Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Poetry of Silence

My work is often described as quiet, or peaceful, or restful or subdued. I really do not know where that comes from.

I recently wrote a post on my library in my home. Libraries are usually considered quiet places.
I still remember, as a child in the school or city library, being told over and over to be quiet. "Shhhhh...." or the finger on the lips....

Silence can be found in many places, like the above interior of a Japanese temple in Kyoto.

Vilhelm Hammerchoi (1864-1916) was a Danish painter of haunting interiors. His work has been described as quiet, empty, silent, solitary spaces in which the passage of time as been suspended. His colors are subdued, his interiors simple and minimal. This handsome book is the first retrospective of his work and is available on Amazon.com.

"Hammershoi is not one of those about whom one must speak quickly. His work is long and slow, and at whichever moment one apprehends it, it will offer plentiful reasons to speak of what is important and essential in art." Rainer Maria Rilke

His interiors are often dark and empty, with a single window creating a sunbeam of light. This window represents the connection with the outside world to the isolation within.
Some of his interiors have a single, solitary figure who is detached from the viewer.

James Castle (1900-1977) was born deaf. He never learned to speak, read or write. He grew up on a farm in Idaho and never traveled far from his home. He used stove soot mixed with saliva (spit) and sticks to create his drawings on discarded papers, packaging, and backs of old cards.
He also cut up found papers and cardboard and stitched them back together with found string.
His work was noticed in the 50's and 60's, and is now recognized in museums and collected all over the world. The above book is curated and published by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and available at Amazon.com.

Never educated, James Castle lived in a world of silence, isolated from the outside world. Through his eyes, he recreated his every day life, giving his work a singular, unique, natural quality.


Now. Close your eyes and take three deep, cleansing breaths.

49 comments:

La Dolce Vita said...

honestly? you don't know why your work would be described as calm, peaceful and serene... just read your last line! and Hammershoi's work is like a figurative twin of your work...energetically it is quite the same.... in my humble opinion, pensive and beautiful...
thank you as always for the information and the peace!

Leslie Avon Miller said...

"His work is long and slow,"...I love that line. It creates a perfect word image. I love the work of Hammershoi, and may have to add that book to my growing book wish list at Amazon....
Than you Donna - for your own peaceful compelling work and sharing your knowledge and love of art with us. You are a blessing in my life.

A rambling rose said...

thank you Donna for such a beautiful post - it silenced me completely as I realised I was holding my breath while reading it - so the 3 deep cleansing breagths at the end were so needed! . Also thank you for the introduction to James Castle and Hammershoi, it is so great to find new artists whose work you love!

Kathy said...

thank you for providing a tranquil meditation.

Sandra said...

I've done two attempts posting a comment. But blogger didn't work. So now, an hour later, I had my third try. Well, that is real silence, isn't it....

Kelly M. said...

Donna -- There is truly a sense of hush to your works that convey calm and solace. The work of Hammershoi intrigues me for he has the single female figure in the interior of a domestic landscape, which could be interpreted as being trapped -- but that is not the sense one gets. They have their back to us and their stillness is calm, controlled. Also, reminds me of Wyeth. Thank you for sharing once again! :-)

Sondra said...

Dear Donna,
I have been reading "A Book of Silence", by Sara Maitland thanks to your post a while back. Excellent book, thank you for the mention. As always, an amazing post. Thank you. Your piece at the top is, as always, wonderful.
Peace to you,
Sondra

Don said...

Great post! I love the art of Vilhelm Hammerchoi. If anyone would like to learn more about Hammerchoi, there is a very good BBC documentary hosted by Michael Palin called Michael Palin and the Mystery of Hammershoi. You can see it by going to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJAkzLpvKXE&feature=related . This is the first of five parts but you should be able to find the others from this link. Enjoy!

Deborah said...

I always enjoy your calm corner of the world. I've seen and admired James Castle's work. It was in a museum but I don't recall which one. I don't think it was in Philadelphia.

Marie said...

I very much admire the "personna" of your blog which of course reflects your essence. Such a serene definition, such still beauty. Thank you so much for your link to the exceptional work of James Castle. Rather takes my breathe away! Art is such a haven!

Four Seasons in a Life said...

