THE FORMS

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Plato is the first powerful philosophical mind who appreciates Beauty as an extra-dimensional reality, including it in his famous “Forms.” The Platonic world of Forms does not recognize space-time reality; it transcends the phenomenal world, because it represents the essential basis and the pure truth as an immanence and a universal principle of every reality. Physical appearances are real to the extent that they imitate Forms. Thus, the diversity of our phenomenal world is a diversity of shadows and portrayals of Forms in various situations. The Forms, including the Form of Beauty, are also extra-mental; they exist beyond mental reality and thus complete Plato’s tableau in relation to art…Celestial inspiration or the genius of the “artist-prophet” who discovers the ideal essences and can convey the truth better than any other human experience is the powerful variant suggested in the “Symposium,” who permeates neo-Platonism and influences the West.

In contrast to the above is the idea of “art as imitation of reality,” which is expressed in the “Republic” and which persists as a chronic epidemic in the general thought of each era. This variant might be a worthy representative of the world of illusions, but not Plato’s thought on the world of art, if we were not to read this thought literally. Fear of the course of art does not represent thought about the truth of art.

A reality that imitates, copies and reproduces itself as an independent existence more and more distant from the original and the essential truth is an ephemeral reality or a deficient art of poor quality; it is the copy of a copy that piles up illusions; it is a “simulacrum” or the “Platonic fear” clearly expressed 2400 years ago! Fortunately, whatever the flow of illusions may be into the tableau of civilized history, the Form of Beauty deeply obsesses the human mind. This is inevitable! The genius of art represents the Form itself, which exists and is self-expressed as an immanence of human spirit through the challenge of individuality. In other words, the challenge of artistic individuality implies the genius of the human spirit, whenever the latter destroys the phenomenal relation between reality and simulation. In this sense, true art is an expression of the ideal essences, and it has no link to simulating ephemeral realities.

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And might the Forms exist in themselves?! Research on their existence goes along with the history of mankind, which has been illuminated through art for at least 40.000 years. Based on this reference, if we support the thought of Plato, only 2.400 years old, we support the last brilliant achievement about the Forms, one perhaps not yet properly understood. Schopenhauer and Nietzsche trace the same line of thought, considering art respectively as a “mirror of ideas” and as a “self-transcendence, through which we go beyond our own limits to become one with the Universe.”

In the course of this “beautifully” deciphered history through art, it is natural that the creative subject would be intrigued from the beginning by the idea of Beauty as an element dependent on and independent of him, as a visible and invisible existence in nature, in life, in art and in itself. But the essence of this intrigue lies in his work and especially in its invisible element, which philosophy tries to uncover by researching into the temporary outer shell of tendencies, styles and canons. The distress of philosophy is that the intrigue always results as “still unknown” in the conceptual dimensions and not in the intuition of the creator. We are in awe of the Paleolithic rock with 26 symbols that precede our alphabet; we marvel at the “modern” cave paintings in Lascaux, Chauvet or Altamira (Caves in Spain and France – some of the most famous for the content of Paleolithic art.) and we convince ourselves that everything has been sketched out at the origin… and everything sketched out at the origin is naturally incorporated in the world of Beauty.

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The image of the “beautiful woman” remains the most fascinating image that accompanies the artist from the Paleolithic Venus statuettes to the postmodern consumerist diversity. It is not an issue at all whether the Paleolithic statuettes with the exaggerated pelvic girdle and breasts might not be that beautiful to the postmodern artist; the Paleolithic artist would similarly have regretted the emaciated postmodern top models. We search for the basis of these varying tastes in the ideas of survival, in the ideas of fertility or in the refined esthetic canons. We do not perceive these ideas, but the argument of “the beautiful woman” remains the most typical example of the philosophical debate about Beauty. According to this example “We perceive the beautiful woman, but not the Idea or the Form of Beauty in itself.” It is quite normal: being surrounded by a Universe that is imperceptible at most of its levels, what frightens us is whether those levels might not exist. What is most important for our existence we call the “human soul,” but we are hardly ever consistent in what we believe about its existence. We think we have understood the essence of the beautiful woman, once we have seen, touched and ranked her in the bewildering diversity of perceived beauties – a diversity that can be multiplied if we make use of the senses of insect or electronic extensions – and we hardly ever remember that we are not insects or electronic extensions, but carriers of the human soul, which loves and creates works of art that are neither the beautiful woman nor a copy of the beautiful woman, but which show in essence that “the woman is beautiful.”

