Monday, November 30, 2009

TV Viewing Diary: What is Beauty?

Rather dryly presented by Matthew Collings, this documentary was the centrepiece of BBC2's recent series on the human quest for beauty. Collings distilled it down to ten principles and duly illustrated each of them:

1) Nature — example deployed: Norman Foster's Millau Bridge.

2) Simplicity — example: the Madonna del Parto by Piero della Francesca.

3) Light — example: the equisite Sicilian cathedral church at Monreale. Here the "flowing visual energy" of the mosaic that covers the walls was taken to relfect a society where everyone has and knows their allotted place. (Methinks he wanted to include Unity as a principle too, but that would have made 11!)

4) Transformation — example: prehistoric cave art where "the parts suggest a whole that's never quite there."

5) The Surroundings — example: the typically very spare settings in which modern art is presented in contemporary museum design.

6) Animation — example: the Cistine Chapel...of course.

7) Surprise — example: the paintings of René Magritte.

8) Pattern — example: classical Roman mosaics in Tunis.

9) Selection — example: works from the 50s by Robert Rauschenberg where the artsist's often idiosyncratic choice of what to include underlies the aesthetic impact. "Stuff that's just lying around doesn't have energy."

10) Spontaneity — example: a smiling face in a crowd...and this painting by Gauguin.

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