Art and Architecture
Andrea Palladio. A lot of people spend time indoors. We admire great buildings. Venice has one of the best architecture. Andrea designed buildings when he was 30. He designed many villas. Finally, he emerged as top architect of Venice. To me, architecture has to have a clear purpose. There are rules for great buildings too. We should build in order to encourage good states of mind in ourselves. It helps us with calm, harmony and dignity. Symmetrical shapes help bring calm. Buildings should be well fitted and aligned well. These are powerful coherent buildings. Buildings should gave dignity to aspects of life which are seen as unworthy. Buildings should compensate us for our weaknesses. We need serene, harmonious and confident buildings. They are rules for architecture as well. One could follow mathematical ratios. Buildings should be made symmetrical.
Johannes Vermeer (1632 to 1675). Many things are glamorous. Artists can capture scenes of beauty which are commonly overlooked by many. These are deep moments of contemplation. Even bread and butter can be satisfying. Simple homely pleasures are important as well. He did a lot of painting in his free time. His famous work was ‘The Girl with the Pearl Earring’. Thoughts for the non-renowned are important and should be considered too. Artists have the power to make the ordinary look special. Sometimes, in life, doing modest things are sufficient.
Most of life is taken up dealing with things which are routine, ordinary, humble, modest and (to be honest) a touch dull. Our culture should focus on getting us to appreciate the average, the everyday and the ordinary. – Johannes Vermeer
Caspar David Friedrich. Art can teach us how to suffer. His distinctive style emerged slowly. He depicted sufferings in his paintings. Tragedy and grief could also express emotions and solemn moods around. Solitude brings with it our deepest possibilities. His works make us aware of our insignificance. We appreciate how small we are and that some things don’t matter. Learn to be conscious of our space and time in the grand scheme of things. Now, his works are deeply admired.
Henri Matisse. Sometimes, we need to remind ourselves of the bad things that happen in life. We are aware of the problems and injustice in the world. We feel small in the face of problems. Hope is to be celebrated and is a necessary part for success. The problem with the world was that there was too much darkness and misery, hence, we need to remind ourselves of happy things in life.
Edward Hopper. He is a painter of gloomy-looking paintings. The paintings help to accept loneliness. His paintings are gloomy, however can seem charming too. His works didn’t sell well. Even those he loved his wife, some part of him realized that he was still alone. Art can be therapeutic when addressing loneliness. When travelling, Hopper loved the introspective mood.
Oscar Niemeyer. Buildings looks the same everywhere. His buildings had motifs from the floor to ceiling. He practised Brazilian-infused modernism. One should use techniques like reinforced concrete in creative ways. He liked sensual curves of rivers, of a female body etc. The church he built had tiles across it. He created a building where you could work and relax and have a conversation that expands your mind. You could be sexually adventurous in your house as well. His architecture was also a future dream for Brazil. He created new buildings to reflect nationalism. To him, it was important for buildings to be culturally specific.
Louis Kahn. Kahn got inspired by the buildings in Rome due to their ancient designs. Yet, he managed to marry that concept with innovation and clarity. Kahn used symmetry, which was an old idea. Symmetry helps to provide a sense of balance and focus. He often used new materials for his office, like ceramic, copper etc. Wood can give warmth while concrete gives strength and stability. He was also a monumental architect. He could combine the old and the new and thus was very famous.
Coco Chanel. Fashion is a part of life. However, fashion nowadays is eccentric and foolish in nature. She started off as a designer of hats. In the past, clothes are complicated and very expensive. However, her clothes were inspiring in their design. She invented a better destination. She introduced a little black dress. The wearer looked energetic etc. The dress was designed to be long-lasting. She re-invented the black dress. The fashion sense would also be appropriate for 10 years later. She limited colour options to those that were essential and elegant. Elegance and grace was the big focus of her dresses and that was very important. She also designed jewellery and handbags. Her clothes are revolutionary because they were embodiments of good ideas.
Jane Jacobs. There is something compelling about cities. They are full of possibilities. Cities can be really complex on their own. She loved to explore the own city she lived in. She worked as a writer for a magazine. She married an architect later on in life. The problem with modern architecture was that it wasn’t want real people wanted. Architects should learn to respect urban order. These were usually the result of bad thinking. She realized that to know what people wanted, you have to walk around and explore the city. To her, diversity was very important. Cities should be like eco-systems. There needs to be a diversity of businesses. City blocks should be small so as to encourage more interactions between people. There should be a mix of old and new buildings. Cities should be dense in population. Cities should be compact.
Cy Twombly. Abstract art can seem meaningless to us. The key to abstract art is to appeal to people’s emotions. It represents inner rather than the outer world. What does the work feel like? Cy was an abstract artist. His work suggests a reflective life and ambition and confusion. He loved figurative and representational art. We should really think more about the slogans that we are exposed to in everyday life.
Andy Warhol. He was a glamorous figure of 20th century art. He was famous for making brightly coloured prints. Andy was largely an eccentric character. He was a celebrity, but also concentrated on his business. Throughout his lesson, he thought us the 4 important life lessons. They are 1) Appreciating everyday life. For instance, he loved the soup can. However, humans need to take a step back to appreciate them. Everything we do in life is interesting and note-worthy. The things we do all the time have their own merits. He groomed some countercultural eccentrics as ‘Superstars’. To him, people worked because they wanted a glamorous outlook in life. The choice of the right celebrities were important. He was good at both business and art and felt that they could go well together. To him, art should be accessible and not just restricted to a select rich few. We need the branding power of business to drive the power of art. Andy Warhol mastered many different genres of art. He died at the age of 58.
