Bram Van Velde on Painting

Painting is an eye, a blinded eye that continues to see, and sees what blinds it.

All the paintings I have made, I was compelled to make. You must never force yourself. They make you and you have no say in it.

Yes, I abandoned everything. Painting required it. It was all or nothing.

Painting is being alive. Through my painting. I beat back this world that stops us living and where we are in constant danger of being destroyed.

I paint the impossibility of painting.

In this world that destroys me, the only thing I can do is to live my weakness. That weakness is my only strength.

No country, no family, no ties. I didn’t exist anymore. I just had to press on.

All these exhibitions…. People put out their hands to you, and when you try to take them, there’s nobody there.

I do not see this world. But my hands are tied, and that’s why it frightens me.

Dead days are more numerous than live ones.

An artist’s life is all very fine and moving. But only in retrospect. In books.

I am on the side of weakness.

The artist has no role. He is absent.

Most people’s lives are governed by will-power. An artist is someone who has no will.

Painting doesn’t interest me.

What I paint is beyond painting.

I am powerless, helpless. Each time, it’s a leap in the dark. A deliberate encounter with the unknown.

When I look to try and see where seeing is no longer possible, where visibility is gone.

When I look back at a recent painting, I can hardly bear the suffering in it.

I never try to know.

Everything I’ve painted is the revelation of a truth. And therefore inexhaustible.

I never know where I’m going.

The hardest thing is to work blind.

In the normal way, nothing is possible. But the artist creates possibilities where almost none exist.

It’s because artists are defenceless that they have such power.

Yes, he agrees, he is tending to lose all individuality.

Painting lives only through the slide towards the unknown in oneself.

My pictures are also an annihilation.

I am a watered down being.

I am a walker. When I’m not working, I have to walk. I walk so I can go on working.

Van Gogh? … He was a beacon. Not like me. I just feel my way in the dark. But I am good at feeling my way.

What is so wonderful is that all that [painting, an oeuvre, the role of the artist …] is so pointless and yet so necessary.

[On Picasso] Admittedly he was exceptionally creative and inventive. But he was a stranger to doubt [….]

Painting has to struggle to beat back this world, which cannot but assassinate the invisible.

The painter is also blind, but he needs to see.

Discouragement is an integral part of the adventure.

I am a man without a tongue.

The amazing thing is that, by keeping low, I have been able to go my own way.

Always this poverty… But I never rebelled against it. I have always known that that was my place. And anyway, I had my work.

Even failure isn’t something you can seek.

[…] I never really liked French painting. It’s often too disciplined, too elegant. It is not genuine enough. It’s as of art has got the upper hand.

I did what I did in order to be able to breathe. There is no merit in that.

When life appears, it is the unknown. But to be able to welcome the unknown, you have to be unencumbered.

So many painters and writers never stop producing, because they are afraid of not-doing.

You have to let non-working do its work.

I am held prisoner by my eyes.

HT: Spurious. From Juliet, Conversations with Samuel Beckett and Bram Van Velde.

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One thought on “Bram Van Velde on Painting

  1. Stephen says:

    Love the ambivalence here. Reinforces the stereotype. Gels in mind the tortured artist. Nothing wrong with that though. As long we don’t see the map as the territory. Wonder if any artists produce from a place of no suffering? Part of me would see something like that as the apex, the culminating point of all creation, reconciled above all that is dark and nasty. But I wonder if art would lose its mystery if it did not emerge from the inferno, if there were no truths to hide in the scenery.

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