The Way Is Hidden

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Magritte, The Son of Man, 1964, Restored by Shimon D. Yanowitz, 2009

The Son of Man – René Magritte (1964)

This is a painting done in 1964 by Belgian artist René Magritte. He said about the painting;

“Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.”

Do you feel that conflict? It’s almost annoying like dissonant music or nails on a chalkboard. We see just enough to make us want to see the rest. What is behind the apple? What does he look like? Your mind has already filled it in with something and now you are stuck with the tension of not knowing if you have it right. Do you find yourself searching for the answer, resolution of that tension? Its interesting to note that resolution can only be found outside of the painting, in the artist himself (it is a self-portrait).

The art form behind comic strips plays with that same tension in a different way. In his seminal book “Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art” Scott McCloud says, “the real magic is in the space between panels, it’s in the gutter”. When we read comic strips our mind fills in the space between the panels. With comics we can bridge the gap. We can handle the tension of filling in the gap for long enough to get to the next reference point. We have a guide and checkpoints along the way to keep us on track. It is a journey with layers of gutter tension and story tension that ultimately resolve in a satisfying crescendo of confirmation.

We are constantly filling in the details that are missing, and we don’t have too much trouble doing this, but the tension comes from our hankering for confirmation that we guessed well. We want the part we filled in to be accurate and we are anxious for evidence… evidence we can use to make the proper corrections… to get it right.

As the world changes ever faster, as the ground shifts beneath our feet, we are looking for a place to stand… a bit of solid ground. We need people who do not see, yet believe, who are haunted by the tension, just like us, but who have come to terms with it. They are the true artists. They step forward. They chart a course when the way his hidden, and the way is always hidden.

Why not you?