Notebook, 1993-

1st Part

'2oth Century Artists
on Art' [cont.]

Ashton, Dore, ed. Twentieth-Century Artists on Art. New York: Pantheon Books. 1985. [NOTE: Mr. Ashton presents the words of 20th c. artists in 4 sections: A Preliminary Section of Early [older] Modern Masters in Statements After 1940; Three other sections: 1900-1920; 1920-1940; 1940-Present]

Giacomo Balla [1871-1958]
Teacher of prominent Futurists such as Boccioni and Severini, Balla was an intrepid experimenter. He signed the Futurist painting manifesto in 1910, but moved away toward his own vision when, in 1913-1914, he produced a series of paintings called "Iridescent Interpenetrations" --totally abstract symbolizations of the movement of light and color. Balla's audacity in the exploration of the dynamics of color was noted by scores of painters during the 1960s, when so-called Op Art flourished, and by others who turned to kinetic expressions.

"With the perfecting of photography, static traditionalist painting has completely fallen from repute; photography kills static contemplation. Watching a cinematographic performance we find ourselves in front of a painting in movement that consecutively transforms itself to reproduce a given action."

Static traditionalist painting was vanquished because it was obliged to transfix one single point along the infinite variety of aspects of nature. Mechanics have overtaken the traditionalist painter and forced him into becoming a pitiable imitator of static and exterior forms. It is imperative therefore not to halt and contemplate the corpse of tradition, but to renew ourselves by creating an art that no machine can imitate, that only the artistic Creative Genius can conceive. Futurism, predestined force of progress and not of fashion, creates the style of flowing abstract forms that are synthetic and inspired by the dynamic forces of the universe . . . . " [1915]

Natalia Sergeevna Goncharova [1881-1962]
Goncharova's upper-class family background enabled her to complete her education with extensive travels in Europe. She visited Paris in 1906, where she and her companion Mikhail Fedorovich Larinov eagerly examined the art of the Fauves and the proto-Cubist work of Picasso. When Goncharova returned to Russia, she began to paint in a style fusing the vanguard approaches she had observed in Paris. However, she soon turned her attention to the Russian folk legacy, influencing others, including Kasimir Malevich, to find motifs in peasant art. Her interest in Futurism led her to collaborate with Larionov in the development of an abstract style they called "Rayonism." In 1915 she and Larionov settled permanently in Paris, where Goncharova turned her attention to stage design.

"I am convinced that modern Russian art is developing so rapidly and has reached such heights that within the near future it will be playing a leading role in international life. Contemporary Western ideas [mainly of France; it is not worth talking of the others] can no longer be of any use to us. And the time is not far off when the West will be learning openly from us. If we examine art from the artistic monuments we have at our disposal without bearing time in mind, then I see it in this order:

The Stone Age and the caveman's art are the dawn of art. China, India, and Egypt with all their ups and downs in art have, generally speaking, always had a high art and strong artistic traditions. Arts proceeding form this root are nevertheless independent: that of the Aztecs, Negroes, Australian and Asiatic islands-the Sunda [Borneo], Japan, etc. These, generally speaking, represent the rise and flowering of art.

Greece, beginning with the Cretan period [a transitional state], with its archaic character and all its flowering, Italy right up to the age of the Gothic, represent decadence. Gothic is a transitional state. Our age is a flowering of art in a new form--a painterly form. And in this second flowering it is again the East that has played a leading role. At the present time Moscow is the most important center of painting.

I shake off the dust of the West, and I consider all those people ridiculous and backward who still imitate Western models in the hope of becoming pure painters and who fear literariness more than death. Similarly, I find those people ridiculous who advocate individuality and who assume there is some value in their 'I' even when it is extremely limited. Untalented individuality is as useless as bad imitation, let alone the old-fashionedness of such an argument.

I express my deep gratitude to Western painters for all they have taught me.

After carefully modifying everything that could be done along these lines and after earning the honor of being placed alongside contemporary Western artists--in the West itself--I now prefer to investigate a new path." [1913]

Mikhail Fedodrovich Larionov [1882-1964]
Born in the Ukraine, Larionov came to Moscow to study painting at the Moscow Institute of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, and quickly became a leader of rebellious art students there. In 1908 he was drafted into the army, where he continued to paint, infusing his canvases with a raw vernacular quality derived, he felt, from the authentic peasant tradition. By 1912 he had been sufficiently impressed by the Italian Futurists to shift into an abstract idiom that, in this 1913 manifesto, he called "Rayonism." After settling in Paris in 1915 with his companion Natalia Goncharova, he did a great deal of scenographic work for the Ballet Ruseses and rarely returned to easel painting.

