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Although the great revolution of 1793 changed the whole face of France both politically and socially, it failed to emancipate the twin arts of painting and literature. In each case one tradition was succeeded by another, and nearly forty years elapsed before the new spirit completely broke through the barriers set up by a past generation.
Mathematics is no more the art of reckoning and computation than architecture is the art of making bricks or hewing wood, no more than painting is the art of mixing colors on a palette, no more than the science of geology is the art of breaking rocks, or the science of anatomy the art of butchering.
I have attempted to develop my thinking in such a way that the work I've done is not me – not to confuse my feelings with what I produced. I didn't want my work to be an exposure of my feelings. Abstract Expressionism was so lively – personal identity and painting were more or less the same, and I tried to operate the same way. But I found I couldn't do anything that would be identical with my feelings. So I worked in such a way that I could say that it's not me. That accounts for the separation.
Not only have we radically abandoned the motive fully developed according to its determined and, therefore, artificial equilibrium, but we suddenly and purposely intersect each motif with one or more other motifs of which we never give the full development but merely the initial, central, of final notes... We thus arrived at what we call the painting of states of mind.
The paramount relation between poetry and painting today, between modern man and modern art, is simply this: that in an age in which disbelief is so profoundly prevalent or, if not disbelief, indifference to questions of belief, poetry and painting, and the arts in general, are, in their measure, a compensation for what has been lost. Men feel that the imagination is the next greatest power to faith: the reigning prince.
Some paintings become famous because, being durable, they are viewed by successive generations, in each of which are likely to be found a few appreciative eyes. I know a painting so evanescent that it is seldom viewed at all, except by some wandering deer. It is a river who wields the brush, and it is the same river who, before I can bring my friends to view his work, erases it forever.
Delacroix spoke of the Greek coin being built from the center out. Vermeer has painted in this way, according to the principles of mass... How beautifully they are drawn – Vermeer does not just make a leaf and place it in the design, he relates space and leaf. [in the painting of Vermeer: 'Allegory on the New Testament']. That drapery – it is abstract – observe how this shape [a space between a shepherd and the tree] curves around the center space while the tree counter-curves opposite it, cutting an egg shape.... the spaces on the carpet that carry no figuration are, in fact, shapes of vital importance in building the whole..
Today I saw an exhibition of old Japanese paintings and sculpture [in Paris]. I was seized by the great strangeness of these things. It makes our own art seem all the more conventional to me. Our art is very meager in expressing the emotions we have inside. Old Japanese art seems to have a better solution for that... We must put more weight on the fundamentals!! When I took my eyes from these pictures and began looking at the people around me, I suddenly saw that human being are more remarkable, much more striking and surprising than they have been painted. A sudden realization like that comes only at moments.
When art seems to be empty of meaning, as no doubt some of the abstract painting of our own day actually does seem, what the painting says, indeed what the artist is shrieking at the top of his voice, is that life has become empty of all rational content and coherence, and that, in times like these, is far from a meaningless statement.
Great talents are not, before God, a substitute for love for Himself; the possession of a profound intellect does not free any man from the obligations resting on the heart for purity and holiness; a reputation for attainments in science does not settle the question whether he is righteous before his Maker; refined manners are not, in the sight of God, a substitute for the graces of the Spirit; God does not justify man on the ground of human learning; attainments in chemistry, anatomy, geology, botany, astronomy, or skill in sculpture and painting, — these do not prepare a man to die.
Metaphors of space have always been introduced into painting, the play of fullness and emptiness, volumes, surfaces, light and shade... And, in recent painting, in particular, the notion of 'emptiness' has assumed great significance... This interest in emptiness, in nothingness, is found in many disciplines, in particular in an important sector of modern philosophy. We know, for example, that the philosophers such as Heidegger or Sartre have, at a given moment, made nothingness the center of their thought...
Well I think it [a 'Little Image' painting] does suggest hieroglyphics of some sort. It is a preoccupation of mine from way back and every once in a while it comes into my work again. For instance in my 1968 show at the Marlborough I have a painting called 'Kufic', an ancient form of Arabic writing. Every once in a while I fall back to what I call my mysterious writings. I haven no idea what this is about but it runs through periods of my work.
Well, I have a very simple method of painting. It's to paint directly on the canvas without any funny business, as it were, and I use almost pure turpentine to start with, adding oil as I go along until the medium becomes pure oil. I use as little oil as I can possibly help, and that's my method. It's very simple... Yes, linseed oil. I used to use poppy oil, but I have heard that poppy oil is given to cracking pigment too, so I use it no longer... I find linseed oil and white lead the most satisfactory mediums.
Half or more of the best new work in the last few years has been neither painting nor sculpture. Usually it has been related, closely or distantly, to one or the other. The work is diverse, and much in it that is not in painting and sculpture is also diverse. But there are some things that occur nearly in common.
We have to have the money to do the work we want to do, as well as to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. Fat commissions are good, but not always easy to come by, and each new painting takes its time. So we need to find every way possible to earn extra income from our work.