I must confess I have never really thought about what makes great art great or what makes a masterpiece universally recognized as such. Works of art signed by da Vinci, van Gogh or . . . Frank O’Meara (the 19th century Irish impressionist) impress all of us by the exceptional talent they display. But, more precisely, what is it in our perception that sees them immediately as exceptional ?
A world-renowned French neuro-scientist, Jean-Pierre Changeux, has come up with an hypothesis that three mechanisms are at work in the brain when we look at the “Mona Lisa”, “The Church of Auvers-sur-Oise”, or even “Toward Night and Winter”, painted by my distant relative in 1885. When I discovered these factors I realized that they apply just as well to what makes a blog, or any other piece of writing, stand out among so many others.
The first is “novelty” or originality. Cathedrals painted by Monet or churches by van Gogh are not only the antithesis of postcards; they are unique expressions of pictorial art. Changeux, an honorary Professor of the Collège de France, calls the second factor “coherence”. The neurobiologist sees the viewing of a masterpiece as “the explosive ignition of conscience, uniting the visual system, the prefrontal cortex – seat of our rationality – and the limbic system, that profound region of the brain, seat of primary emotions.” The third element in the perception and appreciation of a work of art’s outstanding beauty is what he calls “parsimony, which consists of explaining, expressing, a lot with little”.
I have no illusions about the limits in the level and value of the 543 posts that make up (so far) this Blog. But I do try first to avoid the trite, the pedestrian, the déjà vu. What I write may not always be something never said before, but I attempt to express it in novel ways. Secondly, I would like to think that all my posts reveal an internal coherence as well as a consistency in the opinions they express. Finally, I endeavor to be brief, parcimonious even, in my prose, so that it is “short and concise, pithy and brief, as straight to the point as can be” – in short, “expressing a lot with a little”.
I am very conscious of Robert Burns’ warning : “Would that we could see ourselves as others see us.” Only my readers can judge how well, if at all, I have in fact respected these three criteria. If you feel I have, more or less well, you might let your friends and network know. This Blog is not a work of art and far from a masterpiece, but if you find it worth reading, maybe others would too. I will continue to try to respect my readers by respecting, in what I write, the criteria of novelty, coherence and parcimoniousness.