Unreal Nature

December 5, 2014

To Paint Over the Sunset

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:37 am

… I am in no place. All that exists is the painting. Or whatever it is.

This is from Writings in Art by Per Kirkeby, edited by Asger Schnack (2012):

… shortly before the introduction of summertime, I rediscovered the value of painting at night. Painting sightlessly in the garden. The color needing to be defined in relation to something else, not necessarily the lawn. Or the lawn may only be placed correctly on the canvas when the light has gone. Observation is an inadequate deception. Clichés and scenery exist for a reason. Some deeper reason, a shadow existence. Beyond the ideality of observation are found the mannered shadows of reality. Otherwise, it would all be so dull, I thought to myself during the fifth costume change of the evening: observation is honest and solid, and quite unreal; the impersonality of night; night’s removal of the assertiveness of observation is a release.

[ … ]

… It’s hard to get used to viewing each picture as a unique event and not merely as the expression of a determined and inevitable “march of history.” Either you go along with that or else you fall by the wayside. Sometimes, there’s an imperative to be a part of it, or else opportunities, as defined by generation, will be lost. I believe that. But not everyone wants to go along, and the train always comes to a halt somewhere down the line anyway. Leaving you standing there at some deserted station, discovering that everything in a way has been done before, and for that same reason all choices made within the context of each and every picture are genuine, irreversible and gruesome. It’s almost comical.

[ … ]

… What the painter knows, and what Schwitters says, is that no matter how much a picture would seem to resemble nature, it is always something else. And armed with that naive basic knowledge one might just as well paint abstractly as paint something that would seem to look like nature.

[ … ]

1950 ……. At weekends I would cycle into the countryside with my friend Gunnar. We had with us, in our rucksacks, rolls of the cheapest paper to be bought, machine-made paper. We cut our pens ourselves from the reeds of Nordsjaelland’s lakes. We had read (in Irving Stone) that Van Gogh had done likewise. Often, we produced quite large pen-and-ink drawings. We laid the paper out on the ground and placed rocks on the corners.

I’ve told this story before. It could have been another year, but recently I found some drawings from the time. Machine-made paper and crude pen and ink. In the corner: 1956.

It almost begins to fit too well and too soon. Especially with dreams coming true. I dreamed of becoming an artist, a great painter. Gunnar did too. We dreamed in unison. He drew better than I, maybe that was his problem. All I had was basically the idea of becoming an artist.

… Maybe the outside world existed, maybe the few art dealers there were — like Borge Birch — had shown stuff that came from it. What I do know — and this is not something you can look up — is that for a young person from a very normal, middle-class background, this was a closed world beckoning. Maybe you only open yourself to certain possibilities at that age. Maybe you have more need of Irving Stone’s Van Gogh than for the Van Gogh of “modernism.” I remember a good many years later feeling I had been dreadfully cheated during those years. Imagine if I had been given the knowledge so much earlier. About Pollock, Newman, etc. All that was modern. Now I’m no longer so sure it would have made a difference. Maybe it’s more important at that age to be given the chance to waste opportunities and make mistakes.

[ … ]

1989 ……. It still doesn’t square. From out of “abstract,” strange object-like formations have settled to the bottom. But without universal, anecdotal meaning. And yet with a greater sense of figuration than in the Zeitgeist times [of his development]. Even if “abstract” today is no hindrance.

My painting now is futile. There are no positions. I am in no place. All that exists is the painting. Or whatever it is.

[ … ]

It is all there, all the time
but it needs to be bricked in
the sunset especially needs to be enclosed
where it then may rage and fume
a depraved force issuing from what disappears.
To paint over the sunset
is the final impossible adjuration.

My most recent previous post from Kirkeby’s book is here.




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