"Every form exists objectively in space by reason of the rays from the other forms that surround it; it is individualized by these rays, and they alone determine its existence.

Nevertheless, between those forms that our eye objectivizes, there exists a real and undeniable intersection of rays proceeding from various forms. These interactions constitute new intangible forms that the painter's eye can see. Where the rays from different objects meet, new immaterial objects are created in space. Rayonism is the painting of these intangible forms, of these infinite products with which the whole of space is filled.

Rayonism is the painting of the collisions and couplings of rays between objects, the dramatic representation of the struggle between the plastic emanations radiating from all things around us; Rayonism is the painting of space revealed not by the contours of objects, not even by their formal coloring, but by the ceaseless and intense drama of the rays that constitute the unity of all things.

Rayonism might appear to be a form of spiritualist painting, even mystical, but it is, on the contrary, essentially plastic. The painter sees new forms created between tangible forms by their own radiation, and these are the only ones that he places on the canvas. Hence he attains the pinnacle of painting for painting's sake inspired by these real forms, although he would neither know how to, nor wish to, represent or even evoke them by their linear existence.

Pictorial studies devoted to a formal representation by no matter what kind of geometrical line--straight, curved, circular--still regard painting, in my opinion, as a means of representing forms. Rayonism wishes to regard painting as an end in itself and no longer as a means of expression . . . .

In rayonist painting the intrinsic life and continuum of the colored masses form a synthesis-image in the mind of the spectator, one that goes beyond t me and space. One glimpses the famous fourth dimension since the length, breadth, and density of the superposition of the painted colors are the only signs of the visible world; and all the other sensations, created by images, are of another order--that superreal order that man must always seek, yet never find, so that he would approach paths of representation more subtle and more spiritualized.

We believe that Rayonism marks a new stage in this development." [1914]

Ferdinand Hodler [1853-1918]
A significant symbolist painter at the turn of the century, Hodler in his last years painted Alpine landscapes that in their vigor and sweep satisfied modern demands for simple, expressive forms. After a long eclipse, Hodler's reputation was retrieved during the 1970s with major exhibitions in both Europe and the US.

"Color exists simultaneously with form. Both elements are constantly associated but sometimes color strikes you more--a rose for instance--sometimes form--the human body."

"What is Different and What is Similar

Uniformity as well as diversity exist within human beings

We are different from each other, but we are even more alike

What unites us is greater and stronger than what divides us

When you look up at the sky, you have a feeling of unity which delights you and makes you giddy. The very expanse is striking

When I am on the sea, I can only see the sky and water, a long line of infinite horizon

When I look at the night, that is another instance of a large expanse.

When I see a dead man, the eternity of his silence moves me, impresses me deeply.

When I see similar forms, a certain order, I am also pleasantly affected. Why should a flower delight me? Because it consists of similar forms grouped around a center. Nothing delights us more than orderly forms.

For twenty years I have noted similar phenomena and reproduced those resemblances, those similarities.

There is also diversity--the different faces and characters of various people. And on the other hand, what is similar, analogous, general characteristics, the same feelings of humanity. There is a small truth and a larger Truth.

Art unites us. Long live art!

What makes us one is greater than what divides us.

I have expressed my likings: a rose, the sound of an organ."

"Explanation of My Pictures
Night: A large expanse of a natural phenomenon, a large expanse of black shades.

Tired of living: The sound of an organ

Eurythmy: Five men representing humanity, marching toward death. " [1917-1918]

Georgia O'Keeffe [1887- ]
"It is surprising to me to see how many people separate the objective from the abstract. Objective painting is not good painting unless it is good in the abstract sense. A hill or tree cannot make a good painting just because it is a hill or a tree. It is lines and colors put together so that they say something. For me that is the very basis of painting. The abstraction is often the most definite form for the intangible thing in myself that I can only clarify in paint." [1976]

Maurice Brazil Prendergast [1859-1924]
"Very blue this afternoon. I suppose it comes from abstaining from the customary afternoon cup of coffee. You must make yourself a strong man. You are on the threshold as an artist. Be firm and determined.

Accustom yourself to master things which you seem to despair of.

