Thursday, February 23, 2012

Starry starry dreamscape

Van Gogh's Starry Starry Night is on the wall on my bed in my bedroom, half a reminder, half a thing of beauty; mysterious, in constant movement, dancing as it does, evoking a scene like no photograph ever could.

What is it a reminder of? I sometimes wonder. Even though I know the answer, I leave it open. Nonetheless, there is an answer, a simple one. It is a reminder of possibility itself.

The clouds swirl as if in constant flux, beautifully falling into themselves, whisping through the night. Every brush stroke evokes movement, a flowing action, as if the world - the world of the painting and the world beyond it - is in constant motion. I say the world beyond because, at its most basic, the painting depicts a far-off town, a grassy outcrope in the foreground, all beneath a starry nightscape. It is a scene of reality, grounded in that reality. And yet, from here, not simply being a record of a moment in time, a place, Van Gogh somehow evokes a scene of a greater reality.

The steeple in the town is contrasted with a grander steeple, that grassy outcrop in the foreground, flowing upwards, dark and mysterious, larger than its manmade counterpart by many magnitudes. It is a testiment to nature itself. The town seems at every point to be eclipsed by the magesty of nature. A flowing night's scene, where everything is animated.

The stars shine down upon the world like the mini-suns that they are. In one of his essays Borges elaborates upon the link between angels in the Jewish religion and the stars, made by God on the forth day, a full two days before man. Here they shine as angels ought to, down upon the tiny town, with its muted lights and small dwellings. Bright beyond there points, they shine outwards, halos emanating out from those points of light, evoking the possibility within the nightsky.

Is this what the egyptians saw when they based their complex spiritual cosmology around the night's sky? Or was this what the Mayan's saw, so accurate in their charting of the eternity of space, with its many many stars? Did they simply see angels, possibility, mysterious, magestic beings? This is what Van Gogh is showing us.

We cannot be the centre of existence, of this mysterious world. And, oh, the awe in that, oh the awe.

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