Whilst it may be in the eye of the beholder, it’s not a term you often hear at work. We talk about ‘engagement‘, ‘effectiveness‘ and ‘investment‘ but rarely about beauty. Beauty is somehow personal, somehow soft, somehow unquantifiable. Not something we necessarily associate with purpose.
People are beautiful, the weather can be beautiful, a piece of music or a painting. Even design can be beautiful, be it the shape of a chair, sculpture or iPhone. Writing can conjure up beauty or be beautiful in itself (as well as being evocative, powerful or subversive).
Some beauty is strange: we talk about things being ‘strangely beautiful‘, such as a derelict building or twisted metal. Close to beauty, but not beautiful through perfection: beautiful through form or association maybe. Not symmetrical or complete, but rather fractured and rent. Still strangely beautiful though.
Beauty can be created and refined, but sometimes is emergent, like ripples across the water or a glimpsed smile across a room.
Interesting that it can emerge from nowhere or come about by design: perhaps because beauty comes through the observation anything has potential to be beautiful if the eyes that glance it value it.
Can we learn to appreciate beauty? Or to be beautiful? To create beauty? When we learn to paint, write, draw, carve, create, express, perhaps it’s all part of that learning process, but it’s no formula. Whilst we can carry out meta analysis of images perceived to be beautiful and hope to discern the nature of beauty, it is, in the end, a matter of the moment. Beauty perceived in the moment.
Interesting that my examples are creative ones: writing, drawing, carving and so on. Are beauty and creativity inherently aligned? Or can process and system create beauty too? Or is the computer generated image of beauty personified simply a reflection of true beauty? If we can 3D print beauty, if we can reduce it to equations and process, can everything be made beautiful? Or is beauty defined partly by rarity or surprise?
Can we capture beauty in a photograph, as we capture a song on tape? Maybe, although with art there is the challenge of boundaries: how we frame the picture affects it’s context, it’s significance. Maybe the skill is in the framing. Or maybe we only capture a pale imitation of the image, much as recorded music may be a pale imitation of the beauty of performance.
So perhaps there are levels of beauty, layers of it, contextually defined and individually perceived. Maybe beauty is personal to us all (although some art is given a universally assigned badge of beauty, giving it both value and rarity).
I was lucky today to spend an hour talking about beauty, about creativity and art, about how we create it, how we share it. All of which made me think about what beauty even is. And how we know it when we find it. After all, when we stop to think about it, we’re surrounded by beauty everyday, even on those days we are too busy to notice it, because we’re too busy with the things we chose to matter instead.