John O’Donohue on Air, Space and Michelangelo

Michelangelo_Slaves_Prisoner_Prigioni_Florence_Italy

‘The generosity of air allows each object to emerge and to be. Air gives space. Without space individuality would be impossible. Form is the secret of individuality. And form is a line cut into space. In this sense air is the secret mother of individuality. This is especially evident in the art of sculpture.

in the miracle of sculpture the artist finds a line or a shape that brings out the secret intensity of space as presence. A good line or shape gives you another way of seeing and looking at reality; it heals your eyes.

Sometimes we are so used to looking at objects that we hardly ever look at space. It is a good exercise for the eye rather than looking into the heart of an object to choose to look outside at its rim and try to distinguish the energy possibilities around the rim.

Michelangelo was a genius in this world of shape and line. His Prisoners in Stone is a magnificent event of line meeting air. The upper half of each torso is a fully formed human shape. But the lower half is still stuck in the block of stone. It is as if there were people hidden inside the stone, they were on their way out when they were suddenly arrested. This is the tension of the emergence. Such sculpture awakens one’s eye to the power of encounter that is permanently going on between the air and each shape that allows it.’

John O’Donohue: The Four Elements – Reflections on Nature

Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter

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