Going with the Flow

Back in days past — was it the late 60’s? Early 70s? Folks often talked about going with the flow. Do people still use that phrase? I haven’t heard it in years, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still going around. The meaning was to go along with others, or to just let things happen. Some folks even talked about getting into the flow as a mystical, meditative experience.

Flow is a good word. It’s gentle. It’s peaceful. And in it’s own way, it’s quite rhythmical. We’ve all heard Flow gently, sweet Afton from Scottish poet Robert Burns, and I distinctly remember a little piano tune for early students called “Gently Flow”.

And as we’ve already seen in recent days, musical rhythms can flow gently into works of art.

Or, perhaps, not so gently. Sometimes rhythmic flow can be a huge, overwhelming force, as it is in Katsushika Hokusai’s “The Wave”.

The Great Wave by Ukiyo-E
“The Wave” by Katsushika Hokusai

This wave is powerful — and quite destructive, we might imagine — yet it still clearly expresses rhythm. Maybe it’s an odd piece to associate with this Japanese work, but I’m hearing Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries in my head right now.

Maybe the most famous “flow” painting is the familiar “Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh.

The Starry Night by Van Gogh

His well-known work shows a night scene with ten swirling stars. You can also see Venus and a yellow crescent moon. In the background are gentle hills sweeping toward the sky, while the middle ground has a quiet, moonlit town. We see the church with its elongated steeple reaching toward the heavens. The foreground is dark, but we distinctly see the green silhouette of a cypress tree — again reaching upward.

Do you know Starry Night as a song by Don McLean?  Now I understand, what you tried to say to me… It’s a beautiful song. I hear it every time I see Van Gogh’s famous painting.

And, of course, we must not overlook the Fauve artist, Henri Matisse. Oh, yes, I’m still throwing that word around with wild abandon. I’ve written about The Dance before, and here’s another look at the second version of this work:

Matisse Dance
Dance (Version 2) by Henri Matisse

What do you hear when you see this? For me, it’s Godsmack doing Voo Doo.  You can hear a good “drum cover” here.  It’s interesting, too, to read a few comments on this video. One listener advised the young musician to “overlook the haters”. He went on to say, “…that’s the thing with music. It’s like food. Some people like it cooked this way, some people like it cooked that way. But in the end, it’s always the same thing. Enjoy it.”

With those thoughts in mind, I hope you enjoy this quick look at paintings that — in one way or another — go with the flow. We can take those same thoughts and apply them to art equally well.

That’s the thing with art. It’s like food. Some people like it cooked this way, some people like it cooked that way.  But in the end, it’s always the same thing.

Of course, we could hash around and thrash around for hours, arguing about what is or isn’t art, but whatever it is, or is not, the principles do remain. Art is line; art is color. It’s rhythm. It’s balance. It’s harmony. It’s life.

So today, let’s all make it a point to look at — and enjoy — all the art around us and to listen to the fascinating rhythms of the world.



      1. On a lighter note, have you ever seen the film “Starry Night”? It’s a cheesy comedy about Van Gogh coming back to life in modern times.

        Here’s the blurb: A magic potion returns artist Vincent Van Gogh back to life and lands him in the center of the Rose Bowl Parade in this oddball comedy. Of course, no one believes who he is and he is startled to discover his popularity after the passage of time. This sets him off on a crusade to steal his paintings back from collectors and sets a detective on his trail. Along the way, he makes friends with an ambulance chasing attorney and a young artist, who gradually begin to believe his claims of identity.

        If you haven’t seen it, check it out. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0212537/?ref_=ttpl_pl_tt

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Dance version 2 by Matisse is so powerful! It’s nice to see I’m not the only one who like to explore the connections between visula art and music, specially in term of rhythm and strength. As photographer it’s a key point to me when I put in sequence my photos for a presentation, a book or a portfolio or even an exhibition.


    1. The connections to art and music are very strong. I like how you’ve pointed out that the rhythms can extend beyond a singular work to become part of an overall presentation or exhibit. I’d never consciously thought about that before.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Last weekend I had an exhibiton of my Polaroid work. It was devided in three areas, two were displayed in a quite linear way. The third was more like a mix of different things and there was also a red string with a few Polaroid attached with clothespins. But we left one empty, there was the spin but not the photo. Most of people ask me why a photo was missing, if I had lost it or something else. My answer was that it was like in the music, sometimes you have a oause. A silent moment, it could be jazz or classic, country song or R&B…it’s so much about rythm 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Very interesting! I’m imagining a visual illustration of rhythm (which I guess is what written music actually is LOL). It seems so much more interesting with your clothespins and Polaroids. I love reading about what you’ve done.


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