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”.
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.
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:
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.