21 August 2011

Francis Ponge through Jean Fautrier or vice versa

It would be an understatement to say that I am unsure of the pages that follow: these are strange texts, violent and awkward. These are not confident words.

There is a moment in creation when one feels as if shaken by the shower of blows your subject deals you. One can react, then, with a torrent of uncoordinated blows (many missing their mark or thrown into the void), almost like a tree reacts to the wind. Do the leaves record the gusts of wind or respond to them? One should decide (if one wants).


This, which may be true concerning an ordinary subject, is a fortiori true for those which, by nature, so violently affect one's sensibility that it is knocked into a daze from the first round: for subjects too beautiful or too atrocious.

But suppose that atrocity itself is the subject ... Then, it is only a matter of remaining standing, of finishing the fight at all costs, and of collapsing only afterwards, after the sound of the bell.

...

That I should say it at present is in response to a rather coarse temptation, offered with malice and in order to get noticed by painters and their dealers; to speak or write about painting is to throw oneself blindly into the trap they hold out so that you serve as a foil for the painted work itself.

One is almost (what do I mean by almost, it is certain) assured of instantly falling into the absurd, the incoherent, the muddled.

...

What do painters who ask you to write about their painting want? They want their expression (exhibition, collection) to ring in the ears of the world, at the same time as in their eyes.


They want words about their painting to bring about a sort of prescription for thought. That one furnish words (in bulk) to those who will visit the exhibition or flip through the album.

...

In any case, good painting will be that about which, trying always to speak, one could never say anything satisfactory. Does it matter then that we were speaking a lot and in an unsatisfactory fashion?

...

But still ... But, we literati friends of painters, don't we fall into a clumsy trap? Aren't we condemned to confused expressions, to the absurd? Aren't we only going to serve as slaves, as foils?

Well, then! Let's take it as a challenge. Or rather, let's accept it like asceticism (through masochism?). In any case, it will be an exercise. And since it should bring us a little bit of money (very useful, money, if only to allow us to write other things, writings of another sort). Some money, and one or two of these paintings. In order to get an eyeful ad vitam aeternam. Let's go! It is quite worth it: I like Fautrier's paintings.

...

If I said only one thing, it would be: I like Fautrier's paintings. But let's enter further into the game. Let's look for words. Let's take the match seriously.


-- Excerpts from Francis Ponge, Notes on the Otages, Paintings by Fautrier, written January 1945, Paris (translated from the French by Vivian Rehberg).

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