VISUAL TRUTH: THE SENSE OF SIGHT IN ZBIGNIEW HERBERT'S ESSAYS
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This is an attempt at presenting Zbigniew Herbert's ways of seeing the world and his perception of works of art in 'Barbarian in the Garden, Still Life with a Bridle', and 'The Labyrinth on the Sea'. Conducted within a broad philosophical and aesthetic perspective, the analysis draws on a number of approaches to the problem of perception - from Plato to phenomenology, which assumes that perception is situated neither in its subject nor object, but is a simultaneous act of perceiving and manifestation. That Herbert stands close to the phenomenological tradition (in a broad sense of the word) is borne out by his peculiar manner of travelling and seeing things, not least his descriptions of works of art, as well as his numerous comments which reveal a preoccupation with finding ways of seeing that would enable the beholder to grasp the essence of the object he surveys. This approach, it must be added, appears to coincide with the interests and pursuits of painters; the affinity is particularly strong with the artistic reflections of Józef Czapski. In his essays Herbert tackles the problems of perception by balancing rational general knowledge and expertise with direct sensual experience, flights of poetic delight and artistic intuition. His records of travels demonstrate that it is sensual experience, especially an attentive gaze and touch, that opens the door to a deepened perception of the work of art, ie. proceeding to the phase of contemplative perception which can dispense with the individual 'I' and expose oneself to the invisible.
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