Petrus Spronk

This morning a mysterious morning mist gave the forest the feeling of eternity.

The ability to retain ‘a sense of wonder’ and to be fearless in the exploration of one’s world are important aspects of life. The world is full to overflowing, with the new. It is in a continual state of change and waiting to be marvelled at. By looking at one aspect of that world in depth, the artist, in a sense, explores the whole of exsistence.

Learning is learning. The expansion of the mind and spirit. It is without favour. So it does not matter what we learn as long as we are engaged in ‘the act of learning’. Involvement in the creative act.

Since ‘creative activity’ is the essence of life, there seems nothing so terrible as to live life without it.

Besides enjoying the creative act of writing, I write these columns because I feel strongly about encouraging any creative activity in the community.

Creative activity is the driving force behind a healthy society. Whether this creative activity occurs in an artist’s studio, a café, a writer’s mind, a butcher’s shop, a theatre, the football field, or a family home doesn’t matter. Creative activity on any level is of value, if not for the sense of wonder it promotes, then for the general state of the mental health of the community. That is why the people who focus their whole attention on this aspect, our writers, artists, dancers, actors, etc. are so important to our society.

Some years ago, on one of my trips to Melbourne, I had a little time to spare. I went into the National Gallery of Victoria to see what was on show. A lot. However, the title of one exhibition, “Sublime Spaces”, arrested my attention.

Before I entered this particular exhibition I sat in one of my favourite seats overlooking the courtyard, to slow down a little from my running around the city and to prepare for some quiet viewing.

Without knowing what the exhibition was about, I ran through a few Sublime Spaces I had visited myself.

The centre of Stonehenge in England.

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul.

An underground domed chapel in the south of France. (Around its perimeter stood a circle of monks singing ancient madrigals, adding sublime music to a sublime space.)

The Nullarbor. Flat, but totally. The circular horizon too far away to be seen.

During one autumn, the space underneath a 200 year old oak,

Checking the word ‘Sublime’, I found the following: “Of the most exalted kind, so distinguished by elevation or size or nobility or grandeur or other impressive quality as to inspire awe or wonder. Aloof from and raised far above the ordinary”

Entering the exhibition, I at once, understood the title ‘Sublime Spaces’. The biggest space of them all, Cosmic Space was represented. Large black photographs of the night sky. The stars represented as dots where the exposure was short, and long and short lines where the lens had remained open for different periods of time. There were circular formations reminiscent of a mandala. There were huge spirals interacting. There were formations which reminded me of Piet Mondriaan’s earlier paintings of trees.

There was immensity and, in a sense, there was infinity.

Standing in front of these images the concept of ‘photograph’ seemed to disappear. The technical aspects dissolved. Standing there I was moved beyond all the human input in the work I forgot about it. I was in the presence of something bigger. Much bigger. Like God’s work. I was awestruck by the impact and, at times, almost afraid to continue looking.

The passage of time caught in a work of art.

There were no people in these photographs, this emphasized the loneliness and immensity of the subject matter. The vastness, plus that something else, of each scene is what takes these works beyond our experience, hence sublime, hence awe-inspiring, hence exalting, and hence somewhat terrifying.

Later that night, driving through the forest on my way home, a gentle fog hung in between the trees. I stopped the car and got out. The almost full moon lit the forest into another sublime space. A Sublime Space all of my own.


Petrus Spronk is a local artist and a regular contributor to The Wombat Post.