Ars Vincit Omnia

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.

 

Amor Vincit Omnia Look at those FEATHERS!
Amor Vincit Omnia
Look at those FEATHERS!

 

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.)

 

What the fuck is this, Bernini? Are you some sort of wizard?
What the fuck is this witchcraft, Bernini?

 

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.

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