THE BREADTH OF BEAUTY

 

I submitted an artwork entitled 'To Strive, To Seek, To Find And Not to Yield' to the Annual Kennedy Art Prize this year. The award recognises artworks that embrace, comment, or celebrate 'beauty'. Although my piece was not selected as a finalist for the Art Prize, I valued the quest that took place.


BEAUTY DEFINED OR IS IT?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, beauty refers to:

  • An attractive quality that gives pleasure to those who experience it or
    think about it, or a person who has this attractive quality.

  • An attractive appearance.

  • The quality of being pleasing, especially to look at, or someone or
    something that gives great pleasure, especially when you look at it.

  • The business of making people look attractive, using make-up, treatments, etc.

  • Something that is an excellent example of its type.

  • A quality that makes something especially good or attractive.


MY DEFINITION OF BEAUTY

My first response was to look up the above meaning. While it explained part of the narrative, I felt that there was too much excluded. I was surprised by how limited the English definitions have become. This narrow representation ignited a desire to explore how mindset can broaden one's interpretations or understanding of their reality.

Many people may not see the direct connection between what I am addressing and 'beauty'. However, the relationship has been discussed in breadth and depth by philosophers as old as Plato. There is nothing new here; I am only bringing it to mind, and my inquiry became how 'beauty' lies in adversity.

I wish to remember that 'beauty' is so much broader than the terms described. It can also be attributed and connected to the most trying of times. For centuries, the shadow sides of our society, characters and moments of affliction were shunned, hidden, and not spoken about. I have such an appreciation for how much our society's awareness, as a collective, is rising. People are delving into, breaking down, and redefining these moments, there is so much information for those interested in how to better navigate through these situations.

W101 x H101cm image size | acrylic mixed media on canvas in open grain, charcoal floating frame

W101 x H101cm image size | acrylic mixed media on canvas in open grain, charcoal floating frame

CAN WE ENCOMPASS MORE RATHER THAN LESS

My atmospheric abstract is an instinctive expression of encountering obstacles when trying to accomplish one's goals or overcoming challenges faced as one traverses through life. More poignant is that one harnesses certain qualities or virtues through these processes, including traits such as courage, strength, endurance, and love.

The final line of Alfred Tennyson's poem 'Ulysses' (audio of poem) inspired my title. It is about Ulysses trying to see the value of returning to battle instead of settling for a simple life. The monologue could be interpreted as a discourse of his true desires versus those of his peers.

A dramatic example of the anxieties that can arise, in all of us, when seeking to follow one's internal drives. Or attempting to hone in on genuine aspirations. Precisely, when the aspiration is in contrast or somehow conflicts with those who are closest.

In most cases, anxiety and angst emanate from not living in alignment with the self or the acceptance of what is most important to another. As one strives to actualise what their internal guidance calls & yearns for; it becomes a battle of one's own will versus other people's requests and expectations. Such as;

  •  That challenging yet exciting moment where a child chooses to follow their path despite the expectations of their parents and peers, or

  • When someone asserts that their need is paramount. And that it cannot be suppressed due to a perceived lack of time, money or societal expectation

  •  Any instance where one realises that their needs diverge or express differently from others'

Intuitively represented in my artwork, here lies a beautiful dance where the individual has had 'To Strive, To Seek, To Find…' their truth. 'And Not To Yield' to all the outside-perceived pressures we place on ourselves.

COULD WE HOLD SPACE (COMPASSION) IN MIND

Over-emphasised, in its Cambridge definition, 'beauty' has been reduced to its association with the superficial, or skin-deep ages of youth; these are just but pleasing visual aesthetics. Too often reserved for the highs of life, savoured for the moments when everything seems to be in perfect harmony. However, this is a limiting story, and the story is much older and much more inclusive.

If one is willing to connect the dots and look at the bigger picture; one might arrive at the understanding that the arduous, the gritty, even the devastating moments can be witnessed (even experienced) as beautiful moments. For they also gift us with compassion, wisdom, resilience and a sense of the self.

My questioning than becomes:

  • Are these not the opportunities to exercise virtues which help one live to their present callings or ideals? Moreover, to acknowledge they may differ from another.

  • Instead of reacting, can one quietly 'hold space'. In doing so, acquire a new level of understanding, empathy, maybe even gratitude?

  • Can one support, drop the judgments and assumptions, allowing the afflicted a chance to mature at their own pace without rushing the process of arriving at their answers?

  • Is there any need to interfere, impose or force?

Imagine if one could lovingly experience, and observe, another going through hardship and comprehend how momentously beautiful their unfolding and growth truly is. And should the observer be triggered, for we are all sentient beings, recognise and process it without the need to react.

I truly feel that through love and an expansive mindset, rather than fear or restrictive principles, we are taught that 'beauty' also lies in the face of adversity.

A REFRAME FOR CONSIDERATION

Think of those individuals within your sphere, or even yourself, who are currently experiencing hardship and who might trigger anxiety, concern, sadness or fear within you. Is it wiser to adapt our mindset or keep worrying?

Could it be:

  • They are being invited to tap into more of who THEY are?

  • You, are being asked to tap into more of who YOU are?


Beauty for ancient thinkers existed both in form, which is the material world as it is, and as embodied in the spirit, which is the world of mental formations.
— J. Harrell; C. Barrett; D. Petsch, eds. (2006). History of Aesthetics:. A&C Black. p. 102. ISBN 0826488552. Retrieved 2015-05-11.
 
Angela LicciardiComment