Vermeer on Sunday

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On Saturday afternoons the sidewalk in front of Saint Andrew’s smells of fish and salty water. The morning market has a seafood stand, and little pools of Irish ocean color the pavement around the stand a dark, smelly grey that lingers long after the market is over and the stand dismounted. When I pass by, I wonder who’s bought fish that day and whom they will cook it for, and I also wonder if other people wonder about things like this as well.

Danni and me went to see a Vermeer exhibition at the National Gallery of Ireland this weekend. The exhibition features 10 paintings by Vermeer amongst works of his contemporaries. Vermeer absolutely blows my mind. This Dutch man created photo realistic images 150 years before the invention of photography. When you scan his paintings in an X-Ray, there are no sketches under the oil paint, which the art world can explain with nothing but Vermeer’s pure genius. Which suggests Vermeer just sort of walked up to a canvas and started painting the real thing in oil straight away. In almost photo like quality. In the 1600s.

IMG_2026This is Danni.
Child of his time, he’s looking at a phone, even when surrounded by century old master pieces of art.vermeer-inspiration-rivalry-posterThe exhibition poster. Inspiration or rivalry?

On the left, The Gold Weigher (c.1658) by Pieter De Hoogh. On the right, Woman With A Balance (c.1665) by Johannes Vermeer. Who was ‘inspired’ by whom isn’t really clear, (because the dates of origin are estimates only), but each artist depicts a woman weighing gold with a balance. I think these two paintings illustrate pretty well what people mean when they say “Vermeer painted with light.”  Doesn’t the painting on the right look so much more real?

And then there’s Tim. Tim is an American graphic designer and engineer with an above average Vermeer obsession. He also thinks it’s pretty unlikely that Vermeer became who some consider the best painter of all times through pure genius alone. Tim sets out to spend 5 years of his life to show that Vermeer probably was as much of a scientist as he was an artist, using mirrors and lenses to perfectly reproduce colors on canvas. To test this hypothesis, Tim paints a Vermeer himself. And succeeds. With absolutely zero experience as an artist. If you haven’t seen the documentary that captures this madness, I urge you to do so at your earliest convenience.

Add to this that for close to every Vermeer in the exhibition, there were corresponding paintings by his contemporaries that depict almost the same composition Vermeer painted. Artistic exchange and inspiration? I say, this is some bad ass 17th century rivalry for money and artistic fame. And Vermeer wins, because when you go to a dinner party these days and mention Ter Borch, no one will know what you’re talking about, but most people will know Vermeer.

On the left, Woman Writing A Letter by Gerard Ter Borch (c.1655), on the right, Lady Writing A Letter (c.1665) by Johannes Vermeer.

On the left, Woman Reading A Letter And A Man At The Window (c.1669) by Pieter De Hoogh, on the right, Lady Writing A Letter With Her Maid (c.1671) by Johannes Vermeer. Not the catchiest painting titles here, but again – Vermeer’s painting looks a million times more modern, doesn’t it?

Lastly then, add that there are only 37 known paintings by Vermeer, and that the first Vermeer painting to be sold in over 80 years was auctioned for $30m –after being considered fake for the longest time– and my fascination is complete.

On our way home from the museum, I told Danni I like that you can hear the seagulls over Dublin, and he laughed and said, you appreciate the little things, and, I’ve nevere noticed that before. That’s not the first time someone has said something along those lines to me. Maybe I just perceive more than other people.

IMG_2014I work too much these days, including at Two Pups Coffee, where I spent Saturday afternoon scrubbing a presentation and indulging in eggs and avocado on spicy peanut buttered toast.FullSizeRenderThis was also at Two Pups, but on a different day with Alex.

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Finally, Friday was my father’s day of death. It’s been 9 years. 9 years that feel like 3, maybe 4 at most. 9 years since I held his hand in that hospital room all night. 9 years since the doctor walked in the next morning and said, he is dead, and we screamed and pleaded and cried, but he was dead anyways.

My dad told me, do what you love, in a place you love, surrounded by people you love. Google is a prestigious job, just as the start-up gig in the Silicon Valley was, or the McKinsey situation. None of it made me happy. I don’t want to sit at a desk all day. I don’t want to stress over deadlines. I want to be outside. I want to be in the sun. I want to connect deeply with people. I want to move. I want to be at ease and peace. I want to create things that matter to others. Not in an abstract, isn’t it so great we’re selling online ads to make the world a better place with self-driving cars kind of way. But in a real, tangible way. And, I mean, that’s not really fair, because self-driving cars will probably benefit people’s lives in real, tangible ways soon enough. And Google is a great place, it really is, but I’m not sure it’s a great place for me.

Just some thoughts on a Monday night.

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