‘Oh she’s just impressionable…’
This statement is weighted with a negative stigma that I’d like to challenge. In my last blog post, I talked about the need to become ‘aware’ of ordinary things to break the ‘active but absent’ mindset that are bodies are accustomed to. We’re all guilty of going through the motions in our daily lives – it’s pretty normal. We as humans are creatures of habit and fall into routine. The danger of this of course is that we don’t think or feel for ourselves. We’re constantly bombarded with advertisements ‘LOOK HERE, BUY THIS, TASTE, FEEL’ etc. With these directions, often comes empty promises of fulfillment and happiness.
Therefore, to ‘live’ as such, and to be present, we need to become aware and be humbled by ordinary things. Christophe Andre’s book Mindfulness: 25 Ways To Live In The Moment Through Art has been a brilliant insight into the importance of looking, and really seeing. Much of my inspiration and thoughts have been catalysed by his writing.
Claude Monet has always been one of my favourite Painters. I often get asked who my favourite Artist is, and when I was very young I panicked and exclaimed it was Monet. This at the time was partially true, and partly that I knew everyone would be familiar with some of his work, or at the very least, his name. As an impressionable child, I began to look and marvel at the work of Claude Monet. I saw his piece La rue Montorgueil a Paris. Fete du 30 juin 1878 at the Musée d’Orsay and was inspired by his ability to capture the spirit and the enthusiasm of the later coined ‘French National’ day through his urgent and lively brushstrokes, all whilst still sitting removed from the festival feeling in a balcony he reportedly hired to paint the scene especially.
Monet, Claude, La rue Montorgueil a Paris. Fete du 30 juin 1878, 1878, Oil on Canvas, 81 x 50.5cm Musée d’Orsay
This painting is a blur of motion and celebration that when is viewed up-close is constructed of what seems like very frantic brushstrokes. There seems to be little composition and structure, but when viewed as a whole it becomes almost like a snapshot of the day, full of life and vibrancy.
Monet was inspired to paint a scene of people in France that have been hurt, but are moving forward to a greater and more plentiful life. The term ‘Impressionist’ was first used as an insult in response to an exhibition of new paintings in Paris in 1874. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the term impressionable means ‘easily influenced.’ As one of the major members of the movement, Monet would record fleeting, transient moments that influenced him through the medium of paint. By painting scenes that he found influential, he was mindful and aware of the present moment. He was so inspired by dancerly nature of the flags that he paid to paint on someone’s balcony. The scene wouldn’t have been any better later, or any worse. It just wouldn’t have been the same. This was the impression that he was inspired by, it was perfect – the here and now. You may find yourself asking, but how does this apply to me in my daily life?
Artist or not, we all can learn from Claude Monet. Being impressionable allows us to be simply present to the ordinary moments of living. This is important, because most often, it is the present that we ignore. How often do you find yourself thinking about the past, or the future rather than concentrating on living in the present? Being influenced by things we see and hear helps us fragment and interrupt the ‘automatic flow of our actions and thoughts.’ According to Christophe Andre, finding yourself being impressionable and therefore aware of the present moment is no doubt easier in more beautiful or favourable surroundings. For example, it’s much easier to be inspired by a remarkable sunset than it is a washing machine. Knowing this, it’s easy to relate to Monet’s instancy to paint La Rue Montorgueil. With this being said, we can be impressionable in any environment as long as we are prepared to make an effort. ‘It requires a decision on our part to open ourselves up as often as we can to being touched, contracted and struck by life. This is an act of deliberate awareness.’ There may be things you see every day on your way to work, in your home that you’ve never looked twice at. These ordinary items will never be the same twice. Every experience you have is different, in the fact that it’s always unique – time passes. Looking with the eyes of a new-born can help us reveal beauty in things that we may have considered unchanging before.
Monet, Claude, Rouen Cathedral Series, Oil on Canvas, various sizes, 1890-1896
With over 30 Paintings in the Rouen Cathedral Series, Monet focused on portraying the distinctly different character of the cathedral depending on the light that was cast upon it. This monumental effort by Monet acts as an ‘attempt to illustrate the importance of light in our perception of a subject at a given time and place.’ When looking closely at the Paintings, it’s quite extraordinary how the same building can almost take on a completely different persona due to the time of the day it was painted. Monet, like a lot of the Impressionists, was inspired by light. The effect that light had on an object or a place was a driving force to paint, because it was ever-changing. We like Monet, can attune ourselves to be impressionable and look with eyes that want to be inspired and an open mind. This ever-changing concept of light applies to everything, no matter how seemingly insignificant. A pepper grinder today is going to remain a pepper grinder tomorrow, but where it’s placed may be different, the reflection will be different. When we become aware of these little things, we’re alive – broken free from the shackles of the past and the fears of the future for an instant. When we become aware and momentarily dismiss our staggered thoughts and just ‘live’, the world is a more dazzling, brighter and fulfilling place.
“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.” – Henry Miller
I’m working on becoming more impressionable, are you?
Andre, Christophe, Mindfulness: 25 Ways To Live In The Moment Through Art, p 20-24. 119