Friday, January 26, 2007

Materials and meaning in art

From Thomas Howard's Dove Descending: A Journey into T.S. Eliot's 'Four Quartets':

“…Eliot’s material is words, as marble is the sculptor’s and notes the composer’s. It is not as though words are mere instruments or just the lowly handmaidens of meaning. Words are the thing. When we visit Chartres, we do not dismiss the stone and glass as the mere stuff of something infinitely greater than stone and glass. The cathedral is stone and glass. It does not exist at all without stone and glass. We cannot drive any wedge of meaning between the materials and the glory to which the building testifies. The whole thing is glory, under the particular species of stone and glass. The same goes for notes in a concerto or divertimento, or swipes of oil and pigment in a Vermeer. The material constitutes the modality under which we perceive the thing itself.”

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