“I don’t want to be a tree, I want to be its meaning.” – I Am A Tree, p. 51
This chapter is written from the perspective of a tree, which was drawn on a sheet of paper that was meant to be included in a manuscript, but never made it into the final product. Immediately before this quote, the narrative voice of the tree states that they are glad they are not drawn in the new style, in which a tree would be drawn in such detail that anyone looking at the picture could select that particular tree out of all the trees in a forest.
This quote leads me to question how it is possible to depict the meaning of a tree. Can the meaning of a tree be conveyed without drawing the tree in great detail? When creating an illumination, an artist strives to uncover the meaning of a scene or object. But as the audience views the illumination, they are left with their interpretation of what they see. The meaning of the tree will first be filtered through the mind of the artist and then through the mind of the audience.
This quote, when taken with the text before it, seems to suggest that the new style of of painting involves the addition of great detail, but the loss of the meaning behind the painting. This thought was counterintuitive to me, because I would normally think that the addition of detail expresses the meaning of an illumination more fully. Perhaps this tree was meant to be a symbol of something greater and by adding detail to the tree, the audience is distracted from that symbolism.
One Reply to “I Am A Tree”
You bring up a really interesting point in this post that I had not thought about before. Pamuk’s quote does seem to imply that meaning can be overshadowed by hyper-realistic portrayal of an object and after thinking about it, I see his point. I think that the amount of detail characterizing Western painting at the time could have made it easier for a viewer to take a work of art at face value without thinking deeply about it. One might have marveled at the realism, the pictorial perspective, or the portrayal of light, and seen the value of the painting in these aspects instead of acknowledging them and then looking beyond for a meaning. The point of Western painting could have been seen by some in its ability to accurately capture an image as it would appear in real life, rather than in helping to covey the meaning of a story as Arab illuminations were used for. Although I do not necessarily agree with this way of thinking, I think it makes an interesting argument for why Arab art could have been seen as more valuable than Western art.