Dieter Rams. He was a great designer of everyday objects. He made the company ‘Braun’ famous. Design and functionality are closely linked. Dieter saw the beauty of simplicity. The radios he designed were simplistic and even the modern iPod took inspiration from it. The fact is that our lives are too cluttered and having simplicity is very beautiful indeed. Being simple is truly an achievement to be celebrated. There is value in modesty. The products had to improve other people’s lives. One needs to build empathy with the customer. An object should be easy to live with. Rams was classic too. His goal was to make enduring products, those which we didn’t need to throw away. Art and product design is very important.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude. They didn’t like producing art on a small scale and produced large-scale art. They wanted their art to fill up public spaces. Their art was produced on a massive scale. Their aim is just to make things beautiful and inspiring for all. The job of an artist is not just to dream of a better world, but to make it happen. To create large work, they needed the support of the government, of many users etc. Profit certainly wasn’t their main goal. This is the central plank of good commerce.
Jane Austen. She was an ambitious moralist and wanted to make people nicer in terms of their characters. She was elegant, a good dancer etc. However, she didn’t marry. She believed that the lover should educate you. The purpose of marriage is to educate and improve the other. It should be the union of both. Your spouse has to be able to make you feel relaxed and comfortable and overcome our failings. We have to judge more carefully. She doesn’t care as much of outer appearance as compared to integrity and other values. Learn to treat money seriously. One will need sufficient money before one can get married. Do not be overimpressed by what money can do. It is not wise to get married without enough money. Wealth is important to happiness, but not in terms of living in luxury. We mustn’t learn to be snobbish. Do not be all high handed in dealing with your hierarchy. Few people are snobbish. Secretly, Austen wants the world to be of a certain way which is appealing. This is why she is much loved as a writer.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. He was one of the big cultural heroes and excelled in many areas of his life. Many people were impressed by how he led his life. He learnt theatre in school. We can learn a lot of lessons from him. The first is ‘From Romanticism to Classicism in love’. Although romantic love is attractive and wonderful, it does have its deep problems when there is breakup etc. The movies paint romance to be fairy-tale like, but in reality, it is not very pretty. He believed more in Classicism, which is marked by pessimism. However, Romanticism felt more exciting. Later, Goethe worked for the government. There is dignity in administration and working for the government. He often sat in meetings and listened to others. He eventually created a model urban park. Travel was a form of therapy. He was inspired by Rome etc. However, when he reached Rome, he was a little disappointed. He realized he needed a guide. To him, travelling was not about relaxing, but about finding the missing ingredient of our own maturity. Later, he got back to his political and creative work. One should live life to the full: the Faustian hero. His most famous work was Faust. Faust was downtrodden until he was visited by Mephisto, a devil. The devil will offer him the ability to do whatever he wants. Faust realizes that want is wants is beauty and love, and not being a pure hedonist. You can use power and put in for noble use. To fully achieve, we have to flirt with things, but also hold on to a higher purpose. Science is for artsy people. He was known for his achievements in botany. He a hero for those with artistic and literary sense. He studied animals closely and how they interacted with one another. He was an awesome guy.
Leo Tolstoy. The novel was a form of psychological education and reform. He was born in 1828. He was not a good student in school. His marriage was difficult. He wrote War and Peace, Anna Karenina etc. The key lesson from his books are that if you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, they would seem kinder and more forgiving. We need to understand the ‘dislikeable’ characters. People are not as what they seem all the time. The thought of mortality should inspire continual kindness and sympathy in us. Tolstoy was a man of outstanding moral courage and generosity. He wrote an important essay. It was titled ‘What is Art?’ Art has the purpose of making the world kinder for all. We have to aspire to be something else.
Marcel Proust. He was a French writer who wrote the longest novel in the world. There were 7 volumes. It was deemed to be the greatest novel of all time. The title was ‘In Search of Lost Time’. It was about a guy seeking to find meaning and purpose in life. He wanted to stop wasting time and start living. There are potentially 3 sources for the meaning of life. The first is social success. The narrator worked his way up the social hierarchy. However, once you are there, you will realize that people are not extraordinary. Vices can be found throughout the population. It is normal for one to try and scale the social ladder. Love provides meaning to life. However, it is not possible to truly understand someone and conflict might arise. Loneliness is endemic. Hence, both the first 2 fail to provide meaning in life. The last is art. Human adults are too stuck in their routine and cannot get out of it. Children do not suffer this and find beauty in the world. We need to look at life with greater sensitivity. It is possible to find natural beauty everywhere, and not just in museums. There is a nice charm to everyday life. The work of artists are like long Proustian moments and they remind us that life is fascinating and lovely.
The reason why life may be judged to be trivial although at certain moments it seems to us so beautiful is that we form our judgement, ordinarily, not on the evidence of life itself but of those quite different images which preserve nothing of life – and therefore we judge it disparagingly. – Marcel Proust
Virginia Woolf. She captured a lot of emotions which she saw. She had famous parents but did not want to live a life of luxury. Later, she suffered a mental breakdown. She was a journalist and a novelist. She married Leonard. ‘To the Lighthouse’ is one of her most famous works. She committed suicide in 1941. Learn to notice everything. There was no minor situation, in her opinion. She was very aware of her surroundings. She was not ashamed of describing her illnesses. We should learn to accept the everyday. We should be a feminist. She liked to explore her sexuality. She also wanted to raise the status of women in society. Women also had the rights to education, intellectual freedom etc.
It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple; one must be woman-manly or man-womanly. – Virginia Woolf