Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘art’

31 JANUARY, 2012

Paris vs. New York: Minimalist Illustrated Parallels of Culture

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Macaron vs. cupcake, Proust vs. Salinger, bobo vs. hipster, bordeaux vs. cosmo.

For the past two years, graphic designer Vahram Muratyan, a self-described “lover of Paris wandering through New York,” has been chronicling the peculiarities and contradictions of the two cities through “a friendly visual match” of minimalist illustrated parallel portraits. Today, Muratyan joins the finest blog-turned-books with Paris versus New York: A Tally of Two Cities — an absolutely charming collection of these vibrant visual dichotomies and likenesses. From beverages to beards, hands to houses, Muratyan captures the intricacies of cultural difference in a way that blends the minimalist and playful visual whimsy of Noma Bar’s Guess Who? with the side-by-side parallelism of Mark Laita’s Created Equal to deliver something entirely new and entirely delightful.

la romantique

le café

l'obsession

(You might recall the above from the excellent Visual Storytelling: Inspiring a New Visual Language.)

le roman

la barbe

le matin

les mains

la façade

le réalisateur

l'apéro

Many of these gems are available as prints on Society6, one of the best places to find affordable art. A set of postcards is being released shortly.

Images courtesy of Vahram Muratyan / Penguin

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31 JANUARY, 2012

Dogs in Books: An Illustrated History

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From The Brothers Grimm to Lassie, or what Victorian limericks have to do with Ancient Greece.

If you, like me, are a lover of dogs and a lover of books, then you’ll be head over heels with Dogs In Books: A Celebration of Dog Illustration Through the Ages. From Aesop’s Fables to the Bible to Alice in Wonderland to Oliver Twist and beyond, the slim but mighty volume chronicles the dog’s inextricable presence in our collective history, art, and mythology through contemporary drawings and rare archival illustrations of more than 30 famous dogs culled from the British Library’s collection.

In the introduction, Catherine Britton, Senior Editor at the British Library, reminds us:

The written evidence of the relationship between dogs and humans is almost as old as literature itself. In the eighth century BC Homer wrote in The Odyssey of Odysseus’ return to Ithaca, where only his faithful old dog Argos recognised him. Odysseus had been away, HOmer says, for 7300 days, or twenty years, and Argos was by now old and infirm, but still struggled to greet his master.”

Alongside each image is a short essay that contextualizes the dog and its cultural significance, as well as the history of the illustration itself.

Two shepherd and their sheepdog hear of the birth of Jesus. From a fifteenth century Book of Hours, France.

A huntsman keeps his two greyhounds firmly restrained with a leash. From the Luttrell Psalter, circa 1320-40

A donkey, dog, cat and cockerel make their own form of music in order to frighten away robbers from their house. From The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, translated by Mrs. Edgar Lucas, illustrated by Arthur Rackham. Constable & Co., 1909

The soldier is taken aback by the sight of the supernatural dog standing on the chest of money. From Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Harry Clarke. G G Harrap & Col, 1916

Bizarre dogs (and their equally odd owners) from the limericks of Edward Lear. From The Book of Nonsense written and illustrated by Edward Lear. Frederick Warne & Col, 1885

Toto looks on with some interest as Dorothy talks to the Cowardly Lion. From The New Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum illustrated by W W Denslow. Bobbs-Merrill Co, 1903

The curse of the Baskervilles. From The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle, illustrated by Sidney Paget. Strand magazine, serialized 1901-19102

The cover of The Call of the Wild, illustrated by Philip R Goodwin and Charles Livingston Bull. William Heinemann, 1903

Dinah the Aberdeen terrier barks at 'a palpitating vacuum cleaner.' From Collected Dog Stories by Rudyard Kipling, illustrated by Marguerite Kirmse. Macmillan & Co., 1934

The unmistakable features of Lassie. From Lassie Come-Home by Eric Knight, illustrated by Marguerite Kirmse. J C Winston Co., 1940

Having eaten 'a whole dish of mayonnaise fish,' there are unsurprisingly 'curious pains in my underneath.' From A Dog Day or The Angel in the House by Walter Emanuel, illustrated by Cecil Aldin. William Heinemann, 1902

Mr and Mrs Dearly, surrounded by their dalmatians. From One Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith, illustrated by Janet and Anne Grahame-Johnstone. William Heinemann, 1956

'Are You Lonesome Tonight'

Original silkscreen. George Rodrigue, 2009

Equal parts charming and illuminating, Dogs In Books is an absolute treat for those who love literature’s fuzziest heroes.

Images courtesy of Mark Batty Publisher

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27 JANUARY, 2012

Schematics: A Love Story in Geometric Diagrams

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The mathematical poetics of time, or what matrices reveal about the matters of the heart.

Somewhere between the psychology of love and the intricacies of romance lies a vast and unmapped territory of abstract and subjective existential paradoxes. That’s precisely what New-York-based British photographer Julian Hibbard sets out to map in Schematics: A Love Story — a truly unique, in the most uncontrived sense of the word, project exploring love, memory, and time through 43 schematic diagrams drawn from old books and paired with poetic text that gleans new meaning from the geometric forms. From them emerges a layered and paradoxical narrative that is at once very personal and very universal, a kind of forlorn optimism about what it means to be human and to follow the heart’s sometimes purposeful, sometimes erratic, usually unpredictable will in pursuing the deepest of human connections.

