miércoles, 24 de junio de 2009

The sublime

The finer sentiment which we propose to consider here is primarily of two kinds: the sentiment of the lofty or sublime (Erhabenen) and the sentiment of the beautiful. Being moved by either is agreeable, but in a very different way. A view of a mountain, the snowy peaks of which rise above the clouds, a description of a raging storm or a description by Milton of the Kingdom of Hell cause pleasure, but it is mixed with awe; on the other hand, a view of flower-filled meadows, valleys with winding brooks and the herds upon them, the description of elysium or Homer's description of the belt of Venus cause an agreeable feeling which is gay and smiling. We must have a sense of the sublime to receive the first impression adequately, and a sense of the beautiful to enjoy the latter fully.

—Emmanuel Kant, The Sense of the Beautiful and the Sublime (1764)

With this crucial differentiation, Emmanuel Kant described succinctly the difference between two kinds of visual pleasure. For Kant, a simple view of a bucolic landscape would be an experience of the beautiful. Alternatively, a landscape that inspired a certain level of fear and even anxiety would be considered sublime. The relationship between both emotional responses to these varied visual stimulations is at the heart of Kant’s discussion of the two. As evinced by his careful treatment of the Baroque, the tension between the beautiful and the sublime are evident throughout Germán Tagle’s paintings.

The more sublime characteristics of a cliff and a marshy swampland are explored in works such as Birdman, 2008 (*Fig. 17), and Predator, 2008 (*Fig. 13). Birdman, in particular, is an appropriate image for the discussion of the power of the sublime and its significance to the images of landscape. The lone figure in this diptych stands in the upper center of the canvas on the right. Poised as though at the very edge of a cliff, or perhaps on the fine end of a long branch, the Birdman is a precarious figure. Like a view of a monumental series of waterfalls (Niágara comes to mind), this image places the single, vulnerable figure in a precipitous position. Below him are frothy, pulsating strokes of red. In the distance and all around are endless, gloomy drips of cool blue.

These effects are reminiscent of the misty, tragic canvases of J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) and also invoke the romantic beauty and power of the nocturne works of an artist like Albert Pinkham Ryder (1847-1917). Placed in an indefinable, unknowable and boundless space, the figure, small and exposed, is a pawn in the effects of the Sublime as created by the artist. Germán’s figure is surrounded on all sides by the constant possibility of being consumed by the environment.

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