View Full Version : CÚzanne's apple

01-17-2013, 09:08 AM
"Here," she said, pointing to one spot, "this is something he knew, and now he's saying it (a part of an apple), right next to it there's an empty space, because that was something he didn't know yet; he only made what he knew, nothing else..."

Rilke, Letters on CÚzanne

D Akey
01-17-2013, 02:25 PM
Certainly makes me want to read more to get the context as the words sound very intriguing and illuminating.

The image is interesting. A ghosted apple, which owing to its placement and handling takes center stage, but it doesn't quite fit in that place when the background is so dynamic. It seems super refined, like sand blasting a logo on a glass, the window showing through it very interesting things. Almost like the glass is in the way.

It certainly connotes that unrefined rock is more highly charged than the specialized melted sand that has been assigned to becoming glass. The glass is already used up as it were in this context, whereas the raw stuff seethes beyond it.

That's the interpretation. Visually though I'm not sure I'm settled with it. I usually choose to see in a context like this a three element thing happening. The Glass, the Elements, and the Painting. Each must work together and separately, as if being told in the same voice by the same narrator unless it's artistically blended as with choral music or text overlaying an image in a magazine or ad. They have some commonality of purpose or it feels jarring and not terribly articulate.

But that's just me thinking aloud. Keep moving forward. It may be heading to a super big payoff.

01-17-2013, 04:13 PM
You know, D A, you have an eerie talent for being able to put into words whatever strikes your interest visually -- not just my work, but with everyone's you comment on, I'm often surprised and I always learn something ...

I saw this painting as having just two elements, CÚzanne's palette (the background), and the "ghosted apple" (I had the same thought you did!) ...

The palette reflects the basic earthy colors that CÚzanne favored in oils, especially black, which he saw as a color (this requires more explanation) ... The background is disordered because all colors on CÚzanne's palette had an equal chance of ending up anywhere on the canvas ... If you look closely at a white tablecloth by CÚzanne, you will find it looks like a painter's palette after a particularly rough day in the studio :-)

The apple is left unpainted because the early modern German poet Rilke and his friend, the German painter Mathilde Vollmoeller, saw empty spaces where she thought there should have been paint (it is also possible that CÚzanne intended to let the tone and texture of the canvas show through, he is known for being among the first to carry over into oil painting a basic technique in watercolor) ...

And the apple is ghosted in because it cannot be made from the colors represented ...

We don't often find a focus on the canvas or the ground in digital oil painting today, maybe because it's a blank screen, and it's easy for things like the texture and color of the support, which are part of the preparation for painting, to go missing, or to be considered less important, and anyway we can fill the background with the paint bucket even after the foreground has been done, a luxury the old masters didn't have :-) ... I tried in a few AR paintings to duplicate the texture of the ground, but even there, I was working mostly in digital watercolor ...

I have never been able to understand the huge influence that CÚzanne had on early modern painting ... At first, Rilke didn't either, but in a series of letters to his wife Clara in 1907, he gradually begins to see CÚzanne as a master ... He and his friend Vollmoeller were standing in a Salon in Paris and looking at a CÚzanne when she made that remark, which he recorded in a letter dated October 12, 1907 (you can read a little about Vollmoeller and Rilke here: Vollmoeller (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mathilde_Vollmoeller-Purrmann))

One thing becomes clear: CÚzanne is a colorist, he totally neglects form and is interested only in how color appears to the eye ... For this reason, I guess, when I look at CÚzanne my first thought is, he couldn't draw! But that's not important -- it's the brilliant chromatic effects that attract, and, in digital painting, for me at least, the strategic use of black ...

ps: I was reading Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters on CÚzanne, trans. Joel Agee, NY, 1985, p.46

01-17-2013, 06:37 PM
Interesting concept but pardon me, wouldn't the composition be better if the apple were not kissing the bottom of the painting even if it is not there? I really like the colors of the background!

01-17-2013, 06:48 PM
... thanks, jibes, it is as you say, and D Akey also is very uncomfortable with the painting, but I couldn't think of a flawless way to represent failure ...

