241 Things

1000 Things is a subjective encyclopedia of inspirational ideas, things, people, and events.

Read the most recent articles, or mail the editorial team to contribute.

Studium Generale 1000things lectures, The Hague

241 Things

Less is better, less is more. This principle has held the last century's art in a tight grip. Even now, the elimination of frills and the absence of the anecdote remain praised and encouraged by the majority of art critics and art tutors.

Fred. Sandback

A lengthy history precedes the art of omission. Remarkably, the roots to this aesthetic approach lie in the Baroque; age of decorum, extravagance, excess, and the ornament. But this same seventeenth century period also gave way to a break in the tradition of following a narrative and by representing it scene after scene, like in a comic strip. The Baroque celebrates the climax and the apotheosis; that one instant in which an entire story is condensed into an ultimate moment of theatricality, frozen in time.

In 1793, the art of omission encountered a curious development in the form of the French painter Jacques-Louis David. His ‘Death of Marat’ is a world famous masterpiece, an icon of the French Revolution, an unequivocal image of devotion inspired by the events that instigated the uproar in Paris on July 13th, 1793 when a young woman of twenty-four named Charlotte Corday from Normandy murdered the Jacobin revolutionary leader, Marat. David’s idiosyncratic depiction of this scene might be considered religious and engaged rather than factual or pragmatic.

Death of Marat

Jacques-Louis David

What is most unusual about this work is that both the murder and the perpetrator are absent from the image. David’s Marat is dying. His head hangs limply on his right shoulder, arm dangling over the edge of the bath, his left hand still clutching Corday’s letter of announcement. Through a beam of light entering from above, as though cast from the heavens, Marat makes his departure from his earthly existence as a true hero and martyr for the people of France.

Caravaggio’s The Entombment of Christ inspired David’s brilliant depiction of Marat’s dangling arm. His ability to isolate this motif was genius. No painter before him had brought an arm to light in the same dramatic way.

Emma Kunz was a popular healer and visionary. People came to her for her healing powers or to ask her questions about their futures. To help them, Kunz would make drawings. During lengthy sessions, some lasting up to twenty-four hours, Kunz would use her artworks as a map of the future. These maps acted like a navigational system to explore existential questions, as well as a system to diagnose her patients.

Emma Kunz

Kunz was never formally trained as an artist and only began drawing when she was late into her forties; intricately drawn large mandalas, complex colours, and variations in lines. While drawing, she would fall into a trance where she would not eat or drink, and fixated herself completely on her patient or the question she was searching to answer. Using a pendulum, she would mark co-ordinates to signal beginning and end points on graph paper. She would then trace billions of lines between these points.

Due to her immense dedication to her drawings, she was able to access dimensions that transcend the consciousness of the every day. The minute precision of these drawings hearkens to meticulous mathematical compositions that, besides their beauty, contain the universe’s secret formulas. A segment of reality outside of the reach of our every day consciousness was revealed to Kunz through these abstract patterns. Kunz wasn’t accepted by the mainstream art world during her lifetime.

Art as a definition was far too restrictive for her. Her geometric play was more than just art. She understood the power of the image and it’s ability to act as a tool to initiate the transformation process within human consciousness, and how this could exert its influence onto the world. Despite this awareness, her drawings lay strewn throughout her home and were never meant to be hung on a wall. ‘My work is meant for the 21st century’, she said. And she was right; her work in all its controversy has only now been accepted by the art world.

Kunz stopped drawing in the sixties. She had no need to anymore. Her connection to the cosmos had grown to such an extent that she could directly receive answers to her questions. The borders between earthly contradictions were lifted.