quotes I warm to
quotes I warm to
you are trying to intellectualise something – desparately. And you are wasting your time… That’s not a way of understanding; to make a mini-logic.
It’s a visual world. You want to turn everything into an intellectual game. A visual world is totally different. Remember what I’ve said now.
(But) people do want to intellectualise art.
I know they do. Its not like that.
Leonora Carrington conversation with Joanna Moorhead
Create something, perfect it to be yours for all time; for everything else you possess will fall to one or another master after you are dead, but this will never cease to be yours once it has come into being.
Pliny the Younger (AD 61-113), letter to Caninius Rufus
There was nothing to do but make heads. It was a matter of eating, and this was the only way I know of making money… The problems of portraiture interested me: the confluence of personality and sculpture where the concentration of characteristics and identity, of sensibility and type, of style, even, belonged, I thought, more to the sitter or his race, than to the sculptor. Or if to the sculptor only as the medium of expression, limited in form, as is a sonnet.
Isamu Noguchi (1929)
It was a communion with people I was interested in. Portraits were a gregariousness.
Isamu Noguchi (1932)
We are forever comparing the world perceived by our senses with the world of the model in our minds. When the match is good we accept this as reality.
We have in all of us a hunger for an ideology or a religion to provide a sense of purpose and wonder for when things are good, and reassurance when things are bad
James Lovelock: both from ‘The Vanishing Face of Gaia’ (2009)
the artistic efforts of this century end in a wet fart of faddery, flim-flam and self-indulgence
Ben Nicholson, who, like all the great artists of the past is something of a mystic, believes there is a reality underlying appearances and that it is his business, by giving material form to his intuition of it, to express the essential nature of this reality. He does not draw that intuition of reality out of a vacuum, but out of a mind attuned to the specific forms of nature – a mind which has stored within it a full awareness of the proportions and harmonies inherent in all natural phenomena, in the universe itself.
essay by Herbert Read, discussed in Modern English Painters Vol 2 (1956) by John Rothenstein
Art has no function. It is not necessary. It has nothing to do with what anyone wants you to do or wants it to be, nothing but you and itself. The work generates itself and ideas and progress and learning come out of doing the work in a particular way. Creative art is a learning process for the artist and not a description of what is already known. An audience is always warming but it must never be necessary to your work. The work needs concentration and one is often exhausted by it. It takes so much effort just to begin and although going on is mostly a pleasure it is also a great effort. The only thing for a creative artist to do is to do his chosen work. But really there is no choice. Nobody chooses. The only thing left for a creative artist to do is to do his chosen work in spite of everything and regardless of anything because when living draws to its end there are no excuses he can make to himself or to anyone else for not having done it. Either he did do it or he did not do it and very often he did not. Alas very often he did not.
talent is long patience
But isn’t it really time that you handed over those tiresome petty duties to someone else and shut yourself up (…) in the peace and comfort of your retreat? This is what should be both business and pleasure, work and recreation, and should occupy your thoughts awake and asleep! Create something, perfect it to be yours for all time; for everything else you possess will fall to one or another master after you are dead, but this will never cease to be yours once it has come into being. I know the spirit and ability I am addressing, but you must try now to have the high opinion of yourself which the world will come to share with you.
Pliny the Younger (AD 61-113) excerpt from letter to Caninius Rufus
It was wise as well as witty of our friend Atilius to say that it is better to have no work to do than to work at nothing.
Pliny the Younger (AD 61-113) excerpt from letter to Minicius Fundanus
the majesty of thought-worn faces
Lady Kennet (the former Kathleen Scott)
Poor sculptors! Is it to be wondered at that, as a last resort in order to get people to look at their work, they sometimes break out into stuff that is so fantastic and extravagant that people cannot help noticing it? It is a temptation that besets many a serious artist nowadays, to penetrate the indifference of his public; if he cannot by other means, then by leaving his true allegiance and resorting to some form of outrageous eccentricity.
Lady Kennet/Kathleen Scott
What a good likeness! I never saw Northcliffe in my life; but all Northcliffes must be just like that!
