NOTES TOWARDS A BOOK REVIEW
Patrick Heron’s aims:
“To make one more conscious of the palpable plastic realities” of a work of art.
“Art makes conscious that which has always existed.”
“The only thing of value in Art is that which cannot be explained” (Braque).
Books such as PR’s leave one with the feeling that one has a clearer idea of the relationship of Art to other human activity. A period of art is seen in the new or clearer relationship with preceding and subsequent periods. What it does not do is bring one any closer to an actual work of Art.
“Painting,” says Heron “of whatever school, is not understood except through an extension of one’s awareness of the visual” – not, be it noted, by categorizing psychological interpretations or… ideas and theories on Art provoke other theories, back and forth, until the original starting point, a painting or a sculpture made by a man, is so crisscrossed with furrows as to be barely visible.
Mr. Heron’s book is written by a painter about paintings and the artistic processes which have gone into their creation. The purpose of his book, which is stated quite clearly, is “to make one more conscious of the palpable plastic realities of work of art.” In this, I think, he succeeds to a degree which is unique: no one who was not a painter could hope to, and few painters will be capable of doing so.
The mystique of SPACE needs reconsideration:
Space is not something in itself. It is what separates two or more objects. Human eye appreciates tangible services.
In [Naum] Gabo we see first not the spaces (which he meant us to) but the lifeless grubby, inert pieces of plastic.
One piece of space cannot be experienced against another without intervention of a solid. Once this exists it becomes more important. Space only qualifies the object.
To create an artifact which consisted solely of relationships of space would be as impossible as it would be to write music consisting solely with rhythmic beats. Space in painting is always an illusion: there cannot be any actual space. There is nothing wrong in an illusion provided it is convincing. Perspective space took the eyes beneath the surface into an illusory region behind the canvas. It became troublesome only when it could no longer be reconciled with the flat surface. The controlled box space of Cézanne was okay.
Cubist space advanced from the surface. This is no more pure than the other. It is not true that this space “advances bodily, physically out into the room” as PH says. The one is essentially the same as the other, only the illusion is moving in a different direction. “Space in such works is not an illusory idea in front of the picture,” says PH. Quite so – but it is nonetheless an illusionary idea in front of the picture. It is not “an actual event, the physical operation of the picture in the room.” One can say that such pictures “manipulate the actual space in the room in which they are hanging” but only in the same sense that a traditional perspective picture manipulates the space by letting it out, as though through a window.
Of course, colour can affect the space of a room making it seem to contract or expand, but it is nonetheless an illusion, even though an agreeable one. Surely it is a question of the quality of the illusion created – not that one sort of spaces is illusory and the other real.
Real space belongs to architecture and sculpture, but then only as a fluid in which shapes live and articulate. Without the shapes, space becomes void.