Transience in Aesthetics

Beauty of form in shape, symmetry, contour, pattern or design is always enhanced, augmented in direct proportion to its transience. A sunset captured in a still photograph is beautiful precisely because it is an impossible perpetuation of a passing moment; its singular value and pleasing visual arrangement of parts, of contrast or compositional structure is stunning precisely because we know, perhaps unconsciously and without acknowledgement, that it is (or was) a passing moment. The terminal velocity and passing experience or existence of that sunset is always sweeter, more affective and touching than the sunrise because its implied finality reminds us of that passing, flowing, dynamic and ephemeral life and moment which we have through the image indirectly experienced and in which our own limited time is also reflected.

The transience of beauty reminds us of the transience of life. That moment captured (as in a photograph or any other method of memory) is always bittersweet and reflects not any base desire so much as the deeper revelation that in some brief moment or arbitrary span of time, this harmony of parts and subtle symmetry of features once, in this very specific way and form, existed and then passed again; on its way to becoming something else. Although we live through stories, we love through moments. Representational beauty of form and composition is (or can be) that affirmation of life that reflects the strangeness and wonder, the transience and unacknowledged peculiarity represented by the actual fact of our strikingly temporary existence in the Cosmos. The passing moment is invested with so much more emotional, affective power in the memory or mirror (and image) by virtue of its existential intimacy and reminder of the impossibility of such a frozen, eternal perfection.

Or perhaps this interpretive philosophical dimension is my own, alone…

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