I learnt to tie my shoes

I learnt to ride my bike

I learnt to smoke

I learnt the vulnerability of fully exposing an idea

I learnt to tie my shoes

I learnt to adapt my behavior in the light of others' actions.

I learnt the difficulty of sustaining the hopes of youth.

I remember a French girl with an English name.

'Leave me now, return tonight,' she told me every morning, and I did.

I remember an English girl with an French name.

We were the circle that no one could break, or so I thought.

The book, whose own unusual, geometric, highly tactile physicality reflects its substance, begins with a beautiful T. S. Eliot quote:

We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

Yesterday I was there.

Today I am here.

The two are light years apart.

I dance with a friend,

holding her hand realize,

how disconnected I have become,

from the simple beauty of touch.

I return and sense,

that things are not the same as before,

but feel had I stayed,

everything would likely seem the same.

David LaRocca writes in the afterword-by-placement-introduction-by-purpose:

Schematics operates simultaneously on two distinctive registers: the deeply personal (a love story between the narrator and the objects of his affection, desire, and confusion) and the profoundly anonymous (a love story within matter — subject to gravity, magnetism, genetics, mechanics, electricity, and the space-time continuum.”

Your words touch me.

Your thoughts excite me.

I want to try all that.

Explore everything with you.

Alone.

All one.

If and but and maybe and whatever.

I hate those words.

Everything doesn't have to be perfect.

To idealize is also a form of suffering.

LaRocca concludes:

Schematics is a love story because love involves (tragically, incorrigibly, but also beautifully) a desire for something that continuously transforms. Love is painful because we want the object of love to change and to stay the same; love is a desire and a fiction that animates our greatest pleasures and our most profound sufferings. Love holds us to this life, keeps us faithful to it. Yet nothing can save us from our ultimate reentry into oblivion — the point at which no amount of consciousness or desire can preserve identity or the energies that we once called our own. Hibbard’s poetic concept-curating presents schematics that invite us to consider — alone and as ‘all one’ — the existential graphs that underwrite life, and take us out of it.”

Page images courtesy of Mark Batty Publisher

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27 JANUARY, 2012

From Mark Twain to Ray Bradbury, Iconic Writers on Truth vs. Fiction

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Why art exists, or what a stage magician can teach us about the fine points of literary make-believe.

Famous writers have previously shared insights on symbolism, reading, and writing itself. Underlying many of these meditations is a broader curiosity about the intricate interplay of fact and fantasy. To untangle that knotty relationship, here are a handful of iconic authors’ thoughts on truth, art, and fiction — culled from their finest nonfiction.

Fiction is a lie, and good fiction is the truth inside the lie.” ~ Stephen King in On Writing

Good fiction is made of what is real, and reality is difficult to come by.” ~ Ralph Ellison in Advice to Writers

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” ~ Mark Twain in Following the Equator

Playing around with symbols, even as a critic, can be a kind of kiddish parlor game. A little of it goes a long way. There are other things of greater value in any novel or story… humanity, character analysis, truth on other levels, etc., etc. Good symbolism should be as natural as breathing… and as unobtrusive.” ~ Ray Bradbury

The problem with fiction, it has to be plausible. That’s not true with non-fiction.” ~ Tom Wolfe in Advice to Writers

Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.” ~ Tennessee Williams in The Glass Menagerie

The reason that fiction is more interesting than any other form of literature, to those who really like to study people, is that in fiction the author can really tell the truth without humiliating himself.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt in The Autobiography Of Eleanor Roosevelt

You should never read just for ‘enjoyment.’ Read to make yourself smarter! Less judgmental. More apt to understand your friends’ insane behavior, or better yet, your own. Pick ‘hard books.’ Ones you have to concentrate on while reading. And for god’s sake, don’t let me ever hear you say, ‘I can’t read fiction. I only have time for the truth.’ Fiction is the truth, fool! Ever hear of ‘literature’? That means fiction, too, stupid.” ~ John Waters in Role Models

Fiction that adds up, that suggests a ‘logical consistency,’ or an explanation of some kind, is surely second-rate fiction; for the truth of life is its mystery.” ~ Joyce Carol Oates in The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates: 1973-1982

The final belief is to believe in a fiction, which you know to be a fiction, there being nothing else. The exquisite truth is to know that it is a fiction and that you believe in it willingly.” ~ Wallace Stevens in Opus Posthumous: Poems, Plays, Prose

Art, though, is never the voice of a country; it is an even more precious thing, the voice of the individual, doing its best to speak, not comfort of any sort, but truth. And the art that speaks it most unmistakably, most directly, most variously, most fully, is fiction; in particular, the novel.” ~ Eudora Welty in On Writing

We have our Arts so we won’t die of Truth.” ~ Ray Bradbury in Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You

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