Saturday, August 15, 2009

Inside Out

Inside_Out_Basel_Art_Fair_2007
Italian neo-expressionist painter Francesco Clemente said, “The nature of painting is to redeem an undercurrent of sadness. That's what every painting is about." I'm not sure whether he was referring to the sadness of the painter, the one who views the painting, or both. But I'm intrigued by his comment.

Redemption means a lot of things. We redeem coupons, exchanging a piece of paper for monetary value. We redeem by making up for, correcting, undoing one thing and replacing it with what we hope is better. Redeeming an undercurrent of sadness, though -- this is something different. It makes me think of raising sadness to a new level.

Not so much that it becomes even more sad, but rather that it not be ignored. Pretending it's not there only delays the inevitable eruption of emotion out of the blue. I think he means creating a channel for the current to flow freely and become transformed.

Into what? That depends on the one who is doing the redeeming. For him, it's the painter. Me, I can't put brush to anything other than the side of a barn. But, thankfully, there are other ways to transform the undercurrents of life into something meaningful. It might be a song sung to no one but ourselves driving down the road. It might be a moment spent kindly excusing the stranger who passes too closely in a crowd. It might be gazing at the sunset from wherever you are. However it may be, it's within us to turn the tide of those currents toward joy.


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