Posts Tagged ‘Minnaert’

Store of happiness

August 19, 2010

This week, instead of the proposed risky attempt to call back the heatwave – after all, we don’t want a hosepipe ban – I’ve decided to focus on a very desirable seasonal effect, in the hope that the weather will take a gentle hint, and do a bit more of what we like to see in August. Store of happiness is a one-elephant artist’s book made from a sheet of handmade paper, torn and folded into a book form, which you read by opening and turning the pages, following the spiral form of the book.

The text is by from La Possession du Monde by Duhamel, quoted in one of my favourite books, M. Minnaert’s Light and Colour in the Open Air, and like the text in The lovely blue, it’s characteristically brimming with an infectious enthusiasm for the delights of nature, while being rather formally expressed; the lettering reflects this combination of firmness and pleasure. I’ll show it to you page by page.

This way of looking at nature – Do not depart before you have understood – reminds me of Margaret Tait’s penetrative investigating gaze, as described in her text ‘On seeing’ in Subjects and Sequences: A Margaret Tait Reader. She calls it ‘peering’ through the camera lens, a combination of studying and contemplating that allows her to see the thing more deeply, to ‘follow’ it. This in turn reminds me of Van Gogh’s opinion (in an 1888 letter to Theo) that ‘It’s not enough to have a certain dexterity. It is looking at things for a long time that ripens you and gives you a deeper understanding.’

Margaret Tait suggests further that ‘treating everything equally’ is also important – that ‘the woman standing here, and the leaf on the wall, it’s all got equal significance.’ This is another echo of Minnaert’s inspiring philosophy. Some obedient close observation of birch trees against the February sky this year proved that it’s absolutely true about the ‘delicate glow’ – a pleasure to look forward too, but not just yet.

The Summer hath her joyes,

And Winter her delights.

(Thomas Campian)

Perhaps I should repeat the first line of that couplet.

The lovely blue

June 25, 2010

Considering what a drastic effect my One Elephant book Shelley’s Cloud had on the weather the weekend I made it in March, and the equally inevitable result of the reckless Bank Holiday Clouds, I felt it my duty as a good citizen to make The Lovely Blue – hence this unprecedented sunshine for Glastonbury. If you’re going to make a spell for a heatwave, you might as well make it a good long one, so it’s double-sided, and 12 pages instead of the usual 6; I’ll show it page by page as usual.

In unending beauty the blue sky spans the earth.

It is as if this blue were fathomless,

as if its very depth were palpable.

The variety of its tints is infinite;

it changes from day to day, from one part of the sky to another.

What can be the cause of this wonderful blue?

What are these particles of matter that scatter light in the atmosphere?

In the summer after long drought the air is filled with dust and the sky seems less blue and more whitish.

But after a few heavy showers, the air becomes clear and transparent, the sky a deep and saturated blue.

Whenever high cirrus clouds appear filling the air with ice crystals the lovely blue disappears and changes into a much whiter colour.

Therefore it can be neither the dust not the particles of water and ice that cause the scattering that colours the heavenly vault.

The only possibility is that the molecules of air themselves scatter the light, causing a brightness many miles deep with a decided preference for the violet and blue rays.

Text by M. Minnaert, from Light and Colour in the Open Air

The sheet of paper before tearing and folding looked like this:

And like this when folded:

Let’s hope it lasts; the only bit that worries me is page 9.