06 May 2020

Lau Tzu, Art Critic

"We put thirty spokes together and call it a wheel;
But it is on the space where there is nothing that the
usefulness of the wheel depends.

We turn clay to make a vessel;
But it is on the space where there is nothing that the
usefulness of the vessel depends.

We pierce doors and windows to make a house;
And it is on this space where there is nothing that
the usefulness of the house depends

Therefore, just as we take advantage of what is,
we should recognize the usefulness of what is not."
   - Lao-Tzu (4th century BCE)

Yves Mohy's ceramic piece contains many shapes of things. We see one hand and the suggestion of its mate; we may assume that both hands belong to the same person without certainty. The thumbs create a steeple within a steeple reminiscent of a children's game Mohy's Hands show prints of the maker's hands visibly in contrast to the smoothness of the black base. The areas around and in between the object's parts are essential to its impact.

The significance of negative space has never been more salient than at this moment. Negative space could be another term for social distancing. A steeple is a signal sender to faraway receivers, again suggesting social distancing.

"Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is." - Wallace Stevens

Image: Yves Mohy (1929-2004) - Hands, 2003, ceramic, Cite de la Ceramique, Sevres.


Tania said...

Very nice post for our time. Thank you, Jane.

Jane said...

Thanks to you, Tania for the kind words an for your continuing and interesting articles at "Textes et Pretextes."

Rouchswalwe said...

Excellent! This is one of my favourites ... did you know that Ursula Le Guin translated the Tao te ching in the late 90's? Her purpose, she wrote, was "I wanted to catch that poetry, its terse, strange beauty." I love the way she captures this in the third verse:
Cut doors and windows
to make a room.
Where the room isn't,
there's room for you.

Thank you for Mohy's ceramic piece ... wonderful.

Jane said...

I didn't know thatabout Ursula Le Guin but I remember that you have recommended her books to me! Sadly, when I copied this poem last year from a .library book I neglected to note the translator