I watched an incredibly beautiful film yesterday called Never Look Away, directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. It was a film that brought me to tears throughout, and frozen as it drew to an end.
There were so many layers within the film which I could personally resonate with - my German grandparents growing up during the Hitler period and forced to leave their homes, being there for those close to me who are battling mental illness and depression, and the internal struggle and longing as an artist to find my own voice. Expressing it in a way that feels true to who I am rather than to please others.
There is another element within the film that I think many artists can relate to. It’s what calls us to create and helps us feel deeply fulfilled.
There was a moment in the film when Kurt’s beautiful aunt Elisabeth is playing the piano in the nude. She hits a note and is completely captivated by its beauty. And reaches an almost heightened consciousness. A connection and closeness within herself and with the universe.
It’s something like creative transcendence. Or flow as I’ve written about before.
It’s those moments of creating when you’re almost lifted above yourself into a space where everything feels connected. And still. It’s a pause between breaths. Where you feel completely present and your ability to create extends from within to the external world with ease. You feel awake and alive.
This scene from American Beauty captures creative transcendence beautifully.
But artist or not, beauty has the ability to move us all. To help us feel deeply, and connected to something larger than ourselves.
You can look at a painting or hear a piece of beautiful music and experience transcendence. It can captivate you. It speaks to you. It has your complete attention. It’s when the hairs on your body stand up and goosebumps form. And for a moment the world around you is still. You feel a connection, and pure joy.
And through transcendence we forget about that heaviness and worry that often weighs us down. For a moment we feel free. And safe within ourselves.
I often feel this way when in nature. I can look upon clouds or a golden sunset in complete awe. Or be swept up by the beauty of a rippling and glistening ocean.
I experience it when observing my loved ones. They can be standing still and I notice the beauty of their hair gently blowing with the breeze. Or how clothing flows around them poetically as they twirl.
These rather simple moments leave me mesmerised. They inspire me to create the way I do.
It’s where beauty is often found - in simplicity. In truth.
And as Elisabeth says in the film - “Everything true is beautiful.”
As artists we don’t always need to look too far from where we are to create beauty, or to reach this space of transcendence. As humans we don’t always need to look too far from where we are to feel connected or content. We just need to be. And to look. To be present to the world around us. To never look away.