Invisibly Visibile

If it wasn’t for a friend who lives nowhere near me, I would never have known about a little art exhibition currently running at the Everyman Gallery here on Beech Road, Chorlton. In fact, it’s directly opposite my living room! Funny how you can continually walk past something interesting right on your own doorstep; as if proximity conceals, or makes less remarkable. In the Gallery, up-and-coming poet painter Harry Matthews was showing 9 or 10 oil paintings on canvasses full of light and explorations of colour – appropriately enough titled “The Art of the Invisible”, in a nod to Johnathan Swift.1 While we made the most of the complimentary wine, he also treated us to an impromptu reading of some of his poetry.

Matthews’ paintings deal with traditional Romantic themes of nature, transcendence, the hidden, and the sublime, some in beautiful shades of spring green and yellow, others in watery blues or lilacs. Bold impressionistic brushstrokes and thick layers combine here and there with childish animal or human figures cheekily sketched and concealed almost like little palimpsests among foliage or hills or waterfalls. A Christian God is also very much present, more obvious in some places than in others. For me, there was something reminiscent of John William Waterhouse in a few of the works and of course, the spirit of J.M.W. Turner.

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Roses, water, visions, the ethereal. Matthews plays with styles and forms and with the relationships between the abstract and the more specific lines of subjective experience or interpretation. A boy? A girl? A wolf or a fox? A lake full of reflections or a hilly landscape? As the artist, who was sitting casually to one side (with only a faint whiff of opening night nervousness) told us more than once: “Everyone has been seeing something different. We see what we want to see”. In the gorgeous smoky clouds of Earth Dragon, Matthews, quoting Rainer Maria Rilke, suggests that “Only he who can expect anything, who does not exclude even the mysterious, will have a relationship with life greater than just being alive…Perhaps everything fearful is just helplessness that seeks our help“.2

1If anyone knows the source for the quote about vision please let me know!
2An alternative translation, by Stephen Mitchell.
But only someone who is ready for everything, who doesn’t exclude any experience, even the most incomprehensible, will live the relationship with another person as something alive and will himself sound the depths of his own being. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.

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2 responses to “Invisibly Visibile”

  1. Jemster says :

    Do you think Rainer Maria Rilke was also referring to a belief in, and relationship with God, when he referred to ‘the mysterious’? I think that people who are deeply religious would probably relate to that quote, don’t you? Since I am unable to believe in God I sometimes feel very envious of those who still do. I think they DO experience something more from life than I do, in the way that Rilke talks about. I think that if we could all travel into space and see the universe that there would not be as much emphasis placed on the idea of a God. Somehow there would be less need for the idea of ‘him’ if we could all see the reality of what is actually beyond us, above the confines of this planet. The universe is the most wonderous and mysterious place of all and we tend to forget that we are not at the the centre of it, which is one of the main themes of the whole ‘God’ idea. I apologise to anyone reading this who thinks I am talking a lot of bollocks!!

    • musingfrommanchester says :

      It’s not bollocks at all! You’re right, Rilke was exploring his relationship with what might be called the “Godly” or the religious, which we can all experience or feel. A lot of his works deal with the mystical and the spiritual. It’s not about organised religion. It’s deeper than that. Whatever your point of view it’s about being open and realising that we are surrounded by mysteries which now and then can be glimpsed, almost tangible. Here is another poem that you might like:

      We don’t need to believe in God to experience and be blown away by all the hidden or secret or transcendent aspects of our Universe. πŸ™‚

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