The third postdoc position opening asks for recommendation letters. So I wrote to several professors, naturally including sensei, asking for permission to submit their contact details. I assume it’s a matter of yes or no. But in addition to agreeing, sensei suggested a discussion about it. I related this puzzling issue during a meeting with my advisor, wondering what additional information I should pack up for such a discussion. Advisor frowned:”I have no idea what this is about. He just likes talking to you.” I know that was a stray remark. It nonetheless left such a lasting impression on me that I could get instant gratification whenever I recall it.
And then sensei was abroad, followed by me abroad. When I finally came back, I already felt like out of the application business and just wanted to steadily complete my degree in peace. The complex task of writing sensei an email to follow up on this discussion was therefore easily subject to indefinitely prolonged procrastination. Amazingly though, one day I got an email from sensei asking if I’m back already – it’s the first time ever sensei wrote to me out of his own free will, all for such a trivial matter as writing for me a reference letter? The next day, denoted by
sensei was startled by my arrival in the time interval he indicated would be convenient for him. After comfortably waiting for him to finish plotting an important graph, I brought myself straight to:”So what is it that you want to know?” Sensei pushed aside his work, sat back, and said in a tone more serious than one would use on a stray remark:”Would you like to do a postdoc with me?”
This line is intentionally left blank.
Stupefied stare, frozen smile, wide-eyed, all these couldn’t have lasted too long, because the conversation must go on. The ensuing discussion includes sensei explaining, reasoning, making quite a compelling case – viewed from my hindsight, and me throwing disorganized anxiety and fears here and there, formulating ridiculous sentences. If this was an interview, I would have failed miserably.
The stories and thoughts I had during the Picasso Graphics project, naturally rippled through my mind and danced their way to that gently smiling destination. I developed my color scheme for the Harlequin with a Guitar from the impression of the painting seen through the industrial engineering library door every day when I go to school; the failed attempt to recreate that bulky caricature of Igor Stravinsky and the coincidence of having to study the Rite of Spring for the Israel Philharmonic special Hanukkah concert; the Game of Pages as a fun lining practice but also remotely connected to the Arthurian romances I had recently been reading…
I pointed at the Nude with Arms Raised and called her “your favorite girl” and was not met with the least bit attempt of denial. Without even turning to the original drawing, sensei immediately remarked how my girl has her eyes closed. I was imagining her more like bathing in the morning sun than inspecting herself in the mirror. And I admitted though I learned to read the spirit through the fog of stylistic informality, I still did not a hundred percent internalize it, as manifested by not drawing the squiggle hair.
My take on the Nude in Landscape was proclaimed less effective in expressing what I claim to be the Mediterranean laid-backness, chiefly due to the sharp lines and some perceived hesitation in their execution. But those are actually more of a technical issue – I was too impatient to reapply the lines before the gouache dried up so that the black ink on her belly lines bled. And I should have applied gouache after the pen lining to soften it up, which would surely satisfy sensei w.r.t his criticism. We had yet a greater disagreement with regard to the black face. Influenced by the texts, I incline to believe this is a face distorted by the horrifying emergence of a bull out of the vase that signifies an impending war; the ponderous male face beside is also an evidence. And it’s exactly this disturbing element in juxtaposition with the idle air of the Mediterranean seaside composed of a broken wall, a broken table, the summer breeze and the simple, lovely, flower-decorated house that has my mind singly fixed on this particular composition. But sensei believes it’s just a shadow effect and there is nothing extraordinary about the bull head.
The Studio, though simple and plain, caught my eyes again because of the rhythmic breath of zephyr lulling both the nude in the picture and the clouds in the sky to sleep, reminiscent of my sweet napping in those summer afternoonsa. An accident occurred here: pointing at the woman on canvas, I said “I could sleep just like that”, referring to my own moments described abovea, but apparently would be more easily understood as literally like her, namely, naked, and in that specific posture! Well, however much I was innocent in intention, I must accept it as a past event I can not undo; accept it that I was in factuality guilty of verbal seduction, or hinting undressing myself, or whatever it might have been interpreted as ;_; read more …
More than a year ago upon first hearing it, I was taken aback by the chiptune-like arpeggio in the opening track but subsequently discovered the sparkling loveliness adorning the rest of the 40 minutes. The impression still persists. But somehow the light of the gems suddenly was able to pierce through my heart as I picked it up again, perhaps because my BoC fever has finally receded to a healthy level.
