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Old harbour photos: A brief reflection on ships and men

A harbour is often thought of as a place bustling with maritime commerce. The Britannica definition of the term reminds us of its primary function: “any part of a body of water and the manmade structures surrounding it that sufficiently shelters a vessel from wind, waves, and currents, enabling safe anchorage or the discharge and loading of cargo and passengers.”

Still waters: Serenity in traditional Japanese art

The spirit of serenity, which Zen Buddhism seeks to cultivate, is a key aspect of Japan’s tea ceremony as it is of traditional Japanese art. In his iconic The Book of Tea, art critic Okakura Kakuzo drew a connection between the world of art and the world of tea :

“The tea-masters held that real appreciation of art is only possible to those who make of it a living influence. Thus they sought to regulate their daily life by the high standard of refinement which obtained in the tea-room. In all circumstances serenity of mind should be maintained, and conversation should be conducted as never to mar the harmony of the surroundings.”

Sunless days at the beach in vintage photographs

Who would go to the beach when the weather is cold, damp and dreary? People go there to bask in the glory of the sun. Yet, there is something special — even beautiful — about a beach on a sunless day. Far from the motley crowd of sunbathers and alone near the mist-covered sea, one may come to realise the complex and perplexing nature, not only of the sea, but of life itself.

Climate crisis: Forebodings from past works of art

On 9th August, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a press release ominously headlined ‘Climate change widespread, rapid, and intensifying’. The IPCC statement painted a grim picture of what would happen in the likely event that global temperature reaches 1.5 degrees Celsius: rising sea level, unprecedented extreme weather conditions, drought, wildfires, etc. Interestingly, some artworks created more than a century ago — long before there was talk of CO2 emissions and global warming — provide a foretaste of what is happening today and what could happen in future in terms of climate change. It is as though the Past were mirroring the Future.

Seascape paintings: Behold the clouds above!

The sea is the star of the show, so to speak, in a seascape painting. However, the area of the artwork that shows the sky and the clouds in particular is just as important. For the viewer not to give these elements enough attention is to do the painting and its creator a huge disservice.

Based on their shapes and colours, clouds indicate the atmospheric condiitions under which the sea moves and changes its appearance. They also serve as a kind of time stamp on the scene depicted. More importantly, from the aesthetic perspective, clouds and the rest of the sky contribute to the atmosphere of the work — that is, its pervading tone or mood.

The wonder of water: A celebration in song and art

“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water,” wrote W.H. Auden in his poem First Things First. This is such an obvious truth that one wonders why the seas are strewn with tonnes of plastic waste and rivers are polluted till they become dark and ugly. The following song and works of art are a tribute to life-giving andl life-sustaining water. They are a reminder as well that water is a precious resource that ought not to be taken for granted.

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