Words and Pictures

by cjdown

In my art I tried to explain life and its meaning to myself. I also intended to help others to understand life better. (Edvard Munch)

Edvard Munch, Self-portrait Between the Clock and the Bed, 1940-42

I think that one wants from painting a sense of life. The final suggestion, the final statement, has to be not a deliberate statement but a helpless statement. It has to be what you can’t avoid saying, not what you set out to say. I think one ought to use everything one can use, all of the energy wasted in painting it, so that one hasn’t the reserve of energy which is able to use this thing. One shouldn’t really know what to do with it, because it should match what one is already; it shouldn’t just be something one likes. (Jasper Johns)

Jasper Johns, According to What, 1964

A painting feels lived out to me, not painted. That’s why one is changed by painting. In a rare magical moment, I never feel myself to be more than a trusting accomplice. So paintings aren’t pictures, but evidence – maybe documents, along the road you have not chosen, but are on nevertheless. (Philip Guston)

Philip Guston, The Pit, 1976

Thus it is true both that the life of an author can teach us nothing and that—if we know how to interpret it—we can find everything in it, since it opens onto his work. Just as we may observe the movements of an unknown animal without understanding the law that inhabits and controls them, so Cezanne’s observers did not divine the transmutations he imposed on events and experiences; they were blind to his significance, to that glow from out of nowhere which surrounded him from time to time. But he himself was never at the center of himself: nine days out of ten all he saw around him was the wretchedness of his empirical life and of his unsuccessful attempts, the debris of an unknown celebration. Yet it was in the world that he had to realize his freedom, with colors upon a canvas. It was from the approval of others that he had to await the proof of his worth. That is why he questioned the picture emerging beneath his hand, why he hung on the glances other people directed toward his canvas. That is why he never finished working. We never get away from our life. We never see ideas or freedom face to face. (Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Cezanne’s Doubt)

Paul Cézanne, Mont Ste. Victoire and Chateau Noir, 1904-1906