abstraction of diving

Cucumber cutting, abstracting and –

The Salome.

Cucumber cutting: Let’s play a little game: let’s (mentally) slice a small cucumber. Cucumber in one hand, knife in the other. Tock, tock, tockโ€ฆ..done! That was easy, yes, but not the ultimate party hit. When we chop a cucumber on the kitchen counter, it can be an experience that is sensual in many ways. So let’s do it again, but this time with all our senses. Visually: the rich, pleasant green of the cucumber skin, which comes even stronger alongside the carrot and ripe tomatoes. The milky green of the flesh. Tactile: feeling the small bumps on the cucumber with one hand and the perfectly shaped handle of the sharp Japanese knife with the other. Olfactory: when the fine scent of fresh cucumber reaches our nose the stomach juices put themselves in pole position. And since we tasted a small piece to check if the cucumber wasn’t bitter, the sense of taste comes into play. Yes, even acoustically, when the knife cuts into the cucumber with a quiet snip and makes a tock when it hits the hard cutting board. [1]

What have we done? We “enriched” a banal thing, and gave it more meaning. Some of the tech-savvy among us ๐Ÿ™‚ may prefer the term “upgrade.”

We could continue to play the game and consider in which areas what has been said can be helpful for us. How does this go beyond practicing mindfulness?

While writing I remembered some photos of pictures with vegetables that a former customer and later good friend who ran a restaurant in Vienna created for one of our invitations.

eatable pictures by Ye Songnan
eatable pictures by Mr. Ye

and now the whole thing the other way around – into the depths of the sea

If in the above part, we tried to add additional meaning to a trivial thing like cutting cucumbers, we can of course do this in the opposite direction too. And then we are in the middle of abstracting (at least as I understand abstraction).

As part of an ongoing project on the sea, I’ve also been reflecting on how diving itself can be abstracted. And that’s harder than you think.

Diving is a pleasure quite different from other activities. I failed to write down immediately what I experienced while diving, unfortunately. We are not so easily aware of what we are actually experiencing. The olfactory falls away. Can we hear something with the pressure we have in our ears? Sometimes it is described as the “rushing of the blood”. But I don’t think that’s scientifically correct. Haptic: do I feel the water when I’m in the water? There are temperature differences, if I pay attention to them. How much do I actually feel when I part the water in front of me?

abstraction of diving
abstraction of diving

abstracting a feeling

I have already shown some of my perceptions in previous postings. If one paints pictures on this topic, then normally in blue-green tones, and if you indicate fish with a few colorful dabs, you will soon have a corresponding ambiance. What I especially love about snorkeling or diving is the light. Often diffuse, sometimes unexpectedly bright, but not attributable to any clear source of light.

What if I try to abstract further and further? If I part with the colors that represent water? (Blue and green are just optical illusions anyway). What if I leave the little fish on the left? (Fish are only ornaments and not essential traits of diving). [2]

Since you were so kind to let me get away with the term “fishness”, I’ll strain a similar term right away “diveness”. Divenes is the essence of what’s left when you let go of everything superfluous.

talking about sensual experiences

When I roughly outlined the โ€œprojectโ€ The Magic Sea in a recent post, I referred to Wagner. But one aspect that absolutely must be taken up and added is eroticism. (Wagner didn’t omit the theme itself, but it comes across as very “difficult”). However, the situation is quite different with Salome by Richard Strauss. I would like to be able to convey in my work what is evoked in this interpretation by song and light.

Ljuba Welitsch – The Salome

The first time I came across Ljuba Welitsch was in my youth when I bought a record in a second-hand shop and there was the final scene of Salome with Welitsch on it. I’m not exceptionally sentimental, but this is one of the times I got teary-eyed.

image source: picasa

Back then, when Welitsch celebrated her great triumphs as Salome at the Vienna State Opera, there was a brothel behind the opera. And it is said that whenever she sang, business was at its best there. Part of the reason was her singing technique and I would like to give an example.

An example of how to “enrich” something as a singer, as we have described above as cucumber cutting. We know the passage: “I have kissed your mouth, Jochanaan” in the text and that is how it is generally sung.
When Welitsch sings that, it comes: “I kissed your mmmmmouth, Jochanaan”. This “enriching” of the “M” causes it to sound like a kiss. Try it, sung or spoken, and you will experience the kiss. (check the video below at 13:37 or 14:04)

If time permits, I would highly recommend watching the first part of this video gem (till 17:30). Even though it was shot in black and white, the experience is intoxicating.

What shimmering and flickering, what density, what drama, what a voice! And how the light increases the tension! I would like to be able to paint that.


[1] By the way, this is a very good example of how to learn to practice mindfulness.

[2] We already find this idea in Plato and then in German philosophers like Martin Heidegger. He coined the term “Sesselheit” (“chairness”) in his work “Being and Time“. This has already been addressed in previous posts.



