind works and I am over-contemplating things (as usual).

There are times when the two unite to create an explosion of earthly intellectual nirvana. One of my best museum experiences was a visit to the Leopold Museum in Vienna, Austria. I’m not sure whether this was the work of the curator or not but I am thankful to whoever thought of the amazing layout. For each piece of art, there was an associated poem, either from the artist or a different author, drawing from the same themes of the piece. Here was the chance to experience the immediate responses from the visual with the more lasting impacts of words – united in the creation of a holistic onslaught of emotion.

Thankfully, I will never have to choose between the two. Artists and writers, past and present, will continue to make life on this earth all the more magnificent.

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