Vincent van Gogh, 1885, small studio in Antwerp: walls “pinned” with reproductions of “fanciful, peculiar, unheard of” Japanese prints. As Japanese art has begun to colour Van Gogh’s experience, he searches for the "right light."
“Last year I painted almost nothing but flowers so as to get used to colours other than grey, […] pink, soft or bright green, light blue, violet, yellow, orange, glorious red.”
A free-standing opinion is always a black-and-white figure/ground fiction-of-a-fact.
“And when I was paining landscapes […] this summer, I saw more color in them than I did before.”
Indeed, seeing reality “as is” is a skill of willingness.
“To make the journey in one go from the north to Spain […] Is not a good thing, you will not see what you should see – you must get your eyes accustomed gradually to the different light.”
Indeed, seeing reality “as is” is a skill of sensitization.
“I came to the south and threw myself into work for a thousand reasons – looking for a different light, believing that observing nature under a brighter sky might give one a more accurate idea of the way the Japanese feel and draw. Wanting, finally, to see this stronger sun, because one has the feeling that unless one knows it one would not be able to understand… […] Because you paint a bit of sunny wall from nature, well and truly according to our northern way of seeing things, does that prove that you have seen the people of the east?”
Indeed, seeing reality “as is” is a skill of self-deception.
We are inescapably ourselves, each mind with its own perceptual prism, with its own subjective lens; each mind – its own, idiosyncratic point of view. To see reality “as is,” we would have to transcend our sensory apparatus, we would have to step outside our own bodily selves, and see what our eyes see. But how can we? What we see is thrice-filtered information: first, filtered by the specifics of our eyes, then, re-filtered by the selectively-primed specifics of our attention, and then re-re-filtered by our discursively-interpretive minds. Sure, we may try to drop the mind-filter, we might even possibly put our historically-unique attentional sensitivities (to, say, yellow) aside, but then we still are only looking through the rods and cones of our eyes. Reality – “as is” – is always out there, outside of us.
And so we paint models of "right light." There is no such thing-less thing...
The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh, Penguin Classics