John Berger on painting

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Cezanne's studio

“In art museums we come upon the visible of other periods and it offers us company. We feel less alone in face of what we ourselves see each day appearing and disappearing. So much continues to look the same: teeth, hands, the sun, women’s legs, fish….in the realm of the visible all epochs coexist and are fraternal, whether separated by centuries or millennia. And when the painted image is not a copy but the result of a dialogue, the painted thing speaks if we listen.” ~ John Berger

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John Berger on painting

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Vija Celmins, big sea 2, graphite on paper, 1969

“What any true painting touches is an absence – an absence of which, without the painting, we might be unaware. And that would be our loss.
The painter’s continual search is for a place to welcome the absent. If he finds a place, he arranges it and prays for the face of the absent to appear.
As you know, the face of the absent can be the backside of a mule! There are no hierarchies, thank god.” ~ John Berger

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John Berger on painting

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“The modern illusion concerning painting (which post-modernism has done nothing to correct) is that the artist is a creator. Rather he is a receiver. What seems like creation is the act of giving form to what has been received.” ~ John Berger

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John Berger (writing about Giorgio Morandi)

 

John ~Berger

One has to imagine the world as a sheet of paper and a creator’s hand drawing, trying out objects which don’t yet exist. Traces are not only what is left when something has gone, they can also be marks for a project, of something to come. The visible begins with light. And as soon as there is light there is shade. The hand draws shadows on the white of the paper. All drawing is a shadow around light.

 

The marks weave together, quiver, alternate. And slowly the eye registers and reads the unrepeatable pattern of a particular branch  of leaves trembling in front of a particular sunlit wall.

In other words, the objects he paints can be bought  in no flea market. They are not objects. They are places (everything has its place), places where some little thing is coming into being.” ~ excerpt from  ‘Giorgio Morandi‘ (for Gianni Celati) from John BergerThe Shape of a Pocket, page 144 – 145

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John Berger, ‘Face’

 

 

John Berger, photograph by Jean Mohr?

“Face. Whatever the painter is looking for, he’s looking for it’s face. All the search and the losing and the re-finding is about that, isn’t it? And ‘its face’ means what? He’s looking for its return gaze and he’s looking for its expression – a slight sign of its inner life. And this is true whether he’s painting a cherry, a bicycle wheel, a blue rectangle, a carcass, a river, a bush, a bull or his own reflection in a mirror.” ~ excerpt from  ‘Studio Talk’ (for Miquel Barcelo) from John BergerThe Shape of a Pocket, page 27 – 28

 

 

 

 

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Leon Kossoff, an excerpt from a correspondence with John Berger

PHOTOGRAPH OF ARTIST LEON KOSSOFF

“Pilar came to sit for me some years ago. She comes two mornings a week. For the first  two or three years i drew from her. Then I started to paint her. Painting consists of working over the whole board quickly, trying to relate what was happening on the board to what i thought i was seeing. The paint is mixed before starting – there is always more than one board around to start another version. The process goes on a long time, sometimes a year or two. Though other things are happening in my life which affect me, the image that i might leave appears moments after scraping, as a response to a slight change of movement or light. Similarly with the landscape paintings. The subject is visited many times and lots of drawings are made, mostly very quickly. The work is begun in the studio where each new drawing means a new start until, one day, a drawing appears which opens up the subject in a new way, so i work from the drawing as i do from the sitter. It’s the process i am engaged in that is important”. ~ Leon Kossoff, page 78-79, The Shape of a Pocket by John Berger.

 

 

An excerpt from a correspondence with John Berger,  where Kossoff relates his process and it’s importance.

 

 

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