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Only They Know What is Known

Only They Know What is Known

The Kiss (Lovers), oil and gold leaf on canvas, 1907–1908.

The eternal question(s): Does it matter what the artist intended? His or her background? His or her influences, research, working methods? Do these things matter when it comes to how an audience interprets or should interpret their work?

Yes and no and maybe and perhaps, in no particular order. As in, great works of art, at least, don’t require the acquisition of such knowledge (to be appreciated), though that knowledge may enhance the experience. It can also ruin it, or something in between. The continuum is there, with its myriad nuances and degrees. In short, only they know. The people on the canvas and in the museum. The encounter works for them or it doesn’t, typically.

Scholars and critics, of course, likely investigate all the whys and wherefores available, and draw inferences from that to make their judgments. Their biographies influence those inferences as well, and so it goes. It’s also likely that the longer they’re at it, the further and further they fall away from the initial gut reaction, the original impression — the first kick in the head, so to speak. And this saddens me. The jadedness at hand. The overthinking involved.

Some artists, writers, poets and musicians see those scholars and critics as their intended audience, so they expect this sort of thing. They actually crave it. But most don’t. Art history and tradition are filled with the sometimes angry dynamic, the occasional rage, the potential for brutal interplay between the opposing sides, resulting in a few ruined lives, more often than not on the artist’s side of the ledger.

“Everyone’s a critic!” is one of those old clichés that still has resonance, and its own sting from time to time. “My little sister could paint that!!” is another oldie but goodie. Actually, no. She probably couldn’t. The artist in question studied and practiced his or her art/craft for years or decades to arrive at that place that provokes the work in question. Your little sister, unless she, too, is an artistic genius/prodigy already, has yet to evolve in that direction. If for no other reason than to kill that particular cliché, deep knowledge of art history and the bio of the artist are welcomed additions.

But they should be used with care. As Goethe once said, roughly translated, “Know all philosophy, but keep it out of your writing.” This applies, I think, to audiences of the arts as well. A very tough trick to pull off, of course, but easier if one has a strong background in Taoism or Zen Buddhism, which brings in yet another layer or a thousand.

Prior to painting The Kiss, Gustav Klimt went to Ravenna, Italy (in 1903), where he studied the Byzantine mosaics of San Vitale. Gold, gold and more gold! Visions of the Sacred and Profane! Inside and outside the museum. Lovers there, lovers in his mind’s eye, then lovers on canvas. Sensuality where nothing like it had existed before. An eroticism all its own, provoking yet another continuum of presence and absence, anger and receptive joy, for this or that person, in this or that era. It amazes me to learn that some contemporaries saw this painting as “pornographic,” just as it amazes me still that James Joyce’s Ulysses caused such an uproar when it was set to print too.
All the wasted time!

There are other aspects to be discussed about this most unusual work of art. Until next time . . .

Dr. Ernest Williamson III: In Conversation With my Art

Dr. Ernest Williamson III: In Conversation With my Art

My unconscious mind frequently transfers experiences or snippets of information or images to my conscious mind and I feed off of that and create art.  I work best when I have extended periods of time to work on my paintings, usually during the weekends.

Politics, nature, good and bad experiences, and the possibilities of creating something truly novel all inspire me.  The works of Picasso and Dali still inspire me today and my creative efforts inspire me as well.



Copyright ©2012, by Dr. Ernest Williamson III. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Ernest Williamson III has published poetry and visual art in over 400 national and international online and print journals. Some of Dr. Williamson’s visual art and/or poetry has been published in journals representing over 35 colleges and universities around the world. View over 1200 of Dr. Williamson’s paintings/drawings on this website:



Mark Zlomislic: After Francis Bacon

Mark Zlomislic: After Francis Bacon

When I paint, I am taken into a different place that is boundless, without limits and constraints. Paint, brush, canvas or wood mix to reveal what may have been overlooked and left unnoticed. I paint to leave an imprint, a record of my time here. The colours are an archive of memory to be deciphered by others. I blend the poetic word with the mute witness of paint. It records my struggle to keep death away and yet I notice how faithfully it sits next to me, as if to say, I have not seen this before. My art resides in the tension between the eternal and the temporal as I seek to understand what lies before me. My art explores the human need for security and the inevitability of an impermanence I have difficulty accepting. I seek to capture moments of time that show both frailty and vitality, joy and sorrow, decline and glory. I was born in the village of Rakitno in Bosnia-Hercegovina and have lived and studied in Vienna, Paris, Munich and Zagreb. My academic background is in philosophy having studied at Brock University, the University of Ottawa and the College Dominicain de Philosophie. Though largely self taught I studied with Croatian Academic painter Branimir Cilic. My influences include Francis Bacon, Balthus and Tom Thompson. My work is included in numerous private collections throughout Canada and Europe. I live and work in Cambridge,  Canada.


 Copyright ©2012, by Mark Zlomislic. All Rights Reserved.


Desi Di Nardo: Why We Make Art

Desi Di Nardo: Why We Make Art


When I stumbled on oil pastels several years ago after not having had any formal background or training in art, I surprisingly found myself enjoying working strictly in this medium. I am most intrigued not only by its texture, fluidity, and vibrancy of colour but also with the dimension and depth which can be readily achieved through simple hand and finger smudging. In this way, being so closely connected physically with the paper, I find myself able to become even more deeply immersed in the work.


Several of my favourite artists include Leonardo da Vinci, Tamara de Lempicka, and the Group of Seven artists. My greatest influence, however, is Edgar Degas mainly because of his discerning eye for the human form and his masterful portrayal of movement in dance mode. After taking classical ballet at the National Ballet School of Canada for some years, I became very interested in the elements of speed, grace, and strength–all aspects very much part of the rigorous and demanding dance.

  I am also quite fascinated by Degas’ ability to intensely concentrate so many of his paintings and drawings on a passion and love for another art form, that being ballet. It is almost as if the two means feed off each other to form a mutual rapport–each stimulating and enlivening the other for its own separate growth.


I expect this is true in my personal experience as well, as art is really only a small indulgence that oftentimes acts as an outlet too with the offshoot benefit of providing inspiration and focus for my writing career. In fact, much of what I write contains similar undertones which exist in my paintings as the recurring themes of nature, spirituality, and humanity are present in both.  

 –Desi Di Nardo


Desi Di Nardo’s work has been published in numerous North American and international journals and anthologies, performed at the National Arts Centre, featured in Poetry on the Way on the Toronto Transit Commission, selected by Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureate, and displayed in the Official Residences of Canada. See


Copyright ©2008, Desi Di Nardo and Spinozablue. All Rights Reserved.