I need to talk to you about Caravaggio.
Where do I start? Have you seen this man’s work? He’s incredible. His use of colour and shadow completely overthrew whatever thoughts I had on visual art when I was a teenager. His work is vibrant, striking, and powerful, all thick with emotion.
I have to talk to you about Caravaggio because he was instrumental in really introducing me to art.
It was Simon Schama’s fault, really. I had always loved fiction, and was developing a strong interest in poetry, but art as a wider concept I hadn’t really latched onto. The visual arts had failed to get their teeth into me; I pooh poohed them. But one night around eleven I was fussing about online and turned on the television to give the darkness a bit more company, and there was the Power of Art. The episode? Caravaggio.
“This is not a series about things that hang on walls, it is not about decor or prettiness. It is a series about the force, the need, the passion of art …the power of art.”
I was entranced. Now this shit was worth travelling the world for. This was worth spending a day – a week – a month – wandering around a gallery for. This was worth blood and sweat and life itself. I understood that, all at once. I watched the rest of the series, captivated in turn by David and Turner and Rothko. Bernini in particular made me swoon; I was entranced by his unutterably spectacular Rape of Proserpina. (And have you seen his David? God.)
But Caravaggio was my first love. Those colours! That contrast! And, god, that emotion – the exile using himself as the basis for the severed head of Goliath, twisted and grotesque. Before Caravaggio I had some idea that the old masters were dull and boring. Before Caravaggio, all visual art seemed one-dimensional. Discovering him, his work, his life, uncovered for me all the hidden secrets of each piece. His work changed my life.
Suddenly I had an awareness of art that I’d never had before, art as this grand ideal, art as god. It instilled in me a feverish desire to consume and create as much of it as possible. It shaped my life’s direction. This – all of this – is why I’m here. Ultimately, my late-night discovery of one artist led to the development of Art and Passion as my highest ideals, intrinsically intertwined. These are, to me, ineffable; the most sacred of imperatives.