* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
And, just as the analysis of a film by a psychoanalyst can tell us about some implications and some sources of a labour that is all the less tightly under our control since the material problems we encounter during it make us insensible to tiredness and leave our unconscious quite free, so the interpretation of one of our works by the mind of an outsider can show it to us from a new, and revealing perspective.
How disturbed we should be, were there some machine that would allow us to follow the thousand brains in a cinema! No doubt, we should stop writing. We should be wrong to do so, but it would be a hard lesson. What Jules de Noailles said (recounted by Liszt) is true: ‘You will see one day that it is hard to speak about anything to anyone.’ Yet it is equally true that each person takes in or rejects the sustenance that we offer, and that the people who absorb it, do so in their own way; and this it is that determines the progress of a work through the centuries, because if a work were to send back only a perfect echo, the result would be a kind of pleonasm, an inert exchange, a dead perfection.
Andre Bernard and Claude Gauteur, editors, Jean Cocteau: The Art of Cinema
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A: I don’t really have any choice in the matter. It’s more or less the way I have always worked so it feels natural. Art-making comes from a deep place. In keeping with the aphorism ars longa, vita brevis, it’s a way of making one’s time on earth matter. Working in series mimics the more or less gradual way that our lives unfold, the way we slowly evolve and change over the years. Life-altering events happen, surely, but seldom do we wake up drastically different – in thinking, in behavior, etc. – from what we were the day before. Working in series feels authentic. It helps me eke out every lesson my paintings have to teach. With each completed piece, my ideas progress a step or two further.
Last week I went to the Metropolitan Museum to see an exhibition called, “Matisse: In Search of True Painting.” It demonstrates how Matisse worked in series, examining a subject over time and producing multiple paintings of it. Matisse is my favorite artist of any period in history. I never tire of seeing his work and this particular exhibition is very enlightening. In fact, it’s a must-see and I plan to return, something I rarely do because there is always so much to see and do in New York. As I studied the masterpieces on the wall, I recognized a kindred spirit and thought, “Obviously, working in series was good enough for Matisse!”
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