An Enquiry into the sublimity and beautiful

  • Painting: oil on canvas
  • Size: 36Hx42Wx2 inches

Firstly, a sublime number. In number theory, a sublime number is a positive integer having a perfect number of positive divisors, to include itself, and whose positive divisors add up to another perfect number. 12 is a sublime number. It has a perfect number of positive divisors (6): 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 12, and the sum of these is again a perfect number: 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 6 + 12 = 28  Therefore, the painting's dimension is 36x48 which when multiplied equals 1,728 square inches, which when divided by 12 equals 144, which when divided by 12 equals itself, or 12. 

In A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, Edmund Burke distills the analysis of his inquiry in the three quotes below, within the first few chapters of the book - Burke was a master, as were most of his period, of organization and an accepted logical adherence. "And my point in this enquiry is to find where there are any principles on which the imagination is affected." The key terms in this quote are "principles" and "imagination." Next: "All natural powers... which I know, that are conversant about external objects, are the senses, the imagination; and the judgment." And, "that the critical taste does not depend upon a superior principle," a theory of knowledge or any a priori consideration - "but upon superior knowledge [acquired by means of Locke's "blank slate"], may appear from several instances." 

It comes down to this. What makes the imagination transcend itself, is the sublime - and all sublimity begins in darkness. Contrary to John Locke's empiricism, the mind starts in darkness, it is not blank, for perception impels it to strive. In this case darkness is not a metaphor, it is a condition. It can be likened to the darkness of a deep well, but the simile gains reality in the inability to conduct thought. The condition of existence to impinge itself on thought is color, for that is the dimension of sight without geometry, sound, for that is noise without understanding, and physical pressure, for that is existence in the absence of number, geometry and understanding. The body responds. But once color takes form, sound, understanding and pressure create the condition of existence, and pleasurable recognition occurs. Pleasurable recognition is sublimity, understanding, beauty. 

The sublime and the beautiful, and their observation, and their comprehension, is the point of this work. 

The Beauty of a Thousand Stares
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