… it becomes more and more unknown, more and more beautiful. The closer I get, the more it grows and further away it moves.
This is from ‘My Long March,’ a 1961 interview with Pierre Schneider found in Alberto Giacometti: Works, Writings, Interviews by Angel González (2006):
[ … ]
Alberto Giacometti: … Before, reality had been something familiar, banal, or let’s say stable. This came to a complete stop in 1945. For example, I realized that there hadn’t been any interruption between going to the cinema and coming out of the cinema: I’d go to the cinema, see what happened on the screen, come out, and nothing would astonish me, in the street or in a café …
Pierre Schneider: So there was no separation between the image you saw on the screen …
A. G: … and the reality of the street. My view of the world was a photographic view, as I think almost everyone’s is, near enough. We never see things, we always see them through a screen. The same goes for a certain type of painting. Nowadays almost all painters, if they want to produce a landscape, see it through Impressionism (the last valid pictorial vision of the outside world is Impressionism).
[line break added] And then all of a sudden there was a break. I remember very clearly, it was at the Actualités in Montparnasse. First of all, I no longer knew what I was seeing on the screen: instead of its being figures, it was becoming black and white blobs, that’s to say they were losing all meaning, and instead of looking at the screen I kept looking at my neighbors, who were becoming something altogether unknown. It was the reality around me that was the unknown, not what was happening on the screen.
[line break added] Going out on to the boulevard I had the feeling of being faced with something I had never seen before, with a complete change in reality — the unseen, the altogether unknown, marvelous. The Boulevard Montparnasse took on the beauty of the Arabian Nights, fantastic, altogether unknown. And at the same time, the silence, an unbelievable sort of silence. And then this grew.
[line break added] Every morning when I woke up in my room, there was the chair with the towel on it, and that affected me and made me almost feel a chill down my spine, because everything had an air of absolute stillness. A sort of inertness, of loss of weight: the towel on the chair was weightless, had no relation to the chair, the chair on the floor didn’t weigh on the floor, it was kind of inert, like that, and this gave a sort of feeling of silence. This was a beginning.
[ … ]
A.G.: … for me, reality is still as unknown and unexplored as the first time any attempt was made to depict it. That is to say, all representations produced to date have only been partial. In my view, the outside world — whether it be a head or a tree — does not exactly match the representations of it produced so far. It does in part, but there is still something I see which does not appear in the paintings or sculpture of the past.
[line break added] This is so since the day I began to see … for I used to see through a screen. In other words, through the art of the past, and then I gradually began so see a little without the screen, and the familiar became unfamiliar, totally unfamiliar. It was dazzling, and at the same time impossible to render.
… the more I work the more I see differently. I mean, everything grows larger, day by day. Basically it becomes more and more unknown, more and more beautiful. The closer I get, the more it grows and further away it moves.