Category Archives: Literature

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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More Nabokov, All the Time

I only wish I could do something deserving of a compliment like this:

Mr. Liebrandt’s food at Corton is mysteriously flavorful, shimmering with new variations on perfume and texture and temperature, but restrained from pushing cuisine beyond recognition. His asparagus velouté has notes of vanilla, garlic, yuzu and fresh bay leaf, but it’s familiar; a soup is still a soup. And yet. Within its traditional framework, Mr. Liebrandt’s food is so full of allusions and hints and references that it’s like Nabokov on a plate: delicious, demanding and just the slightest bit disturbing.

Gorgeous. Link to the NYT story here.

After Holocaust Remembrance Day

Am currently reading Savage Beauty, a biography of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford; the prologue contains this anecdote:

…When the Nazis razed the entire Czech village of Lidice in 1942, Millay wrote a verse play for radio called the Murder of Lidice,” which was broadcast throughout America when a third of the country was willing to accept a separate peace with Germany.

Not that I’m surprised; during most wars there is a substantial fraction of the population advocating or supporting peacemaking efforts. Does anyone know a good source for that claim?

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The Nabokov in the Room

I would not go so far as some who would insist that a Hindu is not the person to ask about Hinduism, as Harvard professor Roman Jakobson notoriously objected to Nabokov’s bid for chairmanship of the Russian literature department: “I do respect very much the elephant, but would you give him the chair of zoology?”

Another excellent quote I spotted on Marginal Revolution. The author is Wendy Doniger in The Hindus: An Alternative History.

I might note that you could replace Nabokov with Richard Posner and have a very interesting conversation on why Posner isn’t on the Supreme Court.


A Few Quick Thoughts

1. The United States as a countercyclical asset by the irreplaceable Tyler Cowen. One of the best essays on US power I’ve read in a while.

2. Pop culture meme: From The Lonely Island featuring the stoically impressive T-Pain, I’m on a Boat.

3. Cautiously optimistic: Good news from Wells-Fargo and some positive economic indicators. Are credit markets thawing a little bit?

4. Gaffe prone Joe Biden gets rebuked by Karl Rove. Even if Biden is something of a blowhard, I have trouble believing anything Rove says. Ever.

5. Great lines from Thomas Pynchon’s novels here. Still plowing resolutely and happily through ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’.

