The Table of Silence (1938)
Sleeping Muse (1910)
Constantin Brâncuși (1876-1957)
Many critics have labeled Brâncuși as the greatest sculptor of the twentieth century. Few artists manifest the principles that are foundational to awareness, both in the process of creation and in the finished product, to the degree that Constantin Brâncuși does. Therefore we use Brâncuși to help us delve deeper into the principle of awareness and our search for solitude, simplicity and silence.
First, solitude. “Generally withdrawn from the turmoil of artist’s cliques and of public life, he worked aloof in Paris in a high white studio.”[i] Although well-liked by his fellow artists and highly respected, Brâncuși understood that the creative process was nurtured by solitude.
Brâncuși also experienced the paradox inherent in the principle of simplicity. “Simplicity is not an end in art, but one arrives at simplicity in spite of oneself, in approaching the real sense of things. Simplicity is complexity itself, and one has to be nourished by its essence in order to understand its value.”[ii]
And finally we come to the principle of silence. Without any explanation, we can look at his serene creation The Table of Silence (1938) and feel the value of what has been called “the language of God.” “We must not try to make materials speak our language. We must go with them to a point where others will understand their language.”[iii] We must go to that place of awareness where all of Creation is connected, where all form realizes its Oneness.
Going further, Brâncuși explored the nature of impermanence and eternity, not as a paradox but as the very essence of reality. In Sleeping Muse (1910) we see a human face either emerging or entering into the medium. We see the interaction of field and form, the eternal dynamic of indestructible energy constantly expressing its infinite capacity to manifest the good, the true and the beautiful. “His guiding principle was the fusion of content with form and with the medium.”[iv]
Artists like Brâncuși can aid all of us to penetrate deeply into the more profound aspects of reality itself. We are all contained in a context (the medium), which drives our identity (the content), which finally determines our behavior (the form). In the work of this perceptive artist we find all of the basic principles that would enable us to obtain the ultimate human expression, Self-realization—or arriving at the place that we never left and experiencing it for the first time.
As Brâncuși said of his most well-known sculpture Bird in Space (1923): “Don’t look for mysteries, I give you pure joy.”[v]
[i] Piper, David. The Illustrated History of Art. London: Octopus Publishing Group, 1986, page 395.
[iii] Ibid., page 394.
[v] Ibid., page 395.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in printed books by Roy Charles Henry.