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A little after I started to do sculpture, I painted some of them, and then I destroyed them all. I've begun again several times. In 1951, I painted a whole series of sculptures. But in painting them, you see what the form lacks. And it's useless to paint over something that you don't believe in. I tried again a month ago. In painting them, the deficiencies of form came through.
I paint very large pictures. I realize that historically the function of painting large pictures is painting something very grandiose and pompous. The reason I paint them however, - I think it applies to other painters I know -, is precisely because I want to be very intimate and human. To paint a small picture is to place yourself outside your experience, to look upon an experience as a stereopticon view or with a reducing glass. However you paint the larger picture, you are in it. It isn't something you command.
That is why, perhaps, all of us derive Pissarro. He had the good luck to be born in the West Indies, where he learned how to draw without a teacher. He told me all about it. In 1865 he was already cutting out black, bitumen, raw sienna and the ocher's. That's a fact. Never paint with anything but the three primary colours and their derivatives, he used to say me. Yes, he was the first Impressionist.
So what, then, is the use of art — our art, Black art? Black art must expose the enemy, praise the people and support the revolution.… We do not need pictures of oranges in a bowl or trees standing innocently in the midst of a wasteland. If we must paint oranges and trees, let our guerrillas be eating those oranges for strength and using those trees for cover.
I love to experiment with all styles, and do not have any particular prejudice or bias towards any specific style. These works appear, and they turn out, the way they should. I do not decide in what style I want to paint. I am only experimenting. Even Picasso, when he arrived at Cubism, had already experimented with a lot of other styles.
Artists encounter the landscape they propose to paint — they look at it, observe it from this angle and that. They are, as we say, absorbed in it. Or, in the case of abstract painters, the encounter may be with an idea, an inner vision, that in turn may be led off by the brilliant colors on the palette or the inviting rough whiteness of the canvas.
What is a portrait good for, unless it shows just how the subject was seen by the painter? In the old days before photography came in a sitter had a perfect right to say to the artist: "Paint me just as I am." Now if he wishes absolute fidelity he can go to the photographer and get it.
I had no desire to copy Pollock. I didn't want to take a stick and dip it in a can of enamel [paint]. I needed something more liquid, watery, thinner. All my life, I have been drawn to water and translucency. I love the water; I love to swim, to watch changing seascapes. One of my favorite childhood games was to fill a sink with water and punt nail polish into to see what happened when the colors burst up the surface, merging into each other as floating, changing shapes.