George Bernard Shaw
a well made torso contains all of life – one doesn’t add anything by joining legs and arms to it – Auguste Rodin 1908
All beautiful work is the work done by the work itself – Helen Pinchcombe (1908-2004)
We must not try to make materials speak our language; we must go with them to the point where others will understand their language – Constantin Brancusi
(I would put Pisano among them because of his understanding of life and people…) If you asked me how I would judge great artists, it would not be because they were clever in drawing or carving or in painting or as designers; something of these qualities they must naturally have, but their real greatness, to me, lies, in their humanity. (Henry Moore, 1969, in his introduction to Michael Ayrton’s book on Giovanni Pisano)
Artists must deform to emphasise emotional essence, yet not in such a way to lose contact with reality. Only when I see something to be done in abstract forms that better conveys my meaning than natural forms, do I use it – Jacob Epstein
I seemed to get full of green and had to paint and paint green until I got the green out of my system – Pablo Picasso
All a poet can do today is to warn. That is why all true poets must be truthful – Wilfrid Owen
Beauty is absolute balance – Constantin Brancusi
Use things found by divine chance – this is the only thing – this magic spark – that counts in art – Joan Miro
All forms that exist in the universe can be found in the human figure – Michelangelo Buonarroti
I work without a theory.. my art is primarily organic and instinctive rather than conceptual. I am conscious only of the forces I use, and I am driven by an idea that I really only grasp as it grows with the picture – Henri Matisse 1939 (who also said that he had been mistaken all his life in measuring the significance in any given work by the struggles that went into it)
Perhaps what we call perfection in art… is no more than than the sense of wanting or finding in a human work that certainty of execution, that inner necessity, that indissoluble, reciprocal union between design and matter, which I find in the humblest seashell – Paul Valery
Portraits – any picture of a person who knows their picture is being taken – are my favourite subject. I don’t see the point of photographing trees or rocks because they’re there and anyone can capture them if they are prepared to hang around and wait for the light – David Bailey 2005 (paraphrased from Observer article)
portraits… range between truth and aggrandisement (paraphrased) – Brian Sewell; Radio 4, 2006
I would remind you that motor cars and hunters are passing things and drop into wreckage – but a bust outlasts Rome – advisor to Lady Cunard, regarding sitting for Jacob Epstein, 1906
to die is to go into the (Jung) Collective Unconscious, to lose oneself in order to be transformed into form, pure form… Herman Hesse, in conversation with Miguel Serrano, 1950s
Words are really a mask. They rarely express the true meaning. If you can live in pure fantasy then you don’t need religion since with fantasy you can understand that after death, man is reincorporated into the universe. Once again I will say it is not important to know there is something beyond this life. What counts is having done the right sort of work; if that is right then everything else will be all right – Herman Hesse in conversation with Miguel Serrano, 1961
(Significant in that Humankind has evolved with) This unique awareness is the product of our ability to make ‘images’. Of all the image-making activities, the outcome of bifocal vision, thumb and pronating wrist is the most ‘retainable’ form of communication. Sound, sign and gesture are more immediate but are lost in the ether as they are produced.
(The modern world) The Sculptor now presents the heroic figure of humanity; showing us to be the supreme physical animal. Or power is akin to God and we are seen to bend the natural order at our will. Nothing is beyond the scope of humankind/ The Spirit of Sculpture is no longer a natural phenomenon but a contrived technique to demonstrate skill and power. The Sculptor produces the likeness of ourselves as a mirror to our self-esteem.