The love you liberate in your work is the only love you keep." [1905]

René Magritte [1898-1976]
" . . . . The other day someone asked me what the relationship was between my life and my art. I couldn't really think of any, except that life obliges me to do something, so I paint. But I am not concerned with 'pure' poetry nor with 'pure' painting. It is rather pointless to put one's hopes in a dogmatic point of view, since it is the power of enchantment which matters." [1959]

Georges Vantongerloo [1886-1965]
Vantogerloo participated in the de Stijl movement in his youth but later developed theories about the mathematical basis of abstract art that distanced him from Mondrian. His constructions and sculptures were often explorations of mathematical principles embodied in curves and spirals. In 1927 he settled in Paris, where he became an active member of the between-the-wars group, Abstraction-Création: Art Non-Figuratif.

"In art there are always two problems and therefore two solutions. The problem of the Subject, the manner of envisaging it and resolving it. And the problem of Art, which is the manner of combining functions and of incorporating into them a sensibility, which is individual. And finally, the solution to be given to the poblem of Art. On the result of these two problems taken together depends the value of the work of Art. These problems must therefore be resolved with elegance.

In order to avoid a dominant in a work, it is also necessary that the solutions be in harmony and that one not infringe on the other. The sensibility of the author guides this harmony. Not conventional rules which would lead to dogma. Each work has its own rules; it is a totalilty in itself. The same rules encountrered in another work would be a tautology resulting, as often happens with artists, in the copying of one's own works.

I see a flower. It gives me a senasation of the beautiful. I wish to paint it. Ay this moment I see the whole subject--flower--changed. It is no longer the same beauty. Is it the environment, the light? In short, the vision is no longer the same. I attempt then to resolve the problem, the subject flower. In painting it, I strive after composition; the value of one color in relation to another, their harmony. Likewise with the lines. The process passes through my sensibility and the result is a work of artistic... or botanical value. I see a work by Nicolas Fouquet. By what am I moved? By the religious s bject or by the Art? I am free to believe that it is the religious subject that moves me. But it is only through Art that the Great Emotion can reach me. Then Art is the harmony of relations accompanied by Fouquet's sensibility. It is not an illustration; it is a work of art.

Consider the work of Cézanne, it has nothing of nature, but everything of art . . . .

What is it that attracts us in art? Is it not the imponderable? Does the artist not wish to express his sense of the incommensurable? Does the spectator not wish, through the intermediary of a work of art, to feel the incommensurable? The means and the pretext for approaching it is a subject. Primitive peoples had recourse to fetishes. After this stage was superseded, the subject becmae mythological, then religious. Through the development of science, the subject assumes a character of observation, comparison, reflection. One paints directly from nature not in order to copy, but in an effort to penetrate the mystery of nature through observation and to express the feelings of grandeur received from the phenomenon observed. One does not paint a flower as if illustrating a botany text, as an analysis of the flower, but paints rather the atmosphere and the feelng that the scene releases. One uses colors which seem to be improvised, with a view to approaching the incommensurable. As man's knowledge develops, and according to his temperament, geometry comes to seem more qualfied, not to produce an industrial art, but to reveal the incommensurable." [c. 1947]

Constantin Brancusi [1876-1957]
" . . . . The beautiful is absolute equity.

Things are not difficult to make; what is difficult is puttng ourselves in the state of mind to make them.

When we are no longer children, we are already dead.

What is the use of using a model It only ends in sculpting cadavers.

Theories are samples without value. What counts is action.

Direct cutting is the real road to sculpture, but also the worst for those who don't know how to walk. And, in the end, direct cuttng or indirect--that doesn't mean a thing. What counts is the thing made.

Simplicity is not an end in art, but one arrives at simplicity in spite of oneself in drawing near to the reality in things.

Don't look for obscure formulas or mystery in my work. It is pure joy that I offer you. Look at my sculptures until you see them. Those closest to God have seen them.

To see far is one thing; going there is another.

There is a goal in all things. To arrive there you must remove yourself from yourself.

Create like a god, command like a king, work like a slave.

Glory doesn't give a damn about us when we run after her, but when we turn our back on her, it is she that runs after us." [1925-1957]

Victor Brauner [1903-1966]
Active in his native Rumania as a Dadaist, Brauner settled in Paris in 1930 and became associated with the Surrealist movement. The interest in magic prevalent in the later phases of Surrealism was strong in Bruner, whose series of 'spectral' paintings won him a special place in the Surrealist pantheon.