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At specific moments in life, everybody is given the opportunity to appreciate the works of art as signs that express and immortalize the essence of Beauty. Even the most indoctrinated researcher can find “the language of the soul” in front of great art and start to resonate with the very Form of Beauty, forgetting for a moment the academic language of “Victorian, Romantic, Abstract or Consumerist Beauties.” The historic coordinates of today’s researcher do not provide only illusions. He can communicate simultaneously with the art of the cave, the painting of Leonardo, Van Gogh and Kandinsky not only within the walls of the museum, but directly through his imagination, intuition and very being, which incorporate the experience of all this history and which derive from it. He may learn at school that the “pure forms” and the questions “is this art?” and “what does this mean?” are articulated for the first time with the abstract art, and having those questions in mind, his head would pound even more while he looked at the David of Michelangelo, a descendant and an ancestor; he represents eternity and cannot be limited to what is transitory. Within a few hours, within a laboratory, a planetarium or with the naked eye, he can perceive algae, metallic microstructures or sufficient galactic images to be imitated by paintings in the style of Kandinsky or Pollock for generations on end. Strangely, in the world of the scholar, “mistakes” often result in acts of genius: he may learn that for the first time in abstract art there are no real imitation references and he may understand the “lucky mistake” of this lesson once he has felt that ART IS “NATURA NATURANS” (A latin expression related to the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza. In contrast to “natura naturata” or the infinite chain of passive products, “natura naturans” is “The Universal Principle of Self-causing”.),  ALWAYS SURROUNDED BY IMITATION REFERENCES BUT WHICH NEVER REPRESENTS THE IMITATION REFERENCES. The scholar may accept the encyclopedia definition of Art as a “creation, whose works convey attractive ideas, beliefs or images to the human perception,” and in front of works of genius he may experience emotions not at all similar to such conveyances. This is exactly what happens, as great works do not convey definitions, but emotions of a Beauty that shows with the most perfect simplicity that Art, IN ESSENCE AND ABOVE ALL, IS NOT CARTOGRAPHY, IT IS NOT IDEOGRAM AND IT IS NOT IMITATION. Otherwise, philosophers, chemists and physicists would be the best artists or even the only existing artists not only in the conceptual area, but in the whole history of a world art that the scholar would simply read. A vacuum worse than this could not be imagined. However, what makes me optimistic is the destiny of the scholar. Nowadays, with a minimum of expense, he can enjoy life amid miracles of 40.000 years – Endrix, Hancock, Mozart, Bach, Pollock, Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Bronzino, Altamira, Lascaux and endless others – miracles in the midst of which the scholar would confront with great reservation both Picasso’s saying “after Altamira, all is decadence,” and Umberto Eco’s opinion that “Beauty has never been something given once and for all, but has acquired different faces over time, depending on the historic period and the area. And this not only with physical beauty (of man, woman, landscape), but also with the beauty of God, the saints or point of view.” In fact, while enjoying the miracles of World Art, the ESSENCE OF BEAUTY, as a MAJOR FORCE that enables the scholar to feel sublime emotions, has nothing to do with the variability of fashion or transitory historical means and styles. What can the scholar do if the bas-reliefs of Nefertari, the “beautiful companion” of Ramses, cause him more power emotions today than the photographs of Campbell? The truth is that in enjoying life, the scholar has to face a series of difficulties. Among the publications on Art and Beauty, he may find a cacophony of illustrations in which the photos of Hollywood stars such as Travolta or Clooney (This alludes to the illustrations of the publication by Umberto Eco on the “History of Beauty”.) appear beside the works of world art. To the scholar’s knowledge, these movie stars, just like Matisse or Cezanne in their own field and levels, simply represent the artist, the one who realizes the work that should convey Beauty to him. In the meantime, texts explain repeatedly the old lessons that Beauty takes on different forms in the numerous realities such as “landscape, man, woman or saint.” In that case, why not, even the actor himself might represent the phenomenon of Beauty. But let us imagine the scholar alittle, when during the happy moments of his trance and his transformed consciousness in front of a Bronzino’s “Venus” or Rodin’s “Thinker,” someone hands him a photo of Marlon Brando. I am certain that after this “slap,” the researcher would recover only after he had watched “The Last Tango in Paris.” Only Art can offer him the way to see BEAUTY through beautiful phenomena. The urinal in the bathroom and the shell in the midst of the sandy shore would neither represent nor convey Beauty outside the act and rituals of Art. Only the rituals of Art, of this exclusively human reality, make the researcher follow the path of his predecessors by seeing Beauty functioning, even illusively, in the illusive realities of the horizon, of the sky separated from earth, of the shell in the midst of the sand, of an amazing marine, stellar or sanctified landscape. Thus, a contradiction exists, which the scholar inherits from thousands of years, in each of its aspects, outside and inside the realities created by humankind. He frequents the beauty of consumption, clothing, luxurious cars or the fashion of media symbols without removing himself at all from “the provocative Beauty” of what is avant-garde. In fact, the scholar inherits this contradiction – which Eco calls the “typical contradiction of the twentieth century” – from his respected ancient forefathers, who took a pride in armament, ships or clothing styled with much elegance, as well as in the art of Phidias, Praxiteles, Giotto or Botticelli. Consumerism, the tendency to identify oneself with the products we consume, developed long before the capitalist world of the scholar. Believing that the effect of the world of quantity is not a good argument at all, I trust that the scholar, in contrast to the “future explorer” of Umberto Eco, will not “give up in front of an orgy of patience and the entire syncretism of the divinities of Beauty.” Realities like market culture, fashion, commercial brands or temptation from the status-symbolism of levels of luxury cannot eradicate the scholar’s freedom. As ever, he will enjoy all the illusions, within and outside of the realities created by man; he will be amazed by the view of the horizon, he will follow fashion, he will play with shadows, he will imitate and produce everything he can all the way to the illusions of the “triumphing simulacra” of Jean Baudrillard and at the same time, as ever, he will be represented in the major works and he will enjoy the world of True Art. Due to his unique destiny, he lives reality “deus sive natura” and represents an immanence that allows imitation only at the levels of parody, humor and entertainment. As for Beauty, as an essential and immanent Form of this reality, it is expressed in original ways through the great Art of each epoch and does not need to “imitate itself”. The scholar’s fortune is that through Art he feels himself a Universal self-sufficient Force.

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Under very special circumstances we can be afforded moments to feel Art as a reality that expresses and perpetuates the essence of Beauty. I do not refer to the rituals of the creator. You can represent and perceive the secrets of this world even without being an “artist” or a “prophet.” The anthropologist is delighted at the impressive “ethnographic moment” for the sake of his profession, but we can all enjoy a similar moment for the sake of empathy in front of works of Art. As it becomes more massive and inevitable, our emotional communication with the 40.000 years of creativity increasingly shows to us that the work of Art is a mirror of the Self that challenges every transitory historical boundary.

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