Dear Donna,

As always your blog is a delight to visit and once again you have outdone yourself.

Silence is something many of us do not experience and yet it is so very rewarding. I have a quote on my blog which I wrote:

In randomness there is order
in the unseen there is beauty
in silence there are voices . . .

I believe that once we experience silence, we will hear voices we really never heard before.

Another artist who illustrated silence as well as loneliness is Edward Hopper.

Thank you for sharing.
Egmont

ArtPropelled said...

Donna, you won't believe it but I have that Hammershoi image in a file marked solitude/peace/silence and often look at it , feeling the peace that it conveys. Kelly M. commented that the image could be interpreted as being trapped and I also thought about that when I first came across it but that sense of peace soon takes over.

Once again I will leave your blog feeling soothed and calm. Your work certainly conveys that feeling too.

Marie-Aimée said...

thanks a lot for this post. a lot of serenity

Harnett-Hargrove said...

Thank you for the introductions to silence. -J

Noela Mills said...

Ditto to all of the above. Your words and work are always an inspiration to me. Thank you, Donna
Noela

neva gagliano said...

still and quiet here, still.

imagine having rilke comment on your work! and, you are what you are, what you make, what you take, what you say, what you see

and from all that,
i sense your peacefulness
in your person, even from 2000 miles away.

Ian Foster said...

Your blogs are a wonderful introduction to many artists that I would otherwise not have known about, I am particularly enchanted with the work of Vilhelm Hammerchoi, and of course as usual, your collage is very special. I did take the suggested three deep breaths.

mansuetude said...

so Rilke comments on an artist on a blog post this far into time, wow! Speaking in silence.

When we read, we are allowing "voice" to quiver into our interiors our silences. I like that. Your word breath(s) just entered me.

thank you.


silence is a form of water i think, of washing.

Teri said...

This is a reminder to me that it is better to be silent sometimes rather than open my mouth. But, I also think that we all need to "release" too. You always show me something I have never seen before. Thank you.

Ruth Armitage said...

Came inside from a day in the garden to the blaring of a basketball game on television. Thank you for the visual quiet and the reminder that peace is a state of mind.
xo RA

Lucky Dip Lisa said...

Thankyou for such a great post! Your collage, your amazing library and for introducing me to James Castle! I am going to have to google him!

Needle Woven Studio said...

Goodness, thank you for finding me because now the front door to your beautiful world is open to my eyes!
Konbawa,
Shayna

yvette said...

you are a hidden treasure

jgy said...

Nice ending on the post with the cleansing breaths...
and it's always cleansing to read words by Rilke...
glad to know of James Castle, an artist who drew on discarded boxes and packages, definitely right up my alley:))
All the best, thanks for visiting, I've been 'quiet' too...

sophie munns said...

Thankyou for a visit into the essence of silence - all so beautifully tied together Donna.
delightful!
S

Liza said...

This is a wonderful post Donna!
When I read your description of James Castle's process, I had the thought of an exhibit I came across
http://collections.madmuseum.org/html/exhibitions/485.html
It is all about paper.

Thanks for sharing.
Again, this is a wonderful post.

Seth said...

Silence is quite an interesting concept to ponder. And a good question, what elements bring the quality of stillness and silence to art? I have been lucky enough to see James Castle's exhibit in Philadelphia. I was mesmerized!

Liv Sørvaag said...

I agree with all the others , Calm and beutiful and interesting blog !

B. liv

Blue Sky Dreaming said...

Donna, Pure silence...as I quietly moved through this post..thank you for these introductions as well as your own work. Strong emotion in these places of silence.

Trudi Sissons - Two Dresses Studio said...

Good Morning Donna - what a mindful and serene entry you've created here. Have you ever considered meditating on the sound of one hand clapping as a focus for one of your collages? Just a thought that popped into my mind as I read your research for this post. Thank you for the inspiration.

rivergardenstudio said...

I love your last lines here Donna, and all the words and thoughts you bring to me from this post.
Hammershoi's pensive women have always been alluring to me, and his interiors as well.
Thank you for reminding me.... "Now. Close your eyes and take three deep, cleansing breaths."
My fathers memorial is tomorrow and I will have a houseful. I will need those breaths. roxanne

Coffee Messiah said...

