Bridget Riley describes her mother thus: “She was always pointing out colours: in the sea; the sparkle of dew: changes of colour when the dew was brushed away. If she arranged anything on the table like a bowl of fruit […] she would point out the colours. ‘Look it’s almost got a blue on it.’ She wasn’t a painter, she was a ‘looker’. The pleasure that one could get from looking was part of her personality.” Riley’s mother and I have this in common. Visible Invisible: Against the Security of the Real, just opened at Parasol Unit in London, is an exhibition irresistible to lookers, because they are made to feel important – more important, perhaps, than they actually are – rewarded, intrigued and thwarted by looking, and looking long.
This wonderful quote is from a review of the referenced show by Laura McLean-Ferris. As the phrase goes, most people with eyes can see, but a smaller subset has the ability to look.
A few one-liners on this same topic:
The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend. (Henri Bergson)
Vision is the art of seeing things invisible. (Jonathan Swift)
It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. (Henry David Thoreau)
Sight is a faculty; seeing is an art. (George Perkins Marsh)
A writer should write with his eyes and a painter paint with his ears. (Gertrude Stein)
And one more addendum to this, more a comment on being seen than on seeing: Deborah Sontag of New York Times recently highlighted the late in life success of Carmen Herrera. She sold her first painting at age 89. Now, at 94, she is being heralded as the talent she has been for years.
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