Saturday, November 08, 2008

No, I haven't been looking in the mirror ...

I’ve been thinking a lot about gargoyles.

Are they,

a) Carved stone grotesques with a spout designed to convey water from a roof and away from the side of a building (as I said)


b) Guardians of the buildings they were on keeping evil spirits away (as I was told).

Someone sent me these links. (If I’d been sensible, I’d have copied and pasted them at the time … but, oh no … I had to look them up all over again.)

It seemed to prove my point.

However, it almost never happens that I'm right about anything, so the more I've thought about it (I have way too much time on my hands) the more I’ve come to think that the answer is probably

c) Both

(Do you even remember the question?)

We seem to live in a very utilitarian world. But the best design achieves a utilitarian function whilst also imbuing a thing with ‘personality’ (brand images are often described as representing the ‘personality’ of an organisation or product).

I think that medieval designers had a worldview that integrated the ‘physical’ and the ‘spiritual’. They could have made simple hollow pipes to drain away the water (like we do today) but instead they put faces on them and gave them characters. Why did they do that?

Nowadays we seem to have separated the two. (Is this ‘dualism’? Did it come from Plato? Somebody help me out here.)

I like that you can look at a Cathedral and see the architecture and design in so many ways – which represent so many things. The physical elements are deliberately designed to ‘speak’ of a mystical dimension.

I like, too, the idea that art has the power to ward off evil (or even summon it, I guess.)

I like it when I go to the home of someone who owns and displays a piece of my art. It looks decorative and attractive, but it is also ‘doing its job’ and speaking of another dimension to life (or so I believe).

One of my goals is to walk into corporate environments and see big examples of my work hanging there, for the same reason.

And I would love for there to be conversations taking place about whether it was just there to disguise a damp patch on the wall, or whether it had some other meaning or significance.

Or both.

An artist acquaintance and I once visited an antique centre and she, being of immense intellect and learning, bought what she believed was a mediaeval gargoyle. It looked more like a cement replica to me, but she was convinced it was the real deal and paid the price.
I went back to the same antique centre some weeks later for an auction and saw five almost identical ones for sale.
I know this sounds like a case of inverted snobbery and 'I told you so' (which it is), but I mention it only because she was (and probably still is) an espouser of the metaphysical, a believer in concepts and ideas, and yet inevitably bound (like the gargoyle and her need for it) in the concrete.
If architecture, like art, reflects life (or is it vice versa?) then the buildings we erect speak volumes about us.
We favour bland, cavernous and utilitarian shopping malls for obvious reasons (I'm trying to avoid using the words materialistic and consumerism) they are our new cathedrals of worship.
Plato is a mystery to me but the duality of nature I understand - spiritual beings constrained by a physical reality, and regardless of who we are, artist or artisan, capable of subjectifying the inanimate - gargoyle or garage.
Anon : "told you so" are three great words ... unfortunately I rarely get chance to use them!
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