Unreal Nature

May 2, 2017

On a Plane

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:34 am

… There’s something very frustrating, necessary and puzzling about this metaphysical plane …

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

Philip Guston: We were talking yesterday at the studio about the picture plane, and to me there’s some mysterious element about the plane. I can’t rationalize it, I can’t talk about it, but I know there’s an existence on this imaginary plane which holds almost all the fascination of painting for me. As a matter of fact, I think the true image only comes out when it exists on this imaginary plane. But in schools you hear everyone talk about the picture plane as a first principle. And in beginning design class, it’s still labored to death. Yet I think it’s one of the most mysterious and complex things to understand.

[line break added] I’m convinced that it’s almost a key and yet I can’t talk about it; nor do I think it can be talked about. There’s something very frustrating, necessary and puzzling about this metaphysical plane that painting exists on. And I think that, when it’s either eliminated or not maintained intensely, I get lost in it. This plane exists in the other arts, anyway. Think of the poetic plane and the theater plane. And it has to do with matter. It has to do with the very matter that the thing is done in.

David Sylvester: The matter giving a certain resistance so that we don’t go straight through it to the idea?

Exactly. In other words, without this resistance you would vanish into either meaning or clarity, and who wants to vanish into clarity or meaning?

[ … ]

And is this a matter of instinct or a matter of wanting to [work in depth while preserving the plane]? Well, that’s a silly question

But, of course, you know, it’s terrible to rationalize about painting because you know that, while you’re creating it, you can have all sorts of things in your mind consciously that you want to do and that really won’t be done. You won’t be finished until the most unexpected and surprising things happen. I find I can’t compose a picture any more.

[line break added] I suppose I’ve been thinking about painting structures for many years, but I find that I know less and less about composing and yet, when the thing comes off in this old and new way at the same time, weeks later, I get it, and it arrives at a unity that I never could have predicted and foreseen or planned. And yet this is a problem that we all have dealt with.

My previous post from Sylvester’s book is here.

-Julie

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