Unreal Nature

April 18, 2019

From Its Invisible Musculature

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:24 am

… That body may be eclipsed by its own representations; it may disappear, like a god, in the abundance of its attributes; but …

This is from ‘The Invisible Body’ by Norman Bryson (1983):

Towards the end of his life, Matisse, like Picasso, consented to be filmed at work in his studio. Part of the film was shot in slow motion, distending the movement of hand and brush in time so that each stroke seemed a gesture of consummate deliberation; as though in slowing the movements down the film were able to demonstrate for the first time a dimension of intention and decision that would never otherwise become known.

… Looking at the [tenth-century Chinese scroll of Chu-jan at the Cleveland Museum of Art], I can imagine all of these gestures; no film is necessary for me to locate these movements, for the silk is itself a film that has recorded them already; I cannot conceive of the image except as the trace of a performance.

[line break added] In part, the performance has been fully advertent, directed to the gaze of the spectator in the same way that a dancer projects his movements through the four sides of the proscenium to the audience beyond; the four sides of the scroll contain a spectacular space, where everything exists for consumption by the gaze, im Augenblick, as a scaena, a backdrop.

[line break added] But in part, the performance is inadvertent, for although the strokes are so displayed that from their interlocking structure I can visualize a scene, a monastery in stream and mountain landscape, the strokes also exist in another space apart from the space of spectacle; a space not so much convergent with the silk (though the silk intersects with it, it is a section of that other space) as with the body of the painter; it is his space, and in a sense it is blind; the movements executed there will, as they touch the silk, leave marks I can construct as scaena, a spectacle but these marks are also simply taches, traces left behind in the wake of certain gestures, but remaining below the threshold of intelligibility (recognition) …

[ … ]

… That body may be eclipsed by its own representations; it may disappear, like a god, in the abundance of its attributes; but it is outward, from its invisible musculature, rather than inwards from its avid gaze, that all the images flow.

-Julie

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