You might expect me to be fond of still lifes because I love irony and still lifes are, after all, pictures of dead things.
However, I don’t like them much. Sure the bouquets of flowers are beautiful, but I can do without the shotgunned hare or pheasant flopped on the table beside them. It’s all so…messy.
And while I can admire much about abstract paintings, what I really like are pictures that tell a story. Girl with a Pearl Earring. The Gleaners. The Running of the Goats.
Then last night I watched a TV show about visual storytelling. The narrator, Dr. Nigel Spivey, explained that four thousand years ago Gilgamesh knew that his people wanted a hero so he had scribes write about him performing legendary feats. Then an Assyrian king took storytelling to the next level and inserted himself in almost every scene of the action as sculptors carved images of him stoically fighting lions and vanquishing enemies. The next big leap came from the ancient Greeks, who ensured that even marble characters displayed their emotions.
Dr. Spivey went on to say that the people who really pulled it all together, storytelling-wise, were the original Australians. For tens of thousands of years, long before the Greeks and even Gilgamesh, they’ve been painting characters that everyone in their society recognizes. (Can you say archetype?) Then, in a brilliant stroke that wasn’t replicated for millennia, they set their tales to music. With percussion and didgeridoo they created a context for the story, hooked the audience’s emotions, and to this day are still sweeping them along for the whole ride.
I’m not a visual storyteller like they are, although I do strive to spin words into images in my readers’ minds. However, if I could set this blog to music, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. Alas, I’d have to go with Nancy White’s Procrastination Rag. Writing always makes me want to clean, too.