24 responses to “Cucumber cutting, abstracting and –”

  1. swabby429 avatar

    Someone has said that fish do not know they are in water and that humans rarely affirm that we are in an ocean of air. This thought is at once pragmatic and eye-opening.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thanks! Yes, all too often we don’t know much about our surroundings – fish and humans ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. The Sicilian Storyteller avatar

    Fred, you are a poet! I will never again take for granted the seemingly simple act of slicing a cucumber! The kitchen will soon be renamed “the most sensual room in the house”. Thank you for the Salome video which I will view this evening.

    FYI โ€“ I believe I mentioned this to you previously: I am unable to “like” any of your posts. The option keeps buffering and I see the word “loading” but nothing happens beyond that. It could be something on my end; I don’t have this problem with any other site. I wonder if anyone else has mentioned this to you.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much for your kind words! As always! Making the kitchen an even more sensual place is certainly not wrong ๐Ÿ™‚

      As for the Salome video: yes, definitely take your time and watch it! Of course I know the recordings with Birgit Nielsson, Montserrat Caballรฉ, Gwyneth Jones & Co, but I think Welitsch is a completely different dimension.

      I’m very sorry that the “like” doesn’t work. Yes, others have told me as well

      1. The Sicilian Storyteller avatar

        Fred, I watched Salome last night. It was brilliant and viewing it in B&W delivered that certain gravitas often lacking in colorized versions. A pure joy.Thanks!

      2. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

        Thank you very much, Nancy! I was pretty sure you would like it ๐Ÿ™‚ A pure joy, definitely.

  3. The Sicilian Storyteller avatar

    Update. I was just able to “like”. I don’t know if it’s a matter of having to wait long enough or if “liking” only become an option after commenting. Another test for another time. Guten tag, mein freund!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      “Like” with reservations ๐Ÿ™‚ Or: It’s not always easy to like me ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Steven McCabe avatar

    I somehow watched from 17:30 – 22:28 and found that mesmerizing. I will return to the beginning. This is a gem. Thank you. Your entire article fascinating and I enjoyed very much ‘abstraction of diving’ (the title was not capitalized above). The newspaper article from 1949 made me think of my mother three months pregnant. All this and cucumbers in the kitchen!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Many thanks, Steve! Yes, I also think that the Welitsch is absolutely fascinating. Thank you also for your kind words about โ€˜abstraction of divingโ€™. I wasn’t sure if what was said would be understandable for many. The cucumbers from the kitchen greet you warmly ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Ashley avatar

    This afternoon I’m unable to deal with ‘abstraction’ as the weather changes from heatwave to cold snap! (Shorts or long trousers?) However, I really thank you for returning me to Sunday afternoons in front of the tv in the 1960s where we were mesmerised by films like The Man Between: James Mason, Claire Bloom…ahh, a wonderful movie along with dozens of others. As for cucumbers…not my favourite unless sliced very, very thinly, sprinkled with a little salt & pepper & served between 2 slices of fine white bread! ๐Ÿฅ’๐Ÿฅช

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much, Ashley! The weather is going crazy here too – but now it’s getting really hot.

      Of course, the cucumber thing was just a comparison. I found it useful because it was supposed to be about a mundane activity, one that we generally don’t pay much attention to. But if we do that, then our life gains in depth.

      I wish you a nice weekend – in long trousers or in shorts ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Ashley avatar

        Thank you, Friedrich, I settled for long trousers and now the sun’s come out again! Enjoy what’s left of the weekend…I don’t know why I say that…something everyone says at the end of the week doing a 9 to 5 job! I’m retired from employment so every day is now just one long weekend! Perception! It depends on where one is standing, which hat I might be wearing or indeed which trousers! (Forgive my humour). ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ™‹โ€โ™‚๏ธ

      2. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

        Yes, most will love the weekend, which is not surprising when you work. Since I’ve always been self-employed, weekends have never had such a strong meaning. It’s nice when you can experience every day as a long weekend.

        Humor is always welcome and yours especially.

  6. acrylicphil avatar

    Thank you Friedrich for another thoughtful and enriching post. I enjoyed it very much and it has given me much to think about.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      I thank you, Phil! I am very happy to hear it was not too provocative and understandable.

  7. Cindy Georgakas avatar

    A beautiful post. I never cut cucumbers but did yesterday for cucumber water and I’m still drinking it today. Lots of nourishing thought here! ๐Ÿ’ž

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you so much, Cindy! “Nourishing thought” – can I ask for more? ๐Ÿ’ž

      1. Cindy Georgakas avatar

        You’re so welcome. How about you are a rock star?! Now drink that in in the zen way ! ๐Ÿ’ž

      2. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

        Thank you! Haha! As Jethro Tull put it: “Too old to rock’n roll, too young to die”.

      3. Cindy Georgakas avatar

        Hahahaaha ๐Ÿ˜‚ Thanks for the memory and laugh! ๐Ÿ’—

  8. Pkmundo avatar


  9. Kajal avatar

    How intresting!! I was so invested that I didn’t want it to endโค๏ธ

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      How kind of you to say so! ๐Ÿ™๐ŸŒน Thank you so much ๐ŸŒน

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