A trip to Paris isn't complete without visiting some of the myriad galleries, known across the world for their extensive collection of significant art. In the interest of avoiding hours of queuing, I decided to pass up the more popular Louvre in favour of some of the less crowded galleries. One of which was the Musée de l'Orangerie, the permanent home of Monet's Water Lilies.
I entered the first chamber, a medium sized oval housing four of the Water Lily paintings. The atmosphere was, like all museums and galleries, unnaturally quiet in a way that presses on your ears and makes you aware of each footstep and every rustle of your clothing. I'm fairly ambivalent to the abstract and impressionist side of art, more familiar with, and in favour of, illustration and figurative side, so I perched myself on the central bench, put on my headphones with some ambient music playing, and stared ahead.
Having been on my feet all morning, the soft cushions offered a welcome rest. I enjoyed this brief respite and my gaze rested gently on the rough pastel strokes covering the canvas before me. The subtle hues of the paint, vague and differing very little from each other were pleasant in themselves, but the combination of my unfocussed attention, ambient music setting the mood, and the stillness of the room—almost frozen in time—put me in a state to appreciate what was not there, what was intentionally left out.
The mind has the curious power to conjure, with a bit of suggestion, form and substance where none is tangibly present, and this has never been more immediate to me than on this Autumn day in Paris, sat in an oval room, surrounded by the ebb and flow of tourists, staring passively ahead at a loose arrangement of pigment.
Through this window of canvas a phantom world emerged, the ambiguous brush strokes flourished into an otherworldly scene. I could see the lake, light glinting off the slight undulations of its surface. The green swashes tipped with a blob of bright white and pink drifted on the surface, acquiring texture and dimension before my eyes. Within the frame, beneath the surface, I snatched glimpses of an unfathomable depth, it's contents and extent ambiguous.
The longer I watched, the more the scenes began to sway and ripple with the infinitesimal motion of nature; I could almost see dragonflies flitting across the bucolic backdrop and a breeze gently drawing pollen from the flowers.
Occasionally I would wrench my gaze away, shuffle forty-five degrees to the right and settle into the next scene, each holding its own unique mysteries to explore.