The use of white focuses the viewer on the tactile — on the paint itself. It is tempting to see the subject of these paintings as the very process of painting itself.
But this simplistic reading overlooks a great deal. There always seems to be a point at which the meaning of a work of art is insoluble in language.”
from Ill said Ill seen: a meditation on Robert Ryman and Samuel Beckett – now online at The Finch – read morehere
“My intention …was instead to describe what remains: that which we generally don’t notice, which doesn’t call attention to itself, which is of no importance: what happens when nothing happens, what passes when nothing passes, except time, people, cars, and clouds.” Georges Perec
Recently I was describing the complete and utter revolution I’ve experienced in my artistic practice, only to have the listener remark “but that sounds like what all artists do in the studio”. At that moment it became clear to me that perhaps I needed to develop my language skills… a bit. But I must say that on some level she is correct. Yes, I am doing what all artists do in the studio. But now I am doing it DIFFERENTLY than I was before. Continue reading →
This view of the symbiotic star system R-Aquarii was taken in 1990, during the Hubble telescope’s first year of operation. The two dark knots at the center of the image contain the binary star system itself, consisting of a red giant and a white dwarf star (the stars appear dark as the camera detector system was saturated by the very bright objects).
“At certain hours of the day the countryside is black with sunlight”
Camus (Nuptials at Tipasa)
“Dark with excessive bright thy skirts appear”John Milton (Paradise Lost)
“I am beginning to use pure black as a color of light and not as a color of darkness.”
Henri Matisse Continue reading →
“I envy – but I’m not sure that I envy – those for whom a biography could be written, or who could write their own. In these random impressions, and with no desire to be other than random, I indifferently narrate my factless autobiography, my lifeless history. These are my Confessions, and if in them I say nothing, it is because I have nothing to say.”
“What is there to confess that’s worthwhile or useful? What has happened to us has happened to everyone or only to us; if to everyone, then it’s no novelty, and if only to us, then it won’t be understood. If I write what I feel, it’s to reduce the fever of feeling. What I confess is unimportant, because everything is unimportant. I make landscapes out of what I feel. I make holidays of my sensations.”
Matisse condenses the air – the light is form, the dark is form. What one would pass through is solid while concrete things are but interrupted flickerings; chains of lines flattened onto fields of bright color. Things that do not touch, except that the eye links them in their overlap, are pulled apart again or embedded in each other by an aura of unfinished air that does not blend form into form but holds them apart. This gap of unfinished canvas sews the objects onto the picture plane.
That things sundered by space or time are made to exist together – even to touch – in painting is a harmless enough lie; part of the painters’ art. But I cannot look at the Giacometti portrait of his mother without seeing how hard he tried to force the air back in – pushing it in between table and chair, wall and woman – so that suddenly there is air again for passing through. Before, behind, between, the space stretches back. In this art there is more truth – truth to explain how we see, if not what we see – than in paintings that present a truer likeness but subsist on a flattened plane.
“…at times the spirit…desires a view which is in certain ways restricted and confined… The reason is …the desire for the infinite, because in those circumstances the imagination goes to work instead of the eyesight, and fantasy takes the place of what is real. the spirit imagines for itself what it cannot see, what that tree, that hedge, that tower hides from it, and goes wandering in an imaginary space, and pictures things it would not be able to if its sight extended everywhere, because the real would exclude the imaginary. Hence the pleasure which I always used to experience as a child, and do even now, in seeing the sky etc. through a window, a doorway…” (Giacomo Leopardi, Zibaldone p. 175, tran. in The Canti by J.G. Nichols)
“Concerning the impressions which please solely on account of their indefiniteness, you can see my idyll on the infinite, and recall the notions of a stretch of countryside which slopes down so steeply that from a certain distance the sight does not extend to the valley; and the notion of a row Continue reading →
Bolted to DC for two days; Hirshhorn, Yves Klein, blue girls in black in white. Flat fields, objects, moonscapes – all in that vibrant vibrating blue that seems to absorb sound and light alike. A self made monograph of color field paintings cut out of commercial paint chips. Blowtorches and firemen, Yves Klein always in a suit.
Evening spent on the front porch of my parents house listening to the tree crickets and katydids, the sound of car wheels on the long descent down the hill on the highway marked the passage of time through the infinitely throbbing chorus of insects.
Next day in the Tower at the National Gallery, listened to the Menil Chapel Rothkos hum. Sat down to watch them move as day went from sun to shade and the colors of the paintings changed with the light – the way water changes – a grey day turning a pool into a mirror. Rothko’s blacks are hardly so black – they are darkness stained with color: red, violet, green, the sheen of light turning a form into a slate of grey, while another form becomes a void.
Small French paintings in the basement, a whole room of little Vuillards! My favorite french painting was upstairs: a Cezanne “Flowers in Rococo Vase”. Brought back a postcard of another, a Matisse, not on view, that I wish had been.
“How can we speak of these “common things”, how rather, can we stalk them, how can we flush them out, rescue them from the mire in which they remain stuck, how can we give them a meaning, a tongue, so that they are at last able to speak of the way things are, the way we are?”
“My intention (is) to describe what remains: that which we generally don’t notice, which doesn’t call attention to itself, which is of no importance: what happens when nothing happens, what passes when nothing passes, except time, people, cars, and clouds.”
(Georges Perec: above “Approaches to what?”, below Perec quoted by Gilbert Adair)
Temptation of Saint Anthony Abbot, Master of the Osservanza
Walking along a dirt road how many pebbles would you pick up before you found a second to match the first? Rock with a capital “R”, scattered in the road in the Osservanza painting is a repetition of rockness, a certain squiggle, hatch and shadow becomes shorthand for all rocks. Their similarity suggests a return: a cycle through the full circle of variation which brings back a repetition. Symbol and similarity do better to contain infinity than diversity and the unique.
The superior of the convent: “I saw myself in the form of a wolf. I sped through space with the rapidity of words.” Max Ernst
Painting and Lies
“A metaphor holds a truth and an untruth, felt as inextricably bound up with each other.” (Musil, The Man Without Qualities, p 634)
Is it as Nietzsche suggests that we delight in appearances – especially those with the lucidity of dreams? Painting, its object-hood negligible is more or less pure appearance and obviously there is more than the passing comparison between painting and dreams. The two are linked in their ability to compile disparate images, objects, spaces and seasons into a single cogent experience. Thus they make exist a space which is outside of any real experience, and while it certainly can directly reference life, it does at the same time contrive to demonstrate something beyond our experience – that larger truth. And like truth in dreams, it is a certainty as the dream lasts but likely to fade on waking. Though even then it leaves behind a trace of that former certainty, which though nebulous, makes it seem likely that if we point our mind at it we may yet recover its clarity. Painting and dreams overlap in their ability to tell us not only convincing truths, but in their ability to tell us equally convincing lies.