Post-Impressionist Art: Blurring the Lines Between the Different Versions of Reality

Roger Fry on the French Post-Impressionist artists: “Another charge that is frequently made against theses artists is that they allow what is merely capricious, or even what is extravagant or eccentric, in their work — that it is not serious, but an attempt to impose on the good-natured tolerance of the public. This charge of insincerity and extravagance is invariably made against any new manifestation of creative art. It does not of course follow that it is always wrong. The desire to impose on the art of the public may, and I think in this case it does, arise from a simple misunderstanding of what these artists set out to do. The difficult springs from a deep-rooted conviction, due to long-established custom, that the aim of painting is the descriptive imitation of natural forms. Now, these artists do not seek to give what can, after all, be but a pale reflex of actual appearance, but to arouse the conviction of a new and definite reality. They do not seek to imitate form, but to create form; not to imitate life, but to find an equivalent for life…” 

Fry, Roger. “The French Post-Impressionists” (1912). Visions and Design. London: Catto & Windus, 1920. p. 156-7.

What is the reality?

What is visible to the eye, is not always what is true. But what is truth if we cannot see it? How do we know what it “looks” like, if we cannot see it? How do we know it exists, if empirically we cannot provide evidence for it?

Are the trees buildings, or are the buildings the trees?

What do you think, Mike?

Gonsalves, Rob. “Arboreal Office » Rob Gonsalves » Marcus Ashley Gallery.” Marcus Ashley Gallery. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 May 2017.

Also, note how the two sources of light are on polar opposites of the image: the light emitted from the fire on the bottom, and the light emitted from both the moon and the artificial lighting of the sky scrapers.

Does this apparent spectrum of light that the image presents show that some lights (the natural light of fire) make visible only a certain perspective, that is in this case, emits a glow that highlights the bottom halves of the trees.

Gonsalves, Rob. “Arboreal Office » Rob Gonsalves » Marcus Ashley Gallery.” Marcus Ashley Gallery. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 May 2017.

While, the light on the upper portion of the image emits a warm blue glow coming from both the moon and the artificial lighting of the skyscrapers. This light on the upper portion of the image sheds light on what some one would say is the opposite of a forest of trees: a city of skyscrapers.

Gonsalves, Rob. “Arboreal Office » Rob Gonsalves » Marcus Ashley Gallery.” Marcus Ashley Gallery. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 May 2017.

All three lights, being both different in nature, present a particular truth to us. Are the trees, in reality buildings, or are the buildings in reality, trees?

The Existence of Images in the Digital Sphere

Not only in our day in age is the almost revolutionary availability of images via platforms on the internet astounding – so much so that the implications of the saying “the personal is the universal” is actually quite scary – but the almost absurd vulnerability of images, and how easily subject they are to manipulation is something that alters the existence of images, of artwork, of photographs, of representations drastically.

Images can so easily be taken out of the contexts they initially and naturally exist in, and henceforth used to represent something totally other than what the images were conveying initially. Take for example, Felix KjellBerg, popularly known as Pewdiepie on Youtube. The latest controversy surrounding his image concerns the way “old media” (as he describes it: newspapers, as opposed to new media such as digital platforms like Youtube) cut and pasted certain images and used them under a different light, to in fact label Pewdiepie as a Nazi.

A single frame taken from one of Felix KjellBerg’s videos evidently portraying him as an anti-Semite. Photo Credit:

Here Pewdiepie is… hailing Hitler so it would seem.

We have this general image of what Nazism looks like, and this Nazi image has been cut and pasted onto the Pewdiepie, almost as purposely as someone gluing a fake black moustache onto a photo, then declaring him Hitler.

The subject is no longer what he was before, but has now been forced to undertake a new identity: what and how the image of Nazism is represented as. Consequently, Wall Street Journal reported that Disney severed ties with Pewdiepie (for the sake of its own image – and how its associations and how images associated with it, can affect its own image, which again hammers home the point of how vulnerable and manipulative images are) for displaying “representations” of Nazism and anti-Semitic “imagery”.

Images are used to attach meaning to concepts, in some cases to generalize or oversimplify concepts such as anti-Semitism. And then images are used to reduce individuals to labels or categories or definitive definitions. This image of Pewdiepie was obviously circulated, along with the widespread controversy associated with it, which frankly is too extensive to get into. But the mere fact that he was reduced to the images he was representing, the images he was portraying is quite absurd; and in using these “paused” images – the frames of a video – these images attempt to convey what they believe to be “true” about a person: that if they look like this, or portray themselves like that, they’re automatically and indefinitely a fascist.

Is this the truth, or is “the Truth” manipulated to be a certain thing; is it being looked at from a certain perspective to mean something inherently other, and stating that this other is what’s true, as opposed to other perspectives or angles? Is Pewdiepie a fascist or a nazi? That’s beside the point. How he’s conveyed in new media, how he’s portrayed in both new and old media. That’s what’s fascinating. That the image explains it all, that a mere snapshot of a person’s representation conveys the entire truth is a notion that is bewildering.

We tend to force people into boxes, lump them into labels, shove them into categories primarily based on what we are able to witness, to see with our eyes – as if it were truly that simple to know someone. Giving people a title, and tagging an image to represent that title in order to secure a specific reality regarding that person, dumbing them down to mere word and image in order to provide a truth about them, reinforcing not even lazy ways of thinking, but the inability to think at all: to question, to interrogate, to contemplate, to think for one’s self instead relying on the crowd.

This all goes to show that images, much like words, are powerful. But what are they exactly? Are they mere tools that would remain stagnant, lifeless entities, like old powered down robots, if it weren’t for human beings using them actively? Does their power come from us who give it to them? Or are they frames taken from the larger film of reality that present themselves to us, and what they are and what they mean to us is totally dependent on our perception, on our definitions, on our opinions?

Cory Godbey: La Cadeau du Temps or “The Gift of Time”

Hey Mike, this short film might have an implicit, underlying meaning:

The explosion which gave birth to the mystical woman, who then gave the man the potion might be a symbol of… the internet?? HAHA. I don’t know.

He then lived through periods of time, continually growing old, and continually drinking the potion… maintaining his youth, but in a unnatural way.

He sees many things, and accumulates knowledge. A result of him hoarding the potion to himself, is utter loneliness.

He eventually returns to the place where he started. Having lived for all that time, having travelled throughout time itself, having defeated the deity of time, it was all to come back to where he was before. And as a result, it is as if no time has passed at all.

At the end, he comes to the fountain of knowledge itself, where he finds massive amounts of people all around it, swimming in it, drinking from it.

He goes to fill up the glass bottle, trying to take the fountain’s water for himself, and it explodes. The potion then is given to everyone, making everyone younger.

But the old man does not care to hoard his potion for any longer. He’s already seen it all. Plus, I bet he’s pretty sick and tired of living by now.

This film could be an allegory for knowledge, and how we pine for it. And how the “digital” allows us to slip in and out of time space, so to speak. Time passes by the hours, for we also stop time in a way, in that no time passes at all. We spend our lives in front of the screen, a screen that presents to us all these ever growing, ever advancing technologies, new found knowledge, new found facts, new found realities. But at the end of the day, does time really pass us by? Or are we inevitably stagnant as we grow, get younger (in that we our subject to new knowledge, and subsequently are reborn), grow, get younger, etc?

Godbey, Cory. “Le Cadeau du Temps.” Vimeo. N.p., May 2011. Web. 10 May 2017. <>

to be continued.