Just Looking

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just-lookingJust Looking


Helen Mclean

In these essays Toronto writer Helen McLean meditates on her world with a painter’s eye. What at first appear to be simple observations often mask unusual and startling perceptions that prompt the surprised reader to say “why, of course!”

She examines the puzzle of why an artist feels compelled to paint. What is it that captures his attention, and how does he go about reproducing that first perception in his studio, days or weeks later? Does an artist record what he sees or what experience has taught him? She inveighs against phoniness in art and the contemporary lack of rigour that Umberto Eco calls an “orgy of tolerance.”

Just Looking might have been called “just living.” One tragedy of life, she suggests, may be the way we slide into convention and habit in our latter years and urges us to stay alert, lest on our deathbeds we rear up, belatedly aware that we have spent this precious time sleepwalking.