ODE – samantchauhan


“Philosophy is odious and obscure;

Both law and physics are for petty wits;

Divinity is basest of the three,

Unpleasant, harsh, contemptible, and vile.

‘Tis magic, magic that hath ravished me.”

– Dr. Faustus

It was a bridge between Middle Ages and now, and a time when you had looked up at the sky and could never look away as Da Vinci said. A time of no binding compulsions and a time of overthrowing the status quo. It was the renaissance, the age of knowledge. And then, there were stories.

The light filtered and split by the magnificent broken glass windows I saw in Paris in a chapel on a cold January morning made me wonder about magic and truth, the crossover between the two and the eternal quest for beauty. Everything was chaos. They imagined a world with a prism. They wanted to understand darkness like Da Vinci who said the canvas should be painted dark because everything in the world is dark except when exposed to light. They wanted to tame light, to embolden it.

The writers and painters were tortured with this search for knowledge and yet, there was mystery and there was temptation like Dr. Faustus, immortalized by Goethe and then by the brilliant Christopher Marlowe. In the play of this renaissance era, Dr, Faustus, a man of science and logic, is tempted by Mephistopheles who asks for his soul to enlarge the kingdom of Lucifer. And yet, Mephistopheles had faith. The play defines the eternal dilemmas between faith and science.

Magic eludes us. Science informs us. As a designer, this confusion is my muse. The quest, an inspiration and a thirst for beauty. I seek that bridge between knowledge and magic. In the flowers that we have painted, I have created my own. Because that’s what renaissance made you do – create and create boldly.

And then, there was art nouveau or the idea of total art. I saw it everywhere. Outside the Paris metro, on the buildings, etc. It was a liquid style, the flowers melting into ivory backgrounds and it was the art of thankfulness. And then you ask what is magic and logic and all the complexities of life against the simplicity of lines and muted colours of decorative arts. I liked the rebellion of the line and the art movement that dismissed the superiority of the liberal arts. Why does Paris look beautiful? Because it is total art.

This is an ode to the blank canvas, to total art, to free art you can see from the streets and the self-actualization and to all metaphors for life and light.