Sometimes an artist can present an image that carries a deep respect for the individual in such a way that we gain a greater appreciation of man and his inherent value and beauty apart from our own lived experience. We identify a deep bond that exists between ourselves and the other. The film maker, Werner Herzog, has expressed this elegantly. The past couple of years he has focused primarily on documentaries. Thematically they are similar to his earlier existential films with the exception that he seeks the sublime no longer in fictitious characters but in the collective experiences of the individual. This renewed fascination with the inherent value of personal experience resides in Herzog’s search for metaphors that hold meaning.
Herzog’s search for images that speak spring from the artist’s desire to have contact with others, not only to confirm this fascination with man, but also to come to terms with the image that resides within the artist himself. The image becomes the analogy- the bridge-between what lies within that is seeking form and our experience of the world. When an artist re-represents his experience- of what lies before him as well as what resides within himself- he creates an analogical bond that the imagination can seize upon. When this bond is honest or true the image expresses an inherent lyricism, a blending of experiences through the lense of the artist. This lyricism allows the image to carry a symbolic worth- rendering more impact to the image. Analogical relationships carry their own force and add dimension.
Baudelaire expresses the lyricism of analogy in his poem, Correspondences,
Nature is a temple whose living colonnades
Breathe forth a mystic speech in fitful sighs;
Man wanders among symbols in those glades
Where all things watch him with familiar eyes.
In many ways, art is the only means by which we can expand our own sense of the world and of man. We cannot personally experience all there is to this complex life we live but we can touch upon it through the work of the artist. And in many ways the combined experience of all artists through time enriches our own personal experience beyond what any individual is capable of. In a sense we have lived more fully because the artists’ experience, through their own means of expression, is deeply felt. They have pursued the image tirelessly throughout their life and we benefit fully by sharing that experience.
Creating an image that can reside permanently with the viewer and have efficacy is the task of the artist. The image encapsulates all experience and re-emerges with greater symbolic value. Through the lyricism of the image, what was an abstract element of thought or mind or heart finds its place in the world among man’s collective experience and natural forms.