Over the past few years, I have received calendars that hold images of artwork found in Polish church collections. One painting that I found depicts Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, a church monastery in Ukraine, as well as its founders Saints Anthony and Theodosius. I responded to the picture because of the way the figures mirror each other. Perhaps this is symbolic of the way saints closely match each other in their words and deeds. I was also curious about the background buildings and was surprised to find that the depiction was of Ukraine and not Poland. With the current war initiated by Russia, it is hard to know if sacred places such as Kyiv Pechersk Lavra will remain safe. However, the image and the idea of place provided a point of focus to pray for Ukraine.
While the image above comes from a 2020 calendar, nearly two years later the war reminds us that in a heartbeat lives are changed. Hopefully, the madness will end sooner than later and there can be renewed work toward peace and prosperity.
A switch occurs and a light goes on. It takes a fraction of a second. The fact that it works is immediate and clear. However, what does the light reveal, what is in the darkness, and where does the light’s energy come from? The fact that illumination occurred is a simple observation, while the meaning and science of light is an expansive subject.
I made a drawing akin to the act of switching on a light. Likewise, the drawing was to be simple (i.e. providing directness and a demonstrative outcome without being overly labored). While some of these goals were attained, I found that simplicity was an abstract idea about where we stop looking or investigating and where we let complexity rest. If one compared two examples (e.g. a drawing of a light on and off) one could make an assumption or judgement about which is simpler.
Simplicity requires a reference. It is the comparison that allows for an accurate judgement. However, a judgement is not always easy. Because constraint is a key indicator of simplicity, I remain unconvinced that simplicity is synonymous with minimalism. Where simplicity requires us to stop, the minimalist impulse encourages us to look in an expansive way with less. Minimalism shows us that the criterion to make a judgement about simplicity can be too simple. In other words, what is simple is not always so simple.
It may appear like simplicity is being disparaged or an impossibility. However, simplicity can bring enhancement and order where there are challenges. When engineers and computer scientists create a structure, it may require complexity. However, the goal is not complexity. Rather, the goal is to make the complex organized, manageable, and thus simpler. On a personal level simplicity is important because we need to know the limits. When an activity adversely effect another activity, eventually we need to stop one of the pursuits for the sake of simplicity. This judgement is not often easy and requires case by case reflections to reach the best balance.
With regard to a balance, looking at my drawing, I wonder if I passed the simplicity test? The answer is that the light works, but the process and results are not so simple. It is a mix, and this is what provides a small measure of character.
I previously wrote about Św. Szymon Słupnik (en. Saint Simeon Stylites), with the intent of expanding on the subject. My son’s name is Szymon. In Poland, where he was born, names usually corespond with a Catholic Saint. Each Saint has a designated day on the Catholic calendar and that becomes one’s “name day”. While there are several noteable Saint Simons, the one I was looking for and previously wrote about was Saint Simon Stylites (Św. Szymon Słupnik in Polish). I found at least one reference that this Simon is celebrated on January 6th. With the 6th in mind, I made an interpretation of the painting of Saint Simon previously found.
The vector artwork above began with an ink drawing. Later it was scanned. Color, additions, and compositional changes were made in the program Inkscape.
While the name day date was not as precisely determined as the birthday, I can tell Szymon “happy name day”. I hope this is something he can remember.