"My latest pictures are without external reference to the world of reality of these gentlemen, but so much the worse. They are documents on the 'mist' of inspiration. To 'their reality' I oppose 'my mist.'

And the 'mist' says to me:
I invade slowly, quite softly, imperceptibly, on muffled steps.
I invade the far horizons as I approach, leaving but a diminishing zone of visibility.
I invade and the all diappears, all glimpses itself through me, for I am the new optics of transparence and opaqueness.
. . . . I am the birth of the object.
. . . . I am the end of the object.
I am the spectre and the apparition." [1941]

Alberto Giacometti [1901-1966]
"One day when I was drawing a young girl I suddenly noticed that the only thing that was alive was her gaze. The rest of her head . . . . meant no more to me than the skull of a dead man . . . . One does want to sculpt a living person, but what makes him alive is without a doubt his gaze. The heads from the New Hebrides are true, are more than true, because they have a gaze. Not the imitation of eyes, but really and truly a gaze. Everything else is only the framework for the gaze . . . . If the gaze, that is, life, is the main thing, then the head becomes the main thing . . . . the rest of the body is limited to functioning as antennae that make people's life possible--the life that is housed in the skull . . . . At a certain point in time I began to see thr people in the street as if their living essence was very tiny. I saw living beings exclusively through their eyes." [1951]

"It might be supposed that realism consists in copying a glass as it is on the table. In fact, one never copies anything but the vision that remains of it at each moment, the image that becomes conscious. You never copy the glass on the table; you copy the residue of a vision . . . . Each time I look at the glass, it has an air of remaking itself, that's to say, its reality becomes uncertain, because its projection in my head is uncertain, or partial. One sees it as it if were disappearing, coming into view again, disappearing, coming into view again--that is to say, it really always is between being and not being. And it's this that one wants to copy." [c. 1964-64]

Juan Gris [1887-1927]
"I work with the elements of the intellect, with the imagination. I try to make concrete that which is abstract. I proceed from the general to the particular, by which I mean that I start with an abstraction in order to arrivae at a true fact. Mine is an art of synthesis, of deduction . . . .

I want to endow the elements I use with a new quality; startng from general types I want to construct particular individuals.

. . . . Though in my system I may depart greatly from any form of idealistic or naturalisitc art, in practice I cannot break away from the Louvre. Mine is the method of all times, the method used by the old masters: there are technical means and they remain constant." [1921]

Otto Dix [1891-1969]
"You know, if one paints someone's portrait, one should not know him if possible. No knowledge! I do not want to know him at all, want only to see what is there, the outside. The inner follows by itself. It is mirrored in the visible. As soon as one knows him too long, one gets irritated. The visual immediacy is lost. The first impression is the right one. Once I have finished his picture, I can perhaps revise my impression and say, he really isn't such a beast as it seemed. Or he is not as decadent or as greedy as Flechtheim was at that time, or not so naive as the Trillhaases . . . . It's all the same to me. I must keep the first impression fresh. If it is lost, I must find it again." [c. 1965]

Jirí Kolár [1914- ]
"Art has nothing whatever to do with what is private or public, political or poetic, beautiful or ugly, everyday or absurd, nude or symbolic, but with a domain in which the private and public, the political and the poetic, the beautiful and the ugly, the everyday and the absurd, the nude and the symbolic, are indissociable--of a domain in which beauty and death, history and nature, fantasy and reality, dream and memory are inseparable." [1968]

"I believe that every creator must eventually attempt what may be termed a revolt, whether he wants to or not; he must, as I have, attempt an overhaul and reconstitution of poetry as a whole, regardless of its greater or lesser validity to date . . . . When later on I saw for the first time the great surveys of Kupka's and Kandinsky's work, I was overwhelmed by the realization that these creative acts were already accomplished in the year of my birth. What then was left for me to do. I asked, despite the fact that even then I had a good deal of work under my belt. [1975]

". . . . There are millions of people today who do not know how to read or write. Aren't they the silent artists? The silent poets? What goes on in their minds when someone shows them a handwritten or printed poem?" [1978]

Mordecai Ardon [1896- ]
"Pictures are exhibited, dimensions are listed, signature and year of origin are noted; and now words stride forth . . . . introduction, biography, criticism . . . . leading the way out into the world, in the van of the canvases.

