I was first introduced to the films of Andrei Tarkovsky at art school, in the film club. I didn’t get it. I was young and full of energetic distraction. Now, a few decades on, I cannot get enough of his work. His films feed every cell, atom and neuron in my art-brain. The combination of imagery and music, texture, light, fire, rain, darkness, colour and sound, hit the melancholic spot which is vital to me. The point where melancholy and ecstasy fuse and spark to create a feeling of euphoria, light and depth. The alchemy of these elements is so profound, I can watch his films and be transformed for hours, and perhaps days. He reminds me why I paint. His films defy intellectual labeling or description, though of course many people have written at great length about him and he has been copied and has influenced so many filmmakers and cinematographers, painters, photographers and poets. The new version of ‘Blade Runner’ makes many cinematographic allusions to his work.
“Some sort of pressure must exist; the artist exists because the world is not perfect. ”
“We can express our feelings regarding the world around us either by poetic or by descriptive means. I prefer to express myself metaphorically. Let me stress: metaphorically, not symbolically. A symbol contains within itself a definite meaning, certain intellectual formula, while metaphor is an image. An image possessing the same distinguishing features as the world it represents. An image — as opposed to a symbol — is indefinite in meaning. One cannot speak of the infinite world by applying tools that are definite and finite. We can analyse the formula that constitutes a symbol, while metaphor is a being-within-itself, it’s a monomial. It falls apart at any attempt of touching it.”
His films are meditations on moments. Moments of varying lengths. I watch them and my mind is slowed to the measure and pulse of his work. If I watch them, they teach me to watch my own life. To hear sounds differently, to contemplate and to examine every moment, both visual and aural. To meditate on wind through leaves, the sound of a tea cup stirred by a spoon, or the water pouring from a kettle into a mug. Everything is transformed. Tarkovsky teaches me to lead an examined life, and to notice the passing of time.
A poet like Tarkovsky is a person who uses a single image to express a universal message. All his imagery is open to interpretation. His work teaches, in today’s parlance, mindfulness. It is metaphysical, spiritual, elemental. As much as every individual life is subjective, and no two people have exactly the same perceptions, though some are closer than others; every person may interpret a Tarkovsky film differently. Or not. In my perception, life doesn’t make sense, in so many ways.. it is a mystery; consciousness, being, dreams.. Therefore, why should art make sense when the whole of existence and what lies beyond doesn’t make sense. But the mystery is beautiful. And Tarkovsky magnifies this melancholic beauty.
To the modern capitalist internet-led world with all its notifications, pings, vanity, instant gratification and short attention spans formed to respond to the endless stimuli and pursuit of the next digital high, Tarkovsky’s oeuvre is the perfect antidote. It would not be an exaggeration to say his work reminds me why I am alive and what I am here to express.