Pretty mathematical

Animation by Simon Russell/Vicarage Studio to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, which premiered on 15 January 1941 in a WWII prisoner-of-war camp. The work explores mathematics, music and religious belief.

For more information go to vicarage.studio/messiaen/

The Grok and the Gratchy

This winter I hibernated.

It’s actually the first time I’ve had the luxury to hibernate—in my first year of retirement I set up my studio, a stash and some websites for rumination. In my second winter we travelled to Japan and I made some work for an exhibition. My third winter was for renovating. Winter four gave permission for quiet, warmth, relaxation and thought.

hibernation2

Image by Alex

While I hibernated I thought about clouds and stripes and water. And balloon flowers and colours and pies.

I thought about my two favourite words the GROK and the GRATCHY.

I wrote some notes for a treatise on understanding why you grok certain things in the world.

To me the idea of grok is another way to describe aesthetics, [a term which needs further definition itself, but briefly, to me it means] the deep knowing and deep feeling I get when I encounter a thing [usually visual] that is particularly and inexplicably appealing to me.

The idea of gratchy according to my definition is the feeling and knowledge that a thing is important but very boring and tedious. It may even be challenging but you just don’t want to engage in the challenge.

The grok and the gratchy are both important but why do I love one and not the other? When you are teaching, why do you have students in the palm of your hand when they grok and swinging from the fans when they are gratchy?

Why is my grok not the grok of everyone else? Why is my gratchy beloved by my beloved?

How do you recognise a unique and innate aesthetic sense? Not one that is too sharply shaped by the opinion of others? Is such a sense unique to every one of us? How do you feed and therefore develop this aesthetic sense?

The grok and the gratchy are new terms to help me deal with the dirty word of aesthetics. I had been thinking that the grok is more important in understanding our aesthetic sense. Now I’m starting to feel that the gratchy, as the ‘other’ in this discourse, may be more illuminating.