As it happens, however, the gates are barred and bolted as once upon a time, was the Quinta del Sordo [Goya's house, known as 'The House of the Deaf Man.'] . . . . Not a whisper penetrates from the outside . . . . Deaf to mere words, Goya goads his pilgrims, clochards, beggars across dark chasms . . . . A goat? . . . . ah, let it be a goat, then, if goat it be! What leaps to the eye is a demoniac black that purs in deepest despair over the palette, midst torrents of gray and white and ochre . . . .

The gates are barred and bolted, but inside an old man ships forth a witches' sabbath from out of the depths of his soul, as he cackles grimly . . . . Is it an indctment? Ah, no, bitter scorn that is the mesage!

These are scenarios of silent suffering . . . . of yearnings and rebellions...of visions and dreams of color . . . . color . . . . color that screams from the palette in grief and desperation.

Words? What use are words?

Still, custom must have its due!

A bow to Jodengracht [Rembrandt's quarter of Amsterdam]

A bow to Quinta del Sordo!"

Victor Pasmore [1908- ]
"In spite of his dependence on freedom the visual artist has been led to the abstract not through a desire to increase his freedom of expression, but to deepen the reality of his work. This desire requires an approach which, superficially, is the reverse of traditional naturalism: it means that the artist must change his center of gravity from outside the object of inspection to inside it. But, to begin at the center of things and not from a point outside them means thinking in terms of universals rather than of particulars . . . . " [1957]

Richard Long [1945- ]
"My art is about working in the wide world, wherever, on the surface of the earth.

My art has the themes of materials, ideas, movement, time. The beauty of objects, thoughts, places and actions.

My work is about my senses, my instinct, my own scale and my own physical commitment.

My work is real, not illusory or conceptual. It is about real stones, real time, real actions.
. . . . "

Roger Hilton [1911-75]
"All my thinking about art is haunted by a mystical belief that in its practice one is tapping sources of truth. If it were not that one caught, in this practice, glimpses of some certainties, one would not continue it.

The combination artist-picture is a total machine which is one of the vital antennae--an intuitional one--which man uses in the exploration of his environment.

The painter today is like the ancient alchemists: he is concerned not so much with visible reality as with reality tout court. His pictures are not a picture of the world but an attempt to change it.

At heart everyone knows that beneath the everyday appearance of things are hidden truths which intuition alone can grasp. Today, when everything is put in question, man is trying again to orientate himself, to give himself a direction, to reestablish laws based on absolute truths. In crucial moments in the history of man such as we are living through today there is no excuse for fooling around.

I see art as an instrument of truth, or it is nothing.

It may be thought that technique which has been built up for the purposes of figurtive art ceases to apply where nonfiguration is concerned. But I think that figurative parts of pictures are not, in a final an anlysis, what the picture is really concernd with. It follows that the technique has been built up not so much for the purposes of representing the visible world as for being an instrument capable of embodying men's inner truths. Abstraction has been due not so much to a positive thing but to the absence of a valid image.

Abstraction in itself is nothing. It is only a step toward a new sort of figuration, that is, one which is more true. However beautiful they may be, one can no longer depict women as Titian did. Renoir in his last pictures had already greatly modified her shape. Today one sees people who are changing abstraction into landscape [the easiest to do]. For an abstract painter there are two ways out or on: he must give up painting and take to architecture, or he must reinvent figuration.

Now that we have conquered new plastic ground during the last fifty years, there is no reason why images should not return to painting without fear of repeating what has already been done. "

Frank Auerbach [1931- ]
" . . . . I mean, to put down an ideogram of a table so that people will recognize it as a table is not the work of a painter but to sense it for a moment as a magic carpet with a leg hanging down at esch corner is the beginning of a painter's imagination, and there would be a million ways of sensing this table on the floor, this invisible box. This is where the painter's imagination begins and this is what a painter's imagination is. It's not a question of fancy dress or symbolic objects. It's this reinvention of the phsyical world, and everything else comes from that." [1978]

Heinz Mack [1931- ]
"The dynamic structure of color and light delights my eye, disturbs my lazy thoughts, lends wings to the rhythm of my heart and to the quick breath of my wishes.

In my reliefs light itself becomes the medium instead of color, the movement--as well as causing the light vibrations--produces a new, immaterial color and tonality, and the intangible and entirely nonfigurative nature of these suggests a possible reality whose aura and secret beauty we already love." [1950]



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