Manifestation of Ancient Philosophy in my Artwork

I wrote about this first on Facebook about a month ago, but I’ll repeat it here, in part to preserve for myself a record of my thinking about my artwork.

In the last few months, I have also realized that my work, in its current style, is a meditation on ideas from two different strands of ancient Greek philosophy, Platonism and Stoicism. For those of you unfamiliar with it, Platonism is the school of thought founded by the 4th century BC Athenian philosopher Plato. Not only was his work elaborated upon by followers for centuries after his death, and later influenced Western philosophy in various ways up to the present day, but Platonic ideas were also incorporated into Christian theology and Jewish philosophy. So, just a tiny bit influential.

Stoicism was founded by Zeno of Citium in the 3rd century BC, and was named for the stoa poikile (“painted porch”) on the north side of the marketplace in Athens where Zeno and his followers had gathered to talk about their ideas. The Stoics, too, had a great deal of influence, especially in ethics and logic, and most famously the second century AD Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius was a devotee of the philosophy.

I got stuck on different ideas from each philosophy. From Platonism, it was the idea of ideal forms contrasted against everyday reality. From Stoicism, it was how to be happy in the face of a world of disappointments and struggles.

The two different philosophies manifest themselves in my work in different ways. My current style of processing images combines an aesthetic of ideal beauty with a certain grittiness, especially in urban landscape. Meanwhile, the longer exposures are intended to pull one out of the frenetic pace of everyday life and into a place of calm contemplation.

I thought when I started with photography that I was leaving behind philosophy for pure aesthetics; I figured that if I wanted to say something deep, I would write a book. Apparently, I was wrong on that account. But I don’t think you actually need any understanding of either philosophy to enjoy my work.

I’ve started re-reading works of ancient philosophy to get a better handle on these ideas and how they have influenced what I do. Over the next few months, I’ll likely share some of my thoughts on them.

In the meantime, I would also like to announce, on a completely different note, that the Elaine Fleck Gallery has joined to give gallery represented artists more global exposure – no small thing during this time of pandemic lock-downs.

Manifestation of Ancient Philosophy in my ArtworkBill Hornbostel

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