Poets and artists are interested in experiencing selected places with a specific atmosphere, because their talent is based on their special power of perception and their sensitivity. Most of them are experts at zooming in on impressions that move their imagination and lead to the release of poetic sparks. Whenever Hermann Hesse went on a trip, for example, he brought home what he referred to as “some large or small treasure”. These treasures included the deep insights he had gleaned from eastern spirituality. He also had a clearer understanding of the social injustices in the world than many of his contemporaries.
The Melancholy of Faraway Places
It is mainly distance and freedom that we find when we travel. Freedom is also an essential part of being creative and embarking on any artistic act of creation, usually coupled with inspiration originating in our fascination with the unknown. Without moving, we cannot change and grow, we get stuck. The well-traveled author Mark Twain said: “Travel is fatal to prejudices”. And maybe, the most dangerous way of looking at the world is not looking at it at all. As human beings, we have two sides: a static side feeling settled at home inhabiting a house and a plot of land, and a moving side constantly drawn toward the path of longing. Longing, however, takes us beyond this world, it embodies our desire for change and our desire for knowledge and experience. And yet, Rainer Maria Rilke known as a homeless, traveling poet, saw “hometurning on every way.”
In addition to cultural exchange and health, traveling also brings knowledge and inspiration. On their “Grand Tour”, young adults during the Renaissance period were supposed to learn things like entrepreneurial spirit, courage, leadership, decisiveness, etiquette, and, last but not least, foreign languages. In the 18th century, the “Grand Tour” led from England across Germany, and along the Rhine to Italy. This was also the time of emigration and colonization.
In the golden age of the haiku during the 17th century, Japanese poets and painters went on group trips for pilgrimage and poetry, writing poetic travel diaries, often illustrating their poetry with drawings. Not much later, many European poets and artists followed in their footsteps, including Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Lord Byron, and William Turner. In Italy, Goethe the writer also turned to painting. His sepia drawings from this time are famous. Once again, we witness the fertile connection between art, poetry, and traveling. Goethe traveled there to Paestum, because he wanted to see Greek temples. Although he did not make it to Egypt, his “West-Eastern Divan“ is a poetic journey whose starting point is Germany, basically an imaginary journey.
This longing for the Orient was later taken up by artists like August Macke and Paul Klee who traveled to Tunisia. Before them, Paul Gaugin had traveled as far as the South Sea. The charismatic charm of inspiring places like Provence, Venice, Santorini and Tuscany attracted flocks of artists and poets. Art history itself is a constant journey toward new shores. In the 20th century, a lot of music incorporated folkloristic influences composers had brought home from their trips abroad.
The year this book was compiled happened to be the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain leading to the unification of Eastern and Western Europe. As a consequence of political ideologies that have led to a devastating war on the one hand and to absurd limitations on traveling on the other hand, Germany is not the only country where the issue of traveling has recently taken on political dimensions, especially in the context of the refugee crisis. But if we try honestly to describe our inner life and nature as human beings, we have to admit: At the end of the day, we are all refugees. Some for the understandable reason that they cannot stay where they used to feel at home because it has become unbearable there, others because they are lucky enough to live in places not forcing them to leave, but things can always change.
In spite of unforeseeable odds, our love of adventure is often an important motivation to travel. Being unable to travel leads to a melancholy state of mind. The Persian poet Hafis encourages us to escape from internal boundaries: “You yourself are your own obstacle – rise above yourself.“ Because in one way or another, we all need to “get away” sometimes. Considering the social injustices in the world, “letting go” on a luxurious cruise ship is a rare privilege. As long as we follow Ernest Hemingway’s advice never to go on trips with anyone we do not love, however, traveling is definitely a great cure against sadness. Because a remote place is always the land of unfulfilled desires. Going there is the most wonderful way of leaving our daily worries behind, an escape to the careless country of our dreams, where a change in climate and the healing of our liberated soul can help our bodies regain balance and recover.
If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.
Vincent van Gogh
With its purposefully structured content, unusual perspectives, and deep insights, and incorporating the sensitivity of people who create art, this art and gift book unravels the subject of traveling and invites readers to examine it in more depth. Eighty artists from thirty-two countries have come together to interpret traveling with their boundless imagination. The editors of this art-imbued travel almanac have divided the underlying visual ideas into different chapters and illustrated them with their own Haiku and slogans from the world of aesthetics. The imaginative perspective of the featured artists has led to a broad spectrum of traveling. According to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, only the world of reality has its limits, while the world of the imagination is boundless.
Imagine you are at an exhibition featuring the works in the book, mindfully observing them. Close your eyes and observe your breath, or listen to it, until you feel pleasantly calm. Pick a painting:
- What is this artwork about? What is special about it?
- Take your time and analyze the colors and shapes in this work. Feel their sound!
- What spontaneous associations does this artwork trigger in you?
- What would you say is “that certain something” about it – that mysterious aspect that is difficult put into words, and that has sprung directly from the artist’s soul?
In nymph blue.
Fountain of Eden
Sun smiles brightly upon your
Smile has crumbled
Propelled by the wind
The homeless wanderer flies
Toward the ocean.
Bamboo flute music
Finishing on a sweet pink
Note of hill cherry.
The blue door in the
White alley dissolves into
The stairs of the night.
In the silver pink
The gondoliers fall silent
Silence of the depths.
The text and the poems in this post are excerpts from the book “A Fine Art Journey“.