Unreal Nature

April 25, 2017

A Large, Overall Enterprise

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:53 am

… one’s whole life work is continually consummated in one’s mind.

This is from the 1960 interview with David Smith found in David Sylvester’s Interviews with American Artists (2001):

[ … ]

You do it all yourself, don’t you? I mean, you could now afford studio assistants.

Well, I can’t use studio assistants any more than Mondrian could have used assistants to paint in solid areas, or any more than de Kooning or any of my friends can use somebody else to put their backgrounds in, even though they might be pure white. They still don’t want the marks of another hand on their own work. Now, that is twentieth-century too — that is defensive in a certain way because it’s contradictory to this age. We are among the few people left who are making objects from start to finish.

From Sylvester’s interview with Franz Kline also in 1960:

[ … ]

But there is no sort of preconception as to what the thing ought to be?

No. Except — except paint never seems to behave the same. Even the same paint doesn’t, you know. In other words, if you use the same white or black or red, through the use of it, it never seems to be the same. It doesn’t dry the same. It doesn’t stay there and look at you the same way. Other things seem to affect it. There seems to be something that you can do so much with paint and after that you start murdering it.

[line break added] There are moments or periods when it would be wonderful to plan something and do it and have the thing only do what you planned to do, and then, there are other times when the destruction of those planned things becomes interesting to you. So then, it becomes a question of destroying — of destroying the form; it’s like an escape, it’s something to do; something to begin the situation. You yourself, you don’t decide, but if you want to paint you have to find out some way to start this thing off, whether it’s painting it out or putting it in, and so on.

From the interview with Robert Motherwell in the same year:

[ … ]

You don’t, for example, have any idea before you start a painting whether the forms are going to be packed fairly tightly or whether it’s going to be rather open and spacious, so to speak?

In my case, I find a blank canvas so beautiful that to work immediately in relation to how beautiful the canvas is as such, is inhibiting and, for me, demands too much too quickly; so that my tendency is to get the canvas ‘dirty,’ so to speak, in one way or another, and then, so to speak, ‘work in reverse’ and try to bring it back to an equivalent of the original clarity and perfection of the canvas that one began on.

[ … ]

… But it’s not merely a specific painting that one’s working on. It’s also that one’s whole life work is continually consummated in one’s mind. And to some extent, the works of other people. So that, except when one’s asleep (and maybe even in one’s dreams), one is constantly reflecting, contemplating, shifting, having flashes of clarity and so on. So that I wouldn’t say at all that I start a canvas, and then finish it, and when the time comes, send it to one of my dealers to be sold.

[line break added] But that it’s maybe like the farmers’ year, where there’s storms, and there’s spring and there’s summer, and you don’t know whether certain things are going to come up or not. Certain things come up much better than you had expected, and vice versa. But looking at the whole year, a year later, you can think, yes, 1959 was a very good year, or, no, 1959 was a year when I was stopped, blocked, confused. But nevertheless, each particular work for me is a specific moment or a specific embodiment of a large, overall enterprise.

-Julie

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