The Sculptor who creates images for the next phase will be seen by future generations and in retrospect, as having been ‘ahead of his or her time’. By comparison, the sculptor who reflects the contemporary scene will be popular and applauded in his own time.
all Harry Everington, on the conduct of the Frink School, 1999
For (Vincent) Woropay (1951-2002) sculpture was an alchemical process. What mattered, finally, was the aura the work generated rather than its meaning, although the work might be a compound of phrases from history, from the language of forms, from science or from literature. Anthony Howell in The Guardian obituary 5/7/02
even as a child I had had at strange intervals a fondness for observing strange forms in nature, not so much examining them as surrendering to their magic, their oblique message….. The consideration of such images as I have mentioned, the surrender to odd, irrational forms in nature produces in us a sense of harmony of our inner being with the will which has been responsible for these shapes. Soon we become aware to think of them being our own moods, our own creations; we see the boundaries between us and nature quiver and dissolve…
Portraiture was beyond my powers; I wanted to start with something else and so I painted ornaments…. and became completely immersed in this game and was happy as a child with a paint box. Finally I began on my portrait of Beatrice. I spoilt a number of sheets of paper and threw them away. The more I endeavoured to capture the features of the girl… the less successful I was. Finally I gave up the attempt and contented with painting a face from my imagination and ideas that rose spontaneously as I dipped my brush in the paint. It was a dream face which emerged and I was not satisfied with it. Yet I persisted with the experiment and with every new sketch approached the type more nearly even if it was still far from reality. I grew more accustomed to drawing lines idly with my pencil and colouring areas, without any model in mind except whatever found its way onto the paper from my subconscious and took shape in these half-serious scrawls. At length one day, almost without knowing, I produced a portrait which expressed something more definite than the previous ones. (…) It was impressive and hinted at a secret inner life. I became conscious of a strange impression as I sat before (it); it resembled a kind of god-image… this face had some message for me; it belonged to me.
both from the novel ‘Demian’ by Herman Hesse
attitude …a word that Chadwick often uses but never explained. Over time I have come to understand that it really means a combination of things – a particular stance, a relationship of one mass to another, precision of line, crispness of texture and subtlety of colour – it is that instant moment of recognition, that relationship with the object – when it speaks
Rungwe Kingdon on Lyn Chadwick
I believe in those figures. They are only scribbled little things but they’re already very much there.
Lucian Freud, on Constable, (interview by The Times, Richard Cork 3.5.06)
…it doesn’t make a lot of difference what people think. I just hope there’s something real here to cling to, because nothing else matters.
Frank Auerbach, on exhibition of Freud/Auerbach at V&A (interview Richard Cork 3.5.06)
out of the millions of pebbles I passed in walking along the shore, I choose out to see with excitement only those which fit with my existing form-interest at the time. A different thing happens if I sit down and examine a handful one by one. I may then extend my form-experience more, by giving my mind time to become conditioned to a new shape.
Henry Moore excerpt in Herbert Read – Modern Sculpture, referring to a buried treasure of universal shapes which are humanly significant
After all, it is not ignorance which damages the clarity of our portraits, but the accumulation of knowledge.
Alain de Botton – ‘Kiss and Tell’, 1995
For some writers, it is precisely being empty of meaning that makes music good. Meaning limits. To mean one thing is to exclude everything else.
(Marlowe)… not very indistinct, so the imagination has not much to do. (Shakespeare)… wilderness of possibilities; at once managing to be both vivid and nebulous. It is brilliantly and unfathomably indistinct, which is why the imagination is gripped by it and cannot leave it alone.
The beautiful object must be admired in and for itself. Further it is its pure form that we must admire, not its colour or, even worse, its smell as these are mere sensuous pleasures; Kant’s ‘charms’. Colour is a mere accessory. (referring to Kant’s Critique of Judgement, 1790)
all from: ‘What Good are the Arts?’ John Carey 2005
We left the theatre slightly dazed, but almost moved. The performance had satisfied our deepest feelings; it had been improvised in a few days, and this was noticeable; it was a home made performance, unpretentious, puritanical, often childish. Yet it presupposed something not improvised, but deep-rooted and robust; a youthful intense native capacity for joy and self-expression, a loving and friendly capacity with the stage and with the audience a long way removed from empty exhibitionism or intellectual abstractions, from conventionality or tired imitations. Consequently, within its limits, it had been a warm, alive performance, not vulgar, not commonplace, but generously free and self-assertive.
‘La Tregua/The Truce’ Primo Levi (1963)