Heraclitus gallery

Heraclitus as understood through art. 

Please refer to caption of "Rouen Cathedral, West Façade."
"To those entering the same river, other and still other waters flow." (Heraclitus, fr. 42) A comparison of Monet's "Rouen Cathedral, West Façade" and "Rouen Cathedral, West Façade, Sunlight" reflect change in a obvious, natural occurrence: the contrast of light and dark. The two Rouen Cathedral paintings in this online gallery are part of a series of paintings Monet created in the 1894 that aim to capture and document the same subject at different times of day (Columbia University, Rouen Cathedral Series). As Heraclitus argues, one cannot step into the same river twice for the water itself is changed. Just like Heraclitus's philosophy of change and identity, Monet's Rouen Cathedral series aims to depict the different "identities" the façade of the cathedral embraces when affected by day and night. The cathedral is the same cathedral as before, yet reflects the constant change of nature.
Though both pictures are the same, one has undergone a process. Such process alters the external appearance of the photograph itself, yet the form and shapes of the subject remain the same. Just as it is not possible to step into the same river twice, one can only expose a photograph once to achieve a specific effect. A second exposure would produce a completely new yet same photograph.
As Heraclitus emphasizes in his fragments, the world depends upon opposition. Without opposition, one arguably cannot truly know the importance of balance. Richard Cumberland Frontispiece sketch of tragicomedy emphasizes the juxtaposition yet dependency of emotion. The emotional effects of one genre cannot be felt without an understanding and acceptance of the other. Tragedy and comedy are interdependent, an idea that is supported by Heraclitus's argument that there must be natural and emotional reactions that contend with one another in order to maintain unity.
Heraclitus believed nature existed in a continuous cycle of opposition. It is this continual opposition that Heraclitus viewed as completely necessary in maintaining the balance and unity of the world. This contemporary artwork by Kochi-Muziris Biennale that states, "Listen to the sound of the earth turning," shares common philosophic characteristics to Heraclitus. As Heraclitus states, "A mixture separates when not kept in motion." (Heraclitus, fr. 84). Biennale, like Heraclitus, recognizes an earth that is in constant movement. The simplicity, yet equal complexity of Biennale's artwork is reminiscent of Heraclitus's philosophical attempts to simplify one's understanding of the world. Biennale adopts a clear and plain style of artistic expression that for the viewer, presents a straightforward yet almost ironically mind turning message.
This painting titled "Universe (Tryptique D)" by Hai Ja Bang is a stunning reflection of Heraclitus theory of universal order. The color and form of this painting are reminiscent of fire, the element of which Heraclitus argues is continual within a process of change. As Heraclitus states, "All things are exchanged for fire and fire for all things, just as wares for gold and gold for wares." (Heraclitus, fr. 22). Fire is the element that maintains a worldly cycle that allows one element to transform into another, then back to the original element.
The second artwork by Hai Ja Bang within this collection is another piece that conjures a philosophical relation to Heraclitus theory of the elemental process. In the center, one can see fire. The tint of red and pink extend to the second ring which is a light blue, similar to air. The following rings become darker, as if to signify a transition to water and earth. Yet, throughout every ring, there are highlights and undertones that have a burning effect, like fire.
"The eyes are more exact witnesses than the ears." (Heraclitus, fr. 15). According to Heraclitus, personal experience powers over second-hand knowledge. Heraclitus values the human experience as a source of wisdom, claiming it as the only truthful understandings one can comprehend. The eyes in this singular amulet are included to accentuate this philosophy.
"And to these images they pray, as if one should prattle with the houses knowing nothing of gods or heroes, who they are." (Heraclitus, fr. 126). To continue on a theme of human experience, this painting helps to exemplify Heraclitus view towards commonplace religious worship. The divine, as Heraclitus argues are not entities humans truly experience and therefore know. Heraclitus's views towards religion, however are rather obscure and difficult to comprehend for he acknowledges the existence of classic gods such as Zeus yet claims humans do not have a personal connection to the divine. This painting by Hans Memling summons questions towards the unknown. The viewer does not know what the figure is praying to for it is hidden from sight. The figure, however appears sad, even hopeless. Perhaps she questions her religion. The lack of hope within the figure's face in tandem with the aspect of the "unknown" create a scene that for the viewer is mysterious, like Heraclitus acknowledges in fragment 126.
"To those who are awake, there is one world in common, but of those who are asleep, each is withdrawn to a private world of his own." (Heraclitus, fr. 95). One of the many arguments Heraclitus poses regards human awareness of reality. He claims, many if not most do not live actively but rather passively, for they are solely in-tune with their own minds, similar to a dream-like state. The title and subject of this painting depict two worlds, one that is ethereal and heavenly and another that is grounded to the tangible, present world.
"We must know that war is universal and strife right, and that by strife all things arise and † are used †." (Heraclitus, fr. 62) War and strife, in the opinion of Heraclitus, not only act as a form of opposition, but also gives way for life. It helps to sustain balance. The subject of this painting by Gustave Wappers, a depiction of a Belgian revolution, is an example of a call for societal order. Social disproportion causes disrupt, as reflected in the expressions of the figures within this painting, yet also triggers a natural reaction of revolution formed by a desire for balance. The artist's use of atmospheric dark and light accentuates the difference between two ideals that serves to create tonal balance within the painting itself, similar to the dissimilarities that exists within a call for equality.
Credits: All media
This user gallery has been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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