A Gestalt Therapy Session
A couple of words about ideas in art

Dear readers! I do not want to launch yet another philisophical discussion about ideas in art. Instead, I suggest that you develop your own approach. This small gestalt session is aimed at helping you to reach this goal. Let's get started, if you do not mind.

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Please look at the painting by A.K. Savrasov "Rooks Are Back Again" (1871). (In Russia, it is a well-known picture, every schoolboy and schoolgirl are familiar with. The painting is displayed at the Moscow Tretyakov Gallery.) Do not hurry. Wait until some feelings or thoughts come to you.

Now try to reflect upon the picture. Why did the painter decide to show a bell-tower in his painting? Can hovels without windows tell you about something? What are your feelings? What is the general idea of the rooks' return? Can you make any sense of the pictuire at all?

To those of you who are practicing photographers :-), I would like to add a couple of additional questions. Is it good to have the skyline in the center? What about the branch in the left part of the picture? Does it attract too much attention?

Have you answered all the questions? Have you developed your own opinion? Good. Now lay aside the article. Walk about your room for a while. Then get back to reading.

S. M. Sandomirsky wrote: "The meaning of the picture is simple. People, who live in low houses behind high fences, are far from any spiritual demands. Ministers of religion are somewhat above everyday minor activities (above the horizon), while the bell-tower, similar to religious aspirations, rises even higher: it is shown as a high distinct object. Still the tower fails to reach bright clouds and clear sky. Only birds not only fly in the blue sky of spirit, but also live there — that is their permanent residence".

Now it is time for another short break. Limber up a little. Pat your dog or cat, if you have any. Scratching your head is also a good option. After that we can continue with our session.

Now, with your permission, I shall give you my version. The meaning of the picture is simple. The constant flow of life is starting its new cycle. The rooks are back. The snow has not melted away yet, and the sky is full of plumbeous grey tints. Nevertheless, rooks are busy building their nests. We are standing on a hill and looking into the distance. Something exciting and penetrating is felt in the air of an early spring. Against the background of this feeling, we realize our loneliness. And hope. It is felt through the return of the birds. Aren't we similar to them? Is our life also a vain continuous round of events, which repeats itself while being slightly different each time?

Compare your feelings and thoughts with those of Sandomirsky and me. Stand up and come up to the window, please. Look into the distance. If you are not in the mood to continue reading, give it up. Why forcing yourself? It is just an idle matter, you know.

Well, if your decision was to continue, welcome back.

Fritz Perls, one of the founders of gestalt therapy, once said: " … we are not analyzing. We are just integrating." Consider all three interpretations (including yours) from this point of view. What dominates in them? Analysis or integral perception? Or maybe all of them contain something else which is very important. Or maybe something important is missing in all of them?

Look again at the picture. Can all those words (including yours) substitute the vivid perception of a piece of art? If the idea does exist, can we verbalize it? What do we need words for? Why is the idea important to us? Do we need the idea at all? Answer all those questions.

Now take a deep breath. Relax. Smile. The session is over. Thank you.

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A couple of unnecessary but interesting remarks

1. I have got a question for you now. Did you manage to catch the meaning of my text? If yes, what is all about? Frankly speaking, I just wanted to stimulate your individual process of perception and thinking. That is all. If you found any other ideas in this text, those are your ideas, not mine. This result is quite normal. It is a natural sequence of a successful gestalt therapy. :-)

2. Ideas in art can be treated in a different way. In physics, there is such a thing like Bohr's Principle of Complementarity. In my opinion, this principle can be extended and applied to arts (I may be not the first guy, who developed such an approach). As far as art is concerned, this principle can be formulated in the following way. All possible interpretations of a piece of art do not contradict each other. They are rather mutually complementary. Such an idea may restore your peace of mind, if you are unhappy with the main part of the article.

November 17, 2004

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1. Igor Yefremov. Creating and Understanding Art. Philosophical micro-essay

2. Igor Yefremov. Tao Te Ching And Photography. The Heavenly Way to Perfection for Photographers. Yet another attempt to stimulate your understanding of art.



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