Unreal Nature

November 24, 2015

To Inhabit Them

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:53 am

Ladder, 1978

… There are twenty crucial minutes in the evolution of each of my paintings. The closer I get to that time — those twenty minutes — the more intensely subjective I become — but the more objective too. Your eye gets sharper; you become continuously more and more critical.

There is no measure I can hold on to except this scant half-hour of making.

… Human consciousness moves, but it is not a leap: it is one inch. One inch is a small jump, but that jump is everything. You can go way out, and then you have to come back — to see if you can move that inch. — Philip Guston, 1965


… Yes — I too puzzle over “meanings” — I mean the linkage of images when they are together in a certain way and then how all changes, when in another combination on the wall. Last month, trying to select nine or ten paintings from about forty for [the] McKee show, I shifted pictures around for days and nights, reeling from the diverse possible meanings the pictures possess when in different image relationships.

[line break added to make this easier to read online] But that is the potency of image making — it’s as if we are dense — swamped — image-ridden — we teem with meanings “constantly.” So the “WHAT” is never settled. Of course never can be. There are days when in a kind of half-awake state, the images of one painting move into another. I don’t myself know what is where — nothing to do with separate pictures anymore but a sort of confused swarm where everything can become everything else — in a split second.

[line break added] I “panic” and hate it and desire it to stop fully as much as I love and need it and want to continue endlessly. The “curse” of image making — as if one wants to gorge and eat up the world — a hunger — but then also deep down is another hunger — for some “peace” — detachment — for a single form which might “contain” so much multiplicity. Is that possible? — Philip Guston, 1976


… It’s a long, long preparation for a few moments of innocence. — Philop Guston, 1978

Pyramid and Shoe, 1977

The following, and the Guston quotes, above, are found in Philip Guston by Robert Storr (1986):

… In his brief essay The Eye and the Mind, the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty wrote, “Science manipulates things but refuses to inhabit them.” To the degree that much postwar art has distanced itself from its sources or sought to emulate the objectivity of science by confining itself to the task of isolating painting’s essential properties, the same might be said of it, that it “manipulates things but refuses to inhabit them.”

[line break added] Guston, however, did not conceive of painting as an essentially formal enterprise, nor did he simply “borrow” ideas and images from the various traditions on which he drew. For Guston, painting was not so much made as lived; it was a process of perpetual metamorphosis that revealed and transformed the identity of the artist as he confronted the mutable reality of his materials and of the world that surrounded him.

Couple in Bed, 1977




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