Becoming Aware of Creativity LO29124

Date: 09/04/02

Dear At and dear LO

"The purpose of words is to convey ideas. When the ideas are grasped, the
words are forgotten. Where can I find the man who has forgotten words? He is
the one I would like to talk to."
Chuang Tzu

At wrote,

>Many people think of Vincent van Gogh as an impressionist, a milestone of
>necessity along the path paved originally by the Barbizon School. I do not
>think of him as an impressionist at all, but rather as a "phenomenologist"
>for the lack of having any better word to use. What i mean by it that Van
>Gogh was intensely aware of what was essential to humane living. His
>sadness for people who became dehumanized by shearing these essentials
>away from them knew no bounds. Later on he would often say that this
>sadness will last forever. When he discovered that he could communicate
>these essentials by painting, his passion for art took fire. His paintings
>are for me artistic studies in the essentials of the human (e) condition.
>Thus he occupies for me a unique position among all painters similar to
>the position which Beethoven occupies among all composers.

I thought the LO might like to read Vincent's thoughts as they were written -

"-Foolishness - the consolation it contains like a stone inside a hard
rind and bitter pulp, is Christ.

Only Delacroix and Rembrandt have painted the face of Christ in such a way
that I can feel him ... and then Millet painted ... the teachings of

The rest rather makes me laugh - the rest of religious painting - from the
religious point of view, not from the point of view of painting. And the
Italian primitives - Botticelli, or let's say the Flemish primitives, Van
Eyck, the German, Cranach - they are no more than heathens who only
interest me for the same reason as do the Greeks, Velasquez and so many
other naturalists.

Christ alone, of all the philosophers, magicians, etc., has affirmed
eternal life as the most important certainty, the infinity of time, the
futility of death, the necessity and purpose of serenity and devotion. He
lived serenely, ^ as an artist greater than all other artists ^ (words
between ^ Vincent has underscored) scorning marble and clay and paint,
working in the living flesh. In other words, this peerless artist,
scarcely conceivable with the blunt instrument of our modern, nervous and
obtuse brains, made neither statues nor paintings nor books. He maintained
in no uncertain terms that he made ...^ living men ^ immortals.

That is a profoundly serious matter, the more so as it is the truth. Nor
did this great artist write books. Christian literature as a whole would
undoubtedly have aroused his ire, and includes very few literary works
beyond Luke's Gospel or Paul's epistles - so simple in their austere and
militant form - that would have found favour in his eyes.

This great artist - Christ - although he did not concern himself with
writing books on ideas (sensations), felt considerably less disdain for
the spoken word, and for parables in particular (what a sower, what a
harvest, what a fig tree! etc.) And who would dare claim that he lied on
that day when, scornfully predicting the destruction of Rome, he said,
'Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.'
These spoken words - which, like a prodigal grand seigneur, he did not
even deign to write down - form one of the pinnacles, the highest
pinnacle, reached by art, which at that point becomes creative force, pure
creative force. These thoughts, Bernard, dear friend, lead us far, very
far, afield, they raise us above art itself. They give us a glimpse of the
art of life-creation, the art of being immortal and alive. They are bound
up with painting. The patron saint of painters - Luke, physician, painter,
evangelist - who has as a symbol, alas, nothing more than an ox, gives us

Yet our own life is a modest one indeed, our life as painters, languishing
under the backbreaking yoke of the problems of a calling that is almost
too hard to practise on this ungrateful planet, where 'love of art drives
out true love'.

However, since nothing confutes the assumption that lines and forms and
colours exist on innumerable other planets and suns as well, we are at
liberty to feel fairly serene about the possibilities of painting in a
better and different existence, an existence altered by a phenomenon that
is perhaps no more ingenious and no more surprising than the
transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly or of a grub into a

The existence of a painter-butterfly would be played out on the countless
celestial bodies which, after death, should be no more inaccessible to us
than the black dots on maps that symbolize towns and villages are in our
earthly lives.

Science - scientific reasoning - strikes me as being an instrument that
will go a very long way in the future. For look: people used to think that
the earth was flat. That was true, and still is today, of, say, Paris to
Asnieres. But that does not alter the fact that science demonstrates that
the earth as a whole is round, something nobody nowadays disputes. For all
that, people still persist in thinking that life is flat and runs from
birth to death. But life, too, is probably round and much greater in scope
and possibilities than the hemisphere we now know. Future generations will
probably be able to enlighten us on this very interesting subject, and
then science itself - with all due respect - may reach conclusions that
are more or less in keeping with Christ's sayings about the other half of
our life.

Be that as it may, the fact is that we are painters in real life, and it's
a matter of continuing to draw breath while one has the breath left in
one's body."

Letter B8 [F] letter from Vincent to Emile Bernard 23rd June 1888


"The terrifying immensity of the abysses of the sky is an illusion, an
external reflection of our own abyss, seen in a mirror... If we see the
Milky Way, this means that it truly exists in our souls." (Leon Bloy
quoted by Jorge Luis Borges)

" - 'We are so much inside that we cannot get out.' [To get out, to leave,
this was presumably how Vincent interpreted St. Paul... to leave was the
action required if he (Vincent) was to pass from his isolation to an inner
universe."] Jacques Lacan

Behind that 'glass darkly' he saw for the first time in the morning of
29th July 1890 (-the day he dies to this world). Just before his final
indisposition, some days before, Vincent painted on the theme of the
reapers, of these Rilke wrote along these lines, " Vincent Van Gogh may
lose his mental composure through the openness of his being, but his work
was and remains there, behind the composure, and he could not fall out of

When I work with people I give them as little as possible, from some
simple confusion, some simple colours, some simple clean papers and the
certainty of the floor they work upon. Then forty, fifty, sixty year olds
may transform into childlike creatures... a babbling rises up in some
places and a quiet in others, never the violence that Miriam has to
face;-( ... to paraphrase some words that went with the image)... "- what
then happens is a necessary regression which must not be understood as
puerile inexpressivity, but on the contrary is a bypassing of an(y)
imposed means of expression, in the sense that Baudelaire could say that
genius is simply infancy rediscovered at will... here is potency in
possibility... images, like angels accumulate sensation around themselves
the longer they endure.

This morning a few days after writing this above, I discovered in
reproduction a painting that Bloy found in Vincent's studio, it is
unfinished and among his very last works, it is of some cottages, a lane
and a further landscape beyond. What is most moving is that the sky, a
dark blue, is not fully woven so that gaps are there, passively pointing
to a place/space on the other side of the canvas.

I once heard someone say of the great American painter Mark Rothko, that
his canvases were walls that he climbed, and that when he hanged himself
it was because he'd lost the free capacity to climb that wall. With
Vincent, perhaps he just got up and walked straight into that sky.

" Let him who believes in God wait for the hour that will come sooner or
later." (Vincent van Gogh)



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