If Boards of Canada evokes imagery of my world view and abstract emotions, then maybe R Plus Seven by Oneohtrix Point Never is more like a personality portrait. Be it an individual track or the flow of the entire album – if there exists in it such a thing as a flow at all – unexpected turns of events or an abrupt abortion of an ongoing theme can occur anytime anywhere. And of course it never happens in an unpleasant way –
After the ostentatious opening, ‘Americans’ brings twenty seconds of calming air from a distant afternoon playground before a rapid change of focus on a secret garden rising out of a fresh downpour. The dazzling young green rocking up and down as dewdrops roll off is my first favorite melodic moment. I could stare at this for hours but no lingering is allowed. A long interval of fast-forward with space warping and human voice jittering throws me onto the clouds and left me gradually descending into the world of Botanicula, where the sap running through the transparent leaves resonate with peculiar little creatures making their own noises. The unique signature of choral elements in R+7 is notable for the first time. At first, one bright-eyed creature sings a note or two and immediately disappears to give way to another. The tiny random contributions thus piece together rhythmic patterns that friskily hop into different keys.
All that vanishes before my eyes and a short practice session ‘He She’ makes the transition to a hushed ‘Inside World’. The female vocal has a sparse but coherent line accompanied by broken pieces of sounds. It feels as if hearing my cell splitting and blood circulating with slight irregularity. Then comes the gliding waves gently pushing me to the realm of mind. It too is so brief that soon the first theme returns again.
And before I am drowned in my inner bodily reflection, ‘Zebra’ lashes out its briskness at full force. The first theme is repeated for two minutes with naughty brass and joyous choir scattered around before it breaks down and comes back to a state of ‘Inside World’. Fragmented electronic church bells sway in the ambiance; random horn melody wanders aimlessly further and further away. And then a prolonged pause. read more …
Overtime I am conditioned to the muted colors of Čiurlionis’ paintings.
It gives off a dreamy air like in Miestas , a white city shrouded in the late afternoon haze, which a moment ago I took a glimpse while in sleep, but now the memory fades further and away so that what remained are only the milky tone and a blurred architectural form. Yet these things I will soon lose hold of forever too.
Or it evokes other-planetly imageries as in Pasaulio Sutvėrimas , chiefly due to the warm color tone but also because of the peculiar structural orderliness — the almost repetitive pattern displayed by the growing things. The crystal growth over there also leads to flowering and fruit bearing; when the time is ripe, the fruit of crystallization falls to the ground into gleaming fragments, accompanied by silverly clinks (La Planète Sauvage). This low saturation could also represent a chaotic beginning of nebulous void, from which distinct thoughts emerge and disappear in the form of symmetriads, asymmetriads and mimoids (Solaris).
More often, when it comes to the religious themes, the obscurity corresponds to the inexplicable part of the primeval yearning for worshipping. In Himnas , thick clouds briefly break apart, letting through rays of sunlight onto the distant horizon that dispel the gloominess. A natural wonder alluding to a divine existence somewhere over the clouds, a path leading to eternal happiness whose entrance no mortals can reach. In Praeitis , the colossal slab that marks sunrise seems to embody ritualistic spirits in the innocent ages (even though the Macedonian sun has evidently become a cliché by the time I finished the book). And a recurring motif is the eagle messengers out of the west [82, 142], bearing blessings from the lords and disseminating hope among the mundane world.
Even a soulless person such as myself can be a bit shaken by such awe-inspiring depictions. It makes me ponder whether the urge of worshipping is a conciliation between the desire of perfection and the knowledge that it’s beyond reach. Or if it stems from their weaknesses of the constant needs to be loved, to be watched over, to anchor their inner selves at some secure place however their lives might float around.
