Some of you may have noticed that I have started a new espresso series of articles. You can access them all by clicking on the espresso link on the right-hand menu of this page. You may have also seen that I like to read philosophy, and many of these espresso articles have been written to provoke in a positive manner your curiosity and exploration.
For the last month Maria and I were back in the UK visiting friends and family. It was a very profound trip for both of us, especially as we were able to tour both Scotland as well as England, starting in Bourton-on-the-Water which you can see in the picture above, a very picturesque village in the Cotswolds which has a wonderfully clear and shallow river running through the centre.
For much of the time we were based in Dumfries, allowing us time to head into rural Galloway, which is not one of the UK’s well-known tourist locations, but which if you investigate, is home to many spectacular natural locations and amazing outdoor artworks, such as The Garden of Cosmic Speculation (only open for one afternoon each year) and the sculptures of local artist Andy Goldsworthy, many of which are not in easily accessible locations.
His Striding Arches installation consists of four arches, three of which are on hilltops to the north of the small historical town of Moniaive, and one of which is integrated into a derelict shepherd’s home. Goldsworthy’s art is designed to belong together with the contours, history and nature of their surroundings, and it is wonderful to be able to experience such remote but ambitious art in the crisp winter air and the aromas and sounds of a Galloway hillside forest.
While I began this article writing about philosophy, I wanted to show you the range of art, in all its manifestations we were able to visit, explore and experience on our trip. For me especially I can be a little too heady at times, and also stuck on-line too much, and this was a trip where we attempted to be less available to others, in order to refresh ourselves, reinvigorate our creativity and be as present as possible in order to dive more deeply into the creations we were seeing.
I have already written an article about this painting The Druids – Bringing in the Mistletoe which was jointly pained by George Henry and Edward Atkinson Hornel in 1890 (See Anatomy of a painting – The Druids – Bringing in the Mistletoe). This is a great example of what I am talking about. It is one thing to study intellectually the great philosophers, be they ancient Greek or more modern such as Gadamer, Heidegger, Deleuze or Wittgenstein, but it is another to really then take the insights gained an be able to apply them in the appreciation of the world’s greatest works of art.
If we take Gadamer as an example, Gadamer is interested in what he called historical consciousness. Gadamer is interested in how we can attain the meaning in a work of art, a philosophical text, a play, or in fact any other human artefact, and for me he is one of the greatest teachers, showing us the path we can take to approach this meaning.
For those of you who are interested, I have written a number of articles on Gadamer’s seminal Truth and Method, some of which are below. One potential path into Gadamer is to first read our own book Holonomics, which introduces readers to the dynamic conception of wholeness, then Henri Bortoft’s Taking Appearance Seriously, which describes Gadamer’s hermeneutics in relation to this dynamic conception of wholeness, and then read Gadamer himself.
Possibly the ultimate expression of this was when Maria and I visited the Late Turner exhibition at the Tate Britain (See Revelations on Seeing Turner’s Light and Colour (Goethe’s Theory) – the Morning after the Deluge). I had studied Turner’s painting Revelations on Seeing Turner’s Light and Colour (Goethe’s Theory) – the Morning after the Deluge at Schumacher College as part of my masters degree in Holistic Science, but it was only on standing in front of the original, seeing the colours as they were, not just in the optimal conditions of the lighting of the gallery, but also in the context of the many other paintings in the exhibition, that I came to the realisation that sure it was Turner who had the greatest understanding of every aspect of Goethe’s Theory of Colour.
This was not just an intellectual deduction, it was in the feeling and the sensing and the intuition of the experience of the painting that I could realise this. (I do realise this is a theory, I am not trying to claim absolute certainty in this regard).
What I would like to do not is to show you a few more photos from our travels through Britain, with some briefer descriptions. We visited many of the colleges in Cambridge, including Trinity College Chapel which is home to the statue of Newton and memorial plaques, including those for Wittgenstein, Russell and Whitehead.
We were treated to an amazingly sunny winter’s morning when we spent some tranquil time first visiting King’s College Chapel (see The Ceiling of King’s College Chapel, Cambridge), and then punting on the river where we went under the Bridge of Sighs.
I took Maria to York, and on our way through North Yorkshire we stopped off at The Druid’s Temple, a nineteenth century folly built by William Danby in 1820. Although a folly, it is great fun to explore.
We then retraced our path back through Masham, to the Thornborough Henges, a triple henge complex aligned with Orion.
