Is viewing paintings more than a comfort, a way of plugging into a wider, deeper, more profound perspective during troubled times, or is it merely escapism?
I found myself thinking these thoughts the other week as I stood before one of the Canaletto’s in the Wallace Collection. These are magnificent pictures that can, if you stand still, focus and absorb the Venetian scene, the placid water and the active inhabitants, transport you back to early 18th Century Venice. For moments on end I was mesmerised and as we left the gallery and later, as my friend and I sat in the café on the ground floor, I felt somehow different about Brexit, Donald Trump and the gloomy international prognosis. In what way ‘different’ it was hard to pin down, perhaps it was no more than having glimpsed another world, in which these concerns were not only absent but incomprehensible. It was an emotion akin to envy, - most certainly misplaced, - of a simpler better age and a more profound sense of something lost.
So to return to my question, I think those moments before the Canaletto canvas were more than simple escapism, more like slowly tuning in to a different rhythm, other more profound realities.
Then again it could be simple escapism, in which case ‘viva la escape.’