Always meditative!

There's an interesting video documentary about James Castle worth seeking out.

Haven't looked, but there may be clips on you tube also.

Cheers!

Laura Hegfield said...

I love these images of silent rooms and being introduced to a silent artist. Much of my days are spent in silence...alone in my house until the kids and my husband come home. But sound of course is all around...sometimes rain, bird song, my dog barking or chasing one of our two kitties up and down the steps...my breath, sighs, the clicking of keys on my computer keyboard, and the steady beating of my heart which I can rarely hear but easily feel...the rhythmic inner "sound" that Vilhelm Hammerchoi undoubtedly experienced within his silence.

blessed are we who embrace the silence and all the sounds it contains.

zendotstudio said...

great thoughtful post as always! I think the soft neutral colours give us that inner feeling of silence? Nothing to stir us up as vibrant shades do. Greys, tans, white in their various shades create this lovely serene feeling for me.

And where do you discover all the wonderful artists you introduce us to in your blogs. It is such a treat to stop by and find all these treasures (including the photos of your lovely vignettes of home)

Shayla said...

A beautiful post in praise of silence. What we love often shows up in our work... Thank you for showcasing these artists as well.Hammershoi is thrilling, Castle captivating.

Patrice said...

I'm astonished at the work of Hammershoi! I must go and see more. I feel right at home with his interiors.

Thank you for the wonderful post!

Studio Sylvia said...

Hammershoi and Castle, two artists whom I will research, as they are new to me. Donna, your posts are always thought provoking. thank you.

oneartistjournal said...

Donna, You say that your work is often described as "quiet, or peaceful, or restful or subdued." I wonder by who,and if you would describe it that way. I see that too, but what I see more of when I come here is a shouting strength, I feel a grab when I am here, and that's what I come here for. Restful yes, subdued no, as this word refers to me to controled expression which I dont see at all in your work...
XOXOrly

Jazz Green said...

Lovely to have discovered your artist blog, Donna (and your work too) - I find the contemplative stillness of atmosphere in hammershoi's interiors both beguiling and meditative... I'll re-visit again soon to read more of your writing, and see more of your art...

Tonya Vollertsen said...

Quiet definitely seems to be undervalued these days. My kids have thought I don't like music because I don't blare a stereo while I work in my studio. Too funny! Thanks for validating my enjoyment of quiet solitude.

Eva said...

Hi Donna, I thought I commented before on your lovely post, but it didn't show up. Hopefully it will this time. Peace and quite are so important to me in my ever increasing noisy world. (lawn mowers, and blowers, air traffic, etc.) It's always so nice to visit your blog to retreat.

rebeca trevino said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rebeca trevino said...

Donna:
What a restful place to visit.

Thank you for visiting my blog and your very nice comments. I hope you visit me again soon . . . I know I will be back here often.
rebeca

Sharmon Davidson said...

Donna, thank you for sharing these wonderful artists. Both are quite intriguing in their own ways. And yes, your work emanates a sense of calm, peace, and silence. Perhaps "contemplative" would be a good adjective to use when describing it. I would venture to say it's probably a reflection of your spirit, and the way you live your life. It's not at all a bad thing, you know.

grrl + dog said...

Maybe it's because ofyour color pallette, and the mix of your essence as it flows from your

hand to the canvas.

Thankyou for introducing me to James Castle.

I love outsider art, and mentor a disabled woman with art because I could never create with the freedom she does.

merci33 said...

this is such an exceptional collection of images to be with...beginning with the 'lovely yours'.

Thank you for bringing in, once again, an awareness of what is ever there...the breath and the ability to quiet. Shhhhhhh.

maria kovalenko leysens said...

What a wonderful blog! I feel as if I have been on vacation... taken to a different place to collect new thougths. Thank you!

mano said...

some years ago in Hamburg / Germany I saw an exhibition with the paintings of Vilhelm Hammershøi and I was so intrigued with them. I love the white-grey-blue-tones and the stillness and peace in his works (and I love Denmark...). Thank you, that you remember him!

sewa mobil said...

I agree with all the others , Calm and beutiful and interesting blog !