IN REALITY OPPOSITES ARE ONE; ART SHOWS THIS | Eli Siegel
Is Beauty the Making One of Opposites?
1 FREEDOM AND ORDER DOES every instance of beauty in nature and beauty as the artist presents it have something unrestricted, unexpected, uncontrolled?—and does this beautiful thing in nature or beautiful thing coming from the artist’s mind have, too, something accurate, sensible, logically justifiable, which can be called order?
2 SAMENESS AND DIFFERENCE DOES every work of art show the kinship to be found in objects and all realities?—and at the same time the subtle and tremendous difference, the drama of otherness, that one can find among the things of the world?
3 ONENESS AND MANYNESS IS there in every work of art something which shows reality as one and also something which shows reality as many and diverse?—must every work of art have a simultaneous presence of oneness and manyness, unity and variety?
4 IMPERSONAL AND PERSONAL DOES every instance of art and beauty contain something which stands for the meaning of all that is, all that is true in an outside way, reality just so?—and does every instance of art and beauty also contain something which stands for the individual mind, a self which has been moved, a person seeing as original person?
5 UNIVERSE AND OBJECT DOES every work of art have a certain precision about something, a certain concentrated exactness, a quality of particular existence?—and does every work of art, nevertheless, present in some fashion the meaning of the whole universe, something suggestive of wide existence, something that has an unbounded significance beyond the particular?
6 LOGIC AND EMOTION IS there a logic to be found in every painting and in every work of art, a design pleasurably acceptable to the intelligence, details gathered unerringly, in a coherent, rounded arrangement?—and is there that which moves a person, stirs him in no confined way, pervades him with the serenity and discontent of reality, brings emotion to him and causes it to be in him?
7 SIMPLICITY AND COMPLEXITY IS there a simplicity in all art, a deep naiveté, an immediate self-containedness, accompanied perhaps by fresh directness or startling economy?—and is there that, so rich, it cannot be summed up; something subterranean and intricate counteracting and completing simplicity; the teasing complexity of reality meditated on?
8 CONTINUITY AND DISCONTINUITY IS there to be found in every work of art a certain progression, a certain indissoluble presence of relation, a design which makes for continuity?—and is there to be found, also, the discreteness, the individuality, the brokenness of things: the principle of discontinuity?
9 DEPTH AND SURFACE IS painting, like art itself, a presentation of the “on top,” obvious, immediate?—and is it also a presentation of what is implied, deep, “below”?—and is art, consequently, an interplay of surface and sensation as “this” and depth and thought as “all that”?
10 REPOSE AND ENERGY IS there in painting an effect which arises from the being together of repose and energy in the artist’s mind?—can both repose and energy be seen in a painting’s line and color, plane and volume, surface and depth, detail and composition?—and is the true effect of a good painting on the spectator one that makes at once for repose and energy, calmness and intensity, serenity and stir?
11 HEAVINESS AND LIGHTNESS IS there in all art, and quite clearly in sculpture, the presence of what makes for lightness, release, gaiety?—and is there the presence, too, of what makes for stability, solidity, seriousness?—is the state of mind making for art both heavier and lighter than that which is customary?
12 OUTLINE AND COLOR DOES every successful example of visual art have a oneness of outward line and interior mass and color?—does the harmony of line and color in a painting show a oneness of arrest and overflow, containing and contained, without and within?
13 LIGHT AND DARK DOES all art present the world as visible, luminous, going forth?—does art, too, present the world as dark, hidden, having a meaning which seems to be beyond ordinary perception?—and is the technical problem of light and dark in painting related to the reality question of the luminous and hidden?
14 GRACE AND SERIOUSNESS IS there what is playful, valuably mischievous, unreined and sportive in a work of art?—and is there also what is serious, sincere, thoroughly meaningful, solidly valuable?—and do grace and sportiveness, seriousness and meaningfulness, interplay and meet everywhere in the lines, shapes, figures, relations, and final import of a painting?
15 TRUTH AND IMAGINATION IS every painting a mingling of mind justly receptive of what is before it, and of mind freely and honorably showing what it is through what mind meets?—is every painting, therefore, a oneness of what is seen as item and what is seen as possibility, of fact and appearance, the ordinary and the strange?—and are objective and subjective made one in a painting?
© COPYRIGHT TERRAIN GALLERY / AESTHETIC REALISM FOUNDATION
The Fifteen Questions by Eli Siegel were first published by the Terrain Gallery in the announcement of its opening, February 26, 1955. Reprinted in the following periodicals: Journal of Aesthetics & Art Criticism, December 1955; Ante, 1964; Hibbert Journal (London), 1964. Reprinted in the following books: Eli Siegel, Afternoon Regard for Photography, 1967; Sheldon Kranz, ed., Aesthetic Realism: We Have Been There, 1969, Eli Siegel, The Frances Sanders Lesson and Two Related Works, 1974. Reprinted by Terrain Gallery and Definition Press, 1956, 1961, 1964, 1967 1968, 1969, 1971, 1974, 1975, 1978. Reprinted by Aesthetic Realism Foundation, 1985, 1988, 1989, 1994, 2005, 2012.