Unreal Nature

November 29, 2016

You Must Look for It Yourself

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:55 am

… content absorbs experience from everywhere — both as agglomeration of distinct memories and as elucidation of the common, germinal elements and movements of the remembered physical world.

This is from the ‘Klee — I’ (that’s a one, not an I ) in About Modern Art: Critical Essays 1948-96 by David Sylvester (1996):

… Even the most diffuse compositions in the Renaissance tradition lead the eye to a single, usually central, point of focus, a point at which all formal and spatial relations are concentrated. If any points in a Klee are outstanding, they are not points of arrival but points of departure. Their predominance is therefore ephemeral. In the long run, all points are of equal importance. Indeed, they are of no individual importance because they are only stages, fixed by an arbitrary choice, in the journey which is the reality.

Tonal music always reverts to a home tonic; thus also, a painting in the tradition of Renaissance returns to its point of arrival. Every note of the atonal scale is equally important; likewise each point in a Klee, whose point of departure corresponds to the first note of a tone-row. In a late Klee, every point of arrival at once becomes a point of departure. The journey is unending.

klee_therumors1939
Paul Klee, The Rumors, 1939

Many of Klee’s later paintings, like most of the earlier ones, have ‘literary’ titles. But the title is never a frame to the content, only its point of departure. As there are points of departure to the composition, from which the journey through the form begins, the title denotes a point of departure in your previous experience from which a journey through memory begins. As the physical point of departure is near the edge of the composition, the title’s meaning is near the edge of the total significance of the picture.

[line break added] As the composition has no single point of focus, the content is never a single object or emotion or idea. Composition is distributed equably anywhere, content absorbs experience from everywhere — both as agglomeration of distinct memories and as elucidation of the common, germinal elements and movements of the remembered physical world.

In journeying through a Klee you cultivate it. It grows because it is an organism, not a constructed form. Klee’s method of composition is diametrically opposed to that of the Renaissance, and therefore Picasso. For a Renaissance painting is a constructed form, it is architectural, that is: it is three-dimensional; it has a foundation of symmetry, affirmed or negated; it has a specific focal point, a point of arrival. Klee’s affinities are with Mexican picture-writing, Egyptian hieroglyphics, Sumerian cuneiform signs, Chinese ideograms, and German Gothic illumination.

The order of an architecturally composed picture is apparent from the start. The evident order of a Klee is only in the parts, as with a landscape, a forest, a hedge, a crowd of people. To find an overall order, you must look for it yourself by taking hints from the given sensation. It is useless to wait for the order to affect you. You must commune with the picture and its order will become manifest — not in space but in space-time.

… An organism has a future as well as a past. Likewise, a picture by Klee goes on becoming not only while he cultivated it but while you cultivate it. … To look at a Klee over a period of time is not to acquire a deeper understanding of the finished thing but to observe and assist in its growth.

… A Renaissance picture has a beginning and an end. In a late Klee, the end is the beginning.

klee_errorongreen1939
Paul Klee, Error on Green, 1939

-Julie

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