Drew this today. There’s a lot of stuff going on here but I’ll try my best to explain everything.
On the left side of this art piece(not sure what this is but let’s say this is a painting) are references to one of my favourite short stories- The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway. Before he goes into the story, Hemingway tells the reader about a leopard found frozen at the top of Kilimanjaro:
Kilimanjaro is a snow-covered mountain 19,710 feet high, and is said to be the highestThe Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway
mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called the Masai “Ngaje Ngai,” the House of God.
Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has
explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude.
As we read the story, we come across a writer who goes through his life waiting for the right moment to write about the things he cares about. He goes on a trip, wounds his leg and gangrene sets in. As he finds himself closer to death than he ever was, he looks back at the many times when he chose not to write because the time wasn’t right. He was obsessed with death and the loss of his potential as a writer, a loss that would result from anything short of perfect creation.
At first, I thought I was reading about a failed writer. I thought Hemingway was telling a precautionary tale about what happens to artists when they choose to find satisfaction in a fantastical image of themselves they create in their heads based on how much unrealized potential they think they have. It felt like a warning to those who reject the responsibility of adulthood for the childish pleasure of being satisfied with believing you ‘can’ and ‘will’ as opposed to realising potential by ‘doing’.
However, when I came to the end of the short story, I was surprised. Naturally, an artist who wasted his talent and fell prey to such a criminal fear should be made to stare death in the face and breathe his last in regret. To face the reality of who one is and not hide behind the possibility of what one can be is a crucial step in artistic expression. Without the courage to do this, our world will never be able to elevate the experience of life to art. But Hemingway does not allow the artist to die like this. In fact, it is unsure whether the writer even feels regret. He seems relieved that he will never know if he had it in him. He realizes that he never failed because he never tried. In the story, the artist dies in his sleep, dreaming of being rescued by a plane and setting off in the direction of Kilimanjaro.
It seems to me that the leopard frozen atop Kilimanjaro stands for all those who struggle with the fear of losing potential or creating something that does not do justice to the unique view of life they have. As artists, we feel responsible for our perspective on life. We often believe that without us the world will not come to know of the miscellaneous ways in which life can become sublime. We are important and that is why we create with the intend to share. We matter. It is our struggle to make our perspective perfectly tangible for others that leads us to the top of Kilimanjaro, to the House of God where perfection can be realised. But we get there as mortals and we often end up taking our best ideas to the grave because of our dedication to perfection. However, I believe that Hemingway found peace in that our potential is frozen in time like the leopard. It is tragic that the world will never know the best of what we see but there is some consolation in that our quest to find perfection ends in the eternal preservation of something that is not tainted by failures in an imperfect world. Potential is not utilized but nevertheless preserved as far as the artist is considered. The pain of an artist who is forced to question his ability can be brutal. In the tragic story of unrealized potential, there is some beauty in the ignoble escape of reality. Sad? Yes. But I can’t help but find peace in it.
I’ve always believed that I see life in a way no one else can. At the heart of this belief is probably a pernicious self-obsession and mild case of narcissism. That said, this belief makes me feel responsible for doing my best to create art that perfectly encapsulates my perspective on life. Every time I feel like I’ve failed to meet the impossible standards I’ve set for myself, I find myself breaking down, my image of myself as an artist with valuable perspective shatters into a million pieces when the thought that I might not have any potential after all hits me like a ton of bricks. The pain is often unbearable. It has led me to have diaries full of ideas that I have done nothing about because I’m waiting for the right moment. I am responsible for my art and I am ready to give it my all. But if I give it my all and that which I can’t control makes all my efforts futile, then I will die. The portrait of the artist in my head will die. I won’t blame the world. I’ll blame myself. I will blame myself because it is easier to do than to believe the world is messed up. Because then there is no way for me to redeem myself.
To embrace life is to recognize pain. And to recognize is to feel as one has to feel first to recognize. I might be afraid to feel
So yes, the leopard, the ice cubes at the bottom, the dialogue bubble with “if only” in it are all references to The Snows of Kilimanjaro
Notice how the leopard’s face kinda looks like that of a human, especially the nose.
The main focus in the painting is a big grey object with a hand sticking out of it. I value my hands very much. I’m a musician and my hands are something I use to enter a world where I understand things better. When I was in high school and even while I was in college, I had this haunting fear that something would happen to my hands and I won’t be able to realise my dream of being a first-class musician. When I got strain injuries in my fingers a few years ago and when I recently developed a ganglion cyst in the middle finger of my left hand, it scared me to bits. A hand sticking out of a huge metallic brace of sorts reminds me of this fear. Plus, it also hints at how our limbs, while still containing some divine magic instilled in them by our creator are now being replaced by larger-than-life robotic and technological developments. Today, someone can create a guitar solo, albeit tasteless(in my opinion), on a computer. That freaks me out. So yeah, that’s why there’s a huge grey arm in the painting.
At the bottom, somewhere in the middle, are two people with arrows pointing in opposite directions. On one end of the painting is a brick red spade and on the other is the leopard from Hemingway’s short story. The two people are two versions of me. On some days, I find the leopard attractive. I just want to not try and feel worth it. The fact that the arrow pointing to the leopard is held by a guy who’s lying down and in a posture that is reminiscent of a baby drives the point home. As mentioned before, it’s easy to be a child and paint yourself as somebody who ‘can’ and not as somebody who ‘does’. But on other days, I want to be brick-red; efficient and productive. Brick-red encapsulates such ideas for me. But getting there is harder because there’s a wall in the way, a brick-red wall. Being aware of what productivity is is in itself a hinderance to productivity. That’s because I’m so insecure. Haha, yes. I know I am. It is very easy for my pursuit to become all about productivity and not about the thing I should be productive in. Funny.
Then there’s the word ‘crash’ in big font on the upper right corner of the painting. This is because I often feel like I’m crashing into myself when I start to panic about these things. The yellow in the background and the yellow of the sad leopard also stands for depression. I find dim or dark yellows with a bit of red in them accurately represents what depression feels like to me.
Alright then, I think I’ve explained everything. If you’re still reading, I appreciate you very much. Please do say hi in the comments. Having random conversations on my blog is always a highlight for me. I love you all very much.
Have a blast existing in this funny world!!