01-17-2013, 09:01 PM
And there, Pete, is the unspoken koan at the heart of the discussion.

01-18-2013, 03:55 AM
... the unspoken koan ...

So what is the sound of one hand painting? :D

There have been a few notable successes at representing failure ... Dante's Divine Comedy takes 14,000 lines in poetry to say it's impossible to describe in words a vision of God ... In Flaubert's Madame Bovary, Charles Bovary is a failed human being, a poor husband, a doctor who cripples his patient ... And everything written by Borges shows up our ridiculous human condition ... In painting, there is Bruegel's spectacular Tower of Babel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tower_of_Babel_(Bruegel)), which illustrates collective human failure to speak in one spiritual tongue ... Of course, there are "epic fail" vids on YouTube, but more poignant are Ezra Pound's closing lines of his Cantos, admitting failure: "I have tried to write Paradise" ....

01-18-2013, 05:23 AM
chinapete..ah it is wonderful to have you back on the forum, as your painting's and commentaries with D Akey and others always educate and illuminate!... I had viewed this work several times without leaving a comment as I found it complex, interesting and did not easily give up its secrets :cool:... I liked it from the very start but wanted to understand why I liked it so.. the comments by DAkey and yourself definitely express some of the reasons for my appreciation. I will have to check out the book you are reading...

01-18-2013, 07:29 AM
Hi Gary, thanks ... You might find the Rilke interesting, but if you are pressed for time, it's always worth revisiting Kandinsky's Concerning the Spiritual in Art (I'm sure you've read it, but you might not remember his discussion of what he believes is the highest form of abstraction, triangles):

"A good example is CÚzanne's "Bathing Women," which is built in the form of a triangle. Such building is an old principle, which was being abandoned only because academic usage had made it lifeless. But CÚzanne has given it new life. He does not use it to harmonize his groups, but for purely artistic purposes. He distorts the human figure with perfect justification. Not only must the whole figure follow the lines of the triangle, but each limb must grow narrower from bottom to top ... "

So even this most abstract of early modern painters is saying (in 1911), it's all right to talk about your art -- triangles are at the very core of Kandinsky's formal abstractions, but you might not know that by looking only at his paintings and nothing else ...

01-19-2013, 06:12 AM
cp - yes I have read "Concerning the Spiritual in Art" a couple times but, I find that books of that quality require multiple readings as one understanding and perspectives evolve over time, you gain more insight and understanding with each reading... I found that Rilke's book on Cezanne had a Kindle edition and I am reading it now...and will get Kandinsky's also... :):)

01-19-2013, 08:45 AM
cp - yes I have read "Concerning the Spiritual in Art" a couple times but, I find that books of that quality require multiple readings as one understanding and perspectives evolve over time, you gain more insight and understanding with each reading... I found that Rilke's book on Cezanne had a Kindle edition and I am reading it now...and will get Kandinsky's also... :):)

gary, did you pay for that Rilke? I hope it won't disappoint ... the text version of the Kandinsky can be found for free on http://www.gutenberg.org/, no need to buy it, unless you want to see the illustrations, which by the way are kind of comical, I mean, here is this avant-garde artist writing about revolutionary spiritual change in the arts, and in the middle of his book he sticks in a classical Raphael to illustrate triangles and circles ...

D Akey
01-19-2013, 10:59 AM
Ah, I don't call any of it failure. Please don't take it that way. I assumed you wanted discussion because your stuff is evocative by nature. When one is sort of 'out there' with their art and moving so quickly, it's hard to know what the words are that are in the ballpark. With your stuff, I'm on the road. They're all 'away games' for me, but it's not a win/lose kind of game. Definitely don't want to characterize any of it as lacking anything any more than watching a dragonfly over a pond.

01-19-2013, 11:21 AM
Oh, I know, D Akey, that's why I tried to distinguish failure from the representation of failure, kind of like an artist being able to represent death without first having to die :-)