Silence in Poetry & in Watercolor Painting


Withered White Hibiscus – by Jacki Kellum – Painted en plein aire – Watercolor on Arches

“What delights us in visible beauty is the invisible.” – Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

When paintings reveal everything that a camera or some other machine might see, the viewing simply becomes mechanical–data in—data out.  The viewer might be impressed—even awed by the painter’s expert ability to render details; but that is about all that the viewer is allowed to experience because the overly technical or realistic painting is too filled with detail and explanation—there are no quiet spaces for meditative observation—there are no silences—there is no emptiness.  Everything is spelled out—there is no need for interpretation.  There is no mystery—no intrigue.  No invitation is issued to the viewer to participate and to do some imagining or even thinking of his own.  You might say that the technically perfect painting suffers from “too much information.”

The same principle might be true of some novels, essays, and nonfiction writing. They also may have too much information to be appealing–to evoke an emotional response. I have often said the while good novels tend to be good oil painting, good watercolor painting tends to be poetry.

I believe that all creative work needs places of Zen-like emptiness—pools that can be filled by the viewer’s spirit.  Or conversely, they should evoke a quiet emptiness within the viewer—pools that can be filled by the spiritual essence that resides in the invisible, silent spaces within the painting or the poem. In my opinion, paintings and writing should be meditative, spiritual–and the mechanically, technically perfect–the fully exposed–cannot be either.

It is my belief that when viewers look at paintings, they should not be looking for technicality– they should be LISTENING to the Sounds of Silence. Similarly, when one reads poetry, he should not strive to fully understand00to know all that there might have been–but to enter the poet’s word-ship and sail.

Copyright Jacki Kellum November 10, 2015


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