What is Real?

hands 4, photograph

“They are imbeciles who call my work abstract. That which they call abstract is the most realistic, because what is real is not the exterior but the idea, the essence of things”.

Constantin Brancusi

Smart people in many fields, ranging from classical philosophy (Plato) to modern physics to Kashmir Shaivism and Buddhism, point out that external appearances are not real in some fundamental way. They are transient, illusory, a deception.

We have it backwards – what we think of abstract is real and what we perceive of as real is abstract. Of course, it’s hard to live one’s everyday life with this perspective. But, as artists, we have the freedom to entertain this viewpoint in our work.

This is why most of my photography explores a shadow world, a level or two below what we think of as reality. It’s like the part of the iceberg below the waterline – there’s much more there to explore than what’s on the surface. That volume has extraordinary dimension. It is from there that the parts we see emerge above the surface.

It’s reassuring to know that there is so much more in the abstract world beneath the surface of things – no end to what we can explore!



3 responses to “What is Real?

  1. You have me thinking a bit more than usual on this one Bob. I am not sure I understand it, but you have the neurons firing anyway. Maybe it is just too early in the morning to get so deep. 🙂

  2. Bob-

    Your entries are intriguing, making a nice compliment to the photograph(s). I appreciate a straightforward approach to the abstract/real issue, & while photography is not the usual venue, your work becomes more interesting. I was a fan of Brancusi, though I haven’t heard this quote. I came to like Barbara Hepworth because her work has more dimension, and remains aesthetic which is important. Your work is also a combination of beauty and style as I see it.

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