While from the ground this photo above may not exactly wow you, when you see the henges from the sky, then you will see just how huge they are, and the spiritual, religious and social importance they would have had when they were built, not just for Britons, but for visitors from other countries.
In the first photo above, Maria is standing in the entrance to the central henge. The lower henge is covered in a wood, but is well preserved with its circular ditches. Despite the huge historical and archaeological importance of this site, it is on privately owned farmland, with no signposting despite being just a few miles from the A1 motorway. This to me is a scandal but this article is not the right time to have a little rant about this.
In Glasgow, as I mentioned previously, we visited the Kelvingrove art gallery and museum, where not only did we listen to the lunchtime organ recital, but also to some wonderful Scottish folk music, where we even took part, playing tambourines, as did some of the other audience there.
We also visited the Glasgow Museum of Modern art, where this huge installation of places of worship in Edinburgh was on display.
In contrast to this modern art, in York we spent a morning exploring York Minster, which has an underground crypt with this gruesome stone carving which was first located in the first Norman York Minster.
The scene depicts Hell’s Cauldron, and standing there in front of it was a pretty creepy experience it must be said. It really made you wonder how the creator and sponsor of it must have experienced life, with their dark beliefs in the horrors of the depths of hell.
On an more lighter note, at the time of our visit one of the great windows was being repaired, with an extremely well designed and futuristic pod containing four stained-glass pictures, allowing visitors to experience these windows close up. One of them as you can see perhaps featured a woman making a mudra sign in her hand, i.e. from ancient Hinduism or Buddhism.
Makes you wonder doesn’t it?
On our final day in London, we first spent the morning at the Museum of London, seeing the Sherlock Holmes exhibition which we discovered by chance as it was featured as a news item on Globo News here in Brazil. Maria is a huge fan of Sherlock, and I too am a fan of the new interpretation as played by Benedict Cumberbatch.
I will be writing more of this I am sure as there are many aspects to Sherlock that can inspire us and develop our ways of thinking and observational skills (see my previous article To Be – Such a Small Word, Such a Huge Concept).
If we are to appreciate great art, it is not just about being philosophers, studying hermeneutics, or phenomenology, or Goethe’s Theory of Colour, or maybe media studies, innovation, or design. It is about being told a story, and that story is told by the great curators of these amazing exhibitions.
With little time, sometimes as tourists we fly through the great art galleries, taking in a wild cacophony of different artists, styles, genres and paintings, and that’s fine. Maria and I did manage to catch one or two of the rooms at Tate Britain, seeing one or two personal favourites such as John William Waterhouse’s The Lady of Shallot.
It is the curators who first envision the exhibition, and it is they who plan the story for us to experience. I really have to praise the many curators of the exhibitions I have mentioned, since they managed to avoid being verbose and pseudo-intellectual, and with at times poetic artistry themselves, both illuminated, brought to presence and disclosed these great works of art, while at the same time not intruding in their interpretations and providing the personal space necessary for the visitor to achieve their own experience of the meanings of the art.
So to complement Late Turner, we were also treated to Olafur Eliasson’s display featuring his Turner Colour Experiments (See Revelations on Seeing Turner’s Light and Colour (Goethe’s Theory) – the Morning after the Deluge).
In the Kelvingrove, one gallery was designated as an Art Discover Room, highly interactive, educational and fun for every age.
And finally, I should mention nature. It is not just humans who are capable of great works. This year, as we always do, we went to see the starlings at Gretna, and again, like last year, we were right underneath them. To watch my videos, see Starlings at Rigg, Gretna Green: Videos).
This trip for me was an inspiration. I think Maria may be writing one or two blogs in relation to both the great philosophical and spiritual knowledge and wisdom she posses, but also as her experience as a Brazilian in Great Britain. We revisited a number of places from my younger days, some of when I did not have this interest in art, architecture and culture, for example seeing friends in Cambridge and going to gigs rather than colleges. But this is the journey we all take, and I am just grateful that although I am by no means an expert, I did practice being present, and really taking in every dimension of the art and nature we were exploring and discovering.
I hope you have enjoyed this tour. Great Britain has a ridiculously vast wealth of treasures, many open and accessible and often free. I know this tour of ours is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I hope you have enjoyed seeing these photos and perhaps had some inspiration to take a tour of your own, not just of the UK but of your own country or locality, discovering the treasures that may be just outside your front door.