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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 1 (April 2, 1934.)

The Part of Art

page 9

The Part of Art

Rat-holes and Rhapsody.

Art is not necessarily the prescriptive prerogative of the apostles of paint, pen, or pencil. Time was when “Artists” encouraged the error that Art alternated between an attic and “uncle's”; that Art was an altitudinous bewitchment of the brain, which made mal-nutrition a magnificent gesture to genius; that starvation and inspiration, long hair and short rations, rat-holes and rhapsody, despair and debt, represented the argent of Art. But torrential Time, or “tempest fugit,” has altered the armorial aureola of Art from “a sausage sizzling over a candle dripping” to “horse-sense rampant on a field of ideas.” For it is not necessary to gloom in a garret, and paint pictures professing to portray “prunes at play” or “Eros with earache,” which look more like an accident in an eggery.

The Ana-niceties of Art.

For Art is the fastidious fashioning of fact or fancy into something which solaces the soul and enchants eye or ear. Art enters into everything from loving to living. For instance, whilst many people are mere low liars, Ananias was an artist in fastidious fallacy, and Baron Munchausen was a master of mis-statement. In their hands, lies were lifted into the limbo of literature and the verities were mere material for forging their fictions. But, to the artist, all is Art, whether the material at hand is dough or dreams, pastry or platinum. Even a sausage, shaped with the subtle something which snatches the super-sausage from mystery to mysticism, is a work of art and a skin of beauty. An inartistic sausage is an omen of evil, a fiction of force-meat, a caricature of captured conjecture, a sarcophagus of sacrificed succulence and a butcher's blunder. But a sausage which reflects the soul of its sculptor is one which scintillates, one which is blandly blended, one in which artifice is concealed in art, and inspiration and mastication are equally equated.

It is safe to say that, had Michael Angelo turned his talent from the mysteries of form to the form of “mysteries,” he would have sculped the super-sausage—as pink as a cradled cray, stream-lined from coupling to cap, as dainty as a dolphin, as silky as a seraphine, groomed, bloomed, shining and shapely—in short, a sausage moulded by a master.

Savants of Sausagery.

Of course, even to-day, there exist modern Michael Angelos of sausagery, savants of savaloysean symmetry, master-minds of minted mince; men who mould mince with the mind and savour it with the soul—men to whom sausages are not merely a sequence of cellular secrets, or highly - strung blobs of bullied beef, but sculped scallops of incarcerated complaisance, born of the alliance of heart and hand. Such men are craftsmen in bodybuilding and the rest are but murderers of mince.

The Art of Articulation.

But there is also art in articulation, gesticulation and mastication. Let's take articulation, which covers all brands of neckromancy from race
“Some speech is unspeakable.”

“Some speech is unspeakable.”

course whispering to bar-room “shouting.” The voice of the people is one voice—until they talk, and then they produce more varieties of tonal topography than the zoological zone. There are people whose speech is unspeakable and others who disarrange the air like a train travelling through a tunnel. But the artist in articulation gets it off his gazooker with the precision and decision of a slow-motion gatlin gun, making every word do its duty to its platoon, every platoon co-operate with its company, and every company respect the regiment, the whole welter of words being thus welded into a composite compendium of conversational conciseness, instead of a sort of stampede of stumbling sterility. At least, this is the idea behind the ideal; but, of course, nobody ever does it.

If you know what you're going to say before you begin to say it, it is possible to concentrate on the mouth-music without worrying about the score. But how many of us know what we are going to say until after we've said it? In fact most black eyes can be traced to this penchant for post-dated postulation. The art of articulation, as applied to public speaking, is peculiarly devoid of that oiliness of utterance so sought after page 10 by the disciples of desiccated delivery.

Unfair Tirading.

But public speaking is not fair tirading. The race is “readied” before it starts, and speech is hamstrung by hesitant “hums” and hoarse “haws,” joined in unholy-mutter-o-mony with collar-clutchings and air-chokes. The speaker feels as Daniel felt when he got a snap-shot of the arena on his retina. He feels that no quarter will be given and everything he says will be used as evidence against him. The silence is as soggy as ten thousand pneumatic drills boring into blancmange.

The chairman is the only purple patch in a pop-eyed panorama. He speaks with the soothing insouciance of a boozed blow-fly and the victim of the piece hopes that he will go on buzzing until the night-watchman comes to turn off the lights. The chairman certifies that the speaker has more virtues than any man could have—and still live. The victim knows he's a liar, and the audience suspect it.

But the speaker becomes so soothed by the chairman's chin-churning that he can scarcely believe it when he hears that sinister sentence: “And now I can do no better than allow Mr. Fourflush to tell us what he is about to tell us.” With the dull impact of a flung tomato the truth connects with his cerebrum, and he finds himself more or less on his feet. Then a voice somewhat like that which called the infant Samuel's bluff, oozes out of the atmosphere. The alleged speaker hears it saying all the things he would never have thought of saying. Then the head disappears and all thought goes with it. This is where he claws his cravat and tries to get a flying tackle on his Adam's apple as it plays dickory dickory-dock up and down his conjunctional plumbing; he gives his notes a glance and finds that they have turned to Hindustani or Siberian shorthand, and are as indecipherable as a doctor's prescription for barley water. There may be artists in public speaking, but they must be too
“When soup is snuffled.”

“When soup is snuffled.”

artistic to speak in public. We will now agitate the allegro:

Public speaking is—well,
It's a sell.
Some people who speak,
Merely leak
Through a hole in their roof.
There's no proof
That what they uncork,
When they talk,
Is speech or coherence.
So often deceives,
And so leaves
The hearer all fuzzled
And puzzled.
And they are the butt,
If they “phut,”
And fail, in effect,
To connect,
Or capture their victims
With dictums
Which no one, we fear,
Wants to hear.
And so it's a fair
Waste of air.
If ever you've tried,
To confide
In a crowded assize
Of pop eyes,
You'll know that the best
Of behest,
To this form of violence,
Is Silence.

And thus we aim to prove that, if the tongue is sometimes silver, silence is often golden.

Of course gesticulation is an ally of articulation—and is also known as fizzycal jerks. But, if it is Art, it is unconscious art, being more anaesthetic than aesthetic.

Picking and Chewsing.

But mastication is a lost art, like asking for an increase in salary—and getting away with it. At one time— before Time became money (and vicey vertigo)—eating was one of the finer arts, and “still-life” received respect from plate to palate. It was dressed with distinction, received at the board with suitable ceremony and given a fair trial before being sentenced to digestive detention. It was quietly questioned by the palate before meeting the molars and cavorting with the cuspids, and the full flavour of its innermost meaning was extracted from its essence. Finally, it was kissed long and lingeringly by the palate and introduced into the interior. But those were the days when mastication was a primary industry rather than a secondary consideration; when soup was not snuffled but inhaled, and lunch was not a snatch-as-snatch-can but a leisurely gesture to the digestion.

There's Art in everything, From soup to bread? Oh, death, where is they sting, If Art is dead?