There are numerous other examples that are more explicit on this theme. Especially towards the end, the perfect hierarchy of the universe in the artist’s mind is entirely revealed [212 – 214]. However, as I have never made peace with the rule that the last movement of a musical piece always has to climb to some apex, it also dazzles my eyes to see all that grandiose and overflowing bliss on the canvas.
Of course for me, a charming painting does not speak to me without an admirable painterly effect. Unlike the obelisk cypresses seen elsewhere, the austere Mountains and Cypresses in  become abstracted by only wild curves and color stretches that begin to flow and intertwine; the Winter forest  I’d rather consider it to be a collection of rare white leaf samples against an amiable backdrop of cosmic latte; the midnight Forest  wakes up to be a lively band of naughty ghosts, whose playful silhouettes can be dimly discerned under the sleepy stars; a rather brooding sort of Stillness  whose disquiet is betrayed by the disturbed water and air.
The overall experience browsing through Čiurlionis’ paintings is that of a positive buoyancy concisely summarized by Rojus , originating from a mind constantly exploring the infinite forms of beauty of the world as its wings grow ever broader.
How I’m still so fascinated by the sign of nature reclaiming abandoned towns. Whenever my eyes glaze over at the only painting on my wall – my reproduction of the iconic cover of Yokohama Kaidaishi Kikou – the flowing thoughts all reflect the same crystallized distinction between the animosity towards insect-like humans and the admiration for noble trees, which is time and again strengthened by numerous other imagery to help develop a kind of aesthetics that glides among the green, the worn-off, weary tranquility, dreamy desolation – and perhaps most important of all – that is devoid of explicit human elements.
It would seem rather unrelated that on one summer afternoon, in a hazy daydream I read that even when I listen to music alone, it is a social experience*. The evoked thoughts and emotions may or may not be what the artists hoped to convey. But the process creates a sense of connection, as if I found someone with whom I share something in common – I’m sure I don’t appreciate music purely through its sound design. To achieve the sense, of course, requires some imagination, but it doesn’t render it false**. The same goes for reading, and… looking at paintings. The only thing that makes this idea seem a bit odd to me at first sight is – apart from the implication that everything I do is a
balloon craving for social interaction – that the communication is not real-time and often one-way. But that’s all there is to it once I see it.
The soul searching was prompted following a regrettably brutal declaration during a conversation:”Humans are ugly; trees are beautiful; if I was to choose only one species to preserve, I’ll gladly let the human beings die.”*** It seemed to me so true that I could be easily delighted in nature motifs in paintings however they are portrayed, whereas I could hardly appreciate any human figures. But it’s actually because I’m more sensitive to human facial/body recognition than to anything else; I never developed that kind of nuanced standards for trees to differentiate the charming from the lesser among them. I am just like anyone else in this regard, however the opposite I strive to be. Habitual behaviors betray my nature when the thoughts didn’t notice. And the irony rose to the middle of my consciousness conspicuous and hot.
What am I really seeing in me when I gaze up into my bedroom painting? I gradually recall the primal reason was that I wish for a slow-mo, buoyant type of life with infinite time at my disposal, just like Alpha does. This could only happen after the colony size of the “human-insects” starts to decline. And why have I always shied away from depicting humans in my drawings? For I fear my skills could not live up to my picky eyes for human figures. In other words, straightforward cowardice.
Indeed, one who appreciates art cannot, by definition, be misanthropic. What’s more, one who seeks seclusion might in fact be addicted to socializing, in a certain sense.
* I had always thought I read it in one of Boards of Canada’s interviews. But I reread all what bocpages.org has and found no evidence. Apparently I was dreaming.
** M.A. van Bemmel, ‘We are Superjews, Ajax is the name’ – A study of the Jewish identity of Ajax supporters, Universiteit van Amsterdam, 2012.
*** It is regrettable that things I say in conversations always tend to be an oversimplification of what I really think. But in this case I guess the statements didn’t deviate too much from my long-held beliefs.