When I think of art, my mind goes to the usual places: paintings, poetry, sculpture, music.
It takes a brain much more sophisticated than mine to reinterpret the idea of art entirely, and the artists who have done so are the people responsible for breaking barriers and opening doors that would otherwise remain locked up tight. They are the masters—always controversial in their day—Gauguin, Picasso, e.e.cummings, Warhol.
Is Berndnaut Smilde on this list?
Take a look at his photos and see for yourself.
Smilde has created an absolutely unique series of images by placing small man made clouds in otherwise “banal spaces” and photographing them. The juxtaposition between what looks like a normal cloud formation commonly seen floating—for the most part unnoticed—miles overhead, and the ordinary rooms they are suddenly framed by is mesmerizing.
But great artwork is more than just a pretty or interesting, or even a madly innovative picture. It has a universal message too—and Smilde’s message (the one I perceived)—is what spoke to me.
“Life can be found only in the present moment. The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life.” Thich Naht Hahn
One of the great Buddhist teachings, and something which has been recognized and taught throughout history in all corners of the world, is that the only certainty is change. Therefore, to cling to the past or the present, is to live in un-reality. The only way to be truly aware of the miracle of our own lives is to accept and observe change.
What could exemplify this principle better than an unlikely cloud—a thing which transforms every moment right before our eyes–floating in a room which gives every illusion of eternal stability?
Berndnaut Smilde may or may not be a great artist, but his cloud pictures are important. They invite us into a meditation on impermanence which lends new energy to a very old idea. And that, at its essence, is what great art is supposed to do.
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Editor: Renée Picard