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Mount Orégano
Sue Burke
A different universe in plain sight 
17th-Oct-2007 07:59 pm
NightFallsOnEurope

 I recently was in Barcelona and visited the Museau Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. Its highlight is a collection of frescos from the 11th to 13th centuries taken from fourteen churches in rural Catalonia. Most are fragments that have been installed in individualized church-shaped spaces so they can be understood as if in-situ.

They present a universe alien to our time. The photo here, a detail of a figure of Jesus painted in 1123, is a highlight. As the museum describes it: "The figure of Christ is one of the most convincingly realized portrayals we have of the estrangement of God and Man, and it shows a marked anti-naturalistic intention and a subtle geometricisation of forms."

This is a God not of our world. This painting offers a glimpse into a supreme supernatural reality, an intellectual idea condensed into serene art. We witness a stylized realm of archetypes because this Heaven is open to all, without differentiation. And everywhere, hands are raised at us in blessing.

The contrast becomes clear in the next section of the museum, Gothic art from the 14th and 15th centuries, where the art becomes more realistic and worldly. The magic is gone, replaced by melodrama, especially in the gory depictions of the martyrdoms of saints.

The universe is not what it used to be.

That's something I should remember as I try to write speculative fiction: Reality is a consensus, and a visibly fluid consensus at that.

If you want to take a virtual visit:
http://www.mnac.cat/colleccio/col_romanic.jsp?lan=003

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