Three Roses

It gladdens my scarab to see from my site stats that I’ve had a number of visitors land here through a Google Image search for single rose. Having just tried this search myself, it’s apparent that anyone arriving at the Shoreline via this route must have waded through many pages of results before alighting on this post of mine and its accompanying lead image. It appears that these visitors are looking for an image a little less ordinary than those which make up the vast majority of the results on Google. This is understandable, as those are mostly sugary, and indeed cheesy- a particularly emetic flavour combination.

So, as a public service, I present here three images of single roses, for all who wish to feast their eyes and imagination on something a little more nourishing than the Interflora catalogue. Those searching for rose images to send to a love interest should find that these will strike the appropriate chord in the bosom of the recipient.

We begin with the Flemish engraver and printer Johann Theodor de Bry, or possibly a follower of his. An alchemical emblem from the early 17th century. The Latin translates as The rose gives honey to the bees, the bees being seekers after truth who come to drink the nectar of the Divine, symbolised by the rose.

Our second image is equally remarkable and striking, and will surely stir the heart of all who regard it:

Rose Brain by Turkish photographer Nazif Topcuoglu, found via Foxes In Breeches (some NSFW content at that link, and I predict that, as a result of my saying that, it will now become the most-clicked link on this blog to date). The photographer specialises in lavish reconstructions of bygone eras, and this is apparently a recreation of a Roman dish. I cannot vouch for its historical accuracy, but I note that this Roman Cookery page does have a tasty-sounding recipe for rosehip and calf’s brain custard.

Finally, we have something from that scoundrel Dali:

This seems to be variously titled Rosa Meditiva or simply The Rose, and is from 1958, long after his split with Breton and Surrealism, at a time when he was proclaiming himself more inspired by science and its discoveries than by the autopsychedelic paranoiac-critical method of his younger days. Heisenberg, he said, had replaced Freud as his creative ‘father’.  The image showcases his extraordinary draftsmanship, with the rose echoing the lotus of Eastern iconography. The two tiny figures under it introduce nuances of meaning: are they lovers? Perhaps they are creating the rose, and basking in its radiance. Yet there is human frailty here too: the pair seem so terribly vulnerable, utterly dwarfed- perhaps even imperilled- by the magnitude of Love.

The wholeness which is a combination of ‘I and you’ is part of a transcendent unity whose nature can only be grasped in symbols like the rose

– Jung

In the driest white stretch of pain’s infinite desert, I lost my sanity and found this rose.


The Ball Keeps Rolling On

How we roll

In yesterday’s post, which might be worth reading before tackling this one, we pondered the transmutation of base matter. Within Surrealism, this topic was at the heart of a fierce long-running argument between Andre Breton and Georges Bataille, as elucidated by Elsa Adamowicz in 2002 in the pages of Aurifex, a University of London journal. Her article, which has the pleasingly alliterative title Exquisite Excrement: the Bataille-Breton Polemic, merits reading in full, but I’ll attempt to summarise it as follows:

Breton took the view that Surrealist painting had the capacity- the obligation– to transport the viewer to some realm of the marvellous. Surrealism could, and would, unlock the magic suppressed by everyday life. Writing in the late 1920s about Dali’s paintings, Breton praised their hallucinatory and poetic power, and likened the psychic landscape of Dali’s art to a fantastical ‘treasure island’. “Dali… reigns on these distant lands”, where something in the inner world of the viewer is transmuted, and new possibilities are born.

For Bataille, this was a retreat into mysticism. He, in contrast, insisted on base materialism– in this view, matter is base, and that’s that. There is no possibility of it being any other way. This difference in perspective had profound implications, according to Bataille, who raged that Breton’s idealised dreamworlds were undermining Surrealism’s revolutionary potential, dissipating it in fantasies: “..absurd ‘treasure lands’, that’s fine for religion, for little castrated men, little poets, mystical little yapping dogs. But you can’t overturn anything with a big soft club, with a library-parcel of dreams.” Only militant base materialism could lead to real revolutionary action, and for Bataille this militancy took the form of a focus on “rotting matter, mutilation, bestiality and abjection, and on actions of violent dismemberment, masturbation, ejaculation or castration. Bataille’s claimed reaction is bestial rather than poetic: ‘In front of [Dali’s] paintings, all I want to do is let out a pig’s scream’.

Dali himself seems to have found a way to agree with Breton regarding art’s transformative possibilities, but to join gleefully with Bataille in emphasising the darkest and most deviant aspects of his work as the key to that potential. He ends up mocking Breton and his circle as “.. toilet paper revolutionaries, steeped in petty bourgeois prejudice… They were terrified by shit and the anus. Yet what is more human and more in need of transcendence!” (this mention of ‘transcendence’ shows clearly that Dali did not subscribe to Bataille’s ‘base materialism’- Bataille would have scorned the very notion of ‘transcendence’).

Read the whole thing: many of the quotes from the protagonists relate directly to the themes of yesterday’s post. Breton even discusses the appearance of scarabs, rolling their balls of dung, in Dali’s work. In the meantime, here’s Dali’s painting Le Jeu Lugubre, or The Lugubrious Game, which is mentioned repeatedly in the article:

I should also mention here that I share a birthday with Georges Bataille, who was born 72 years to the day before me. However, I fear he was in error with his base materialism. Our experiences arise from matter (the physical flesh of our nervous systems), but are not reducible to it.  This alone should give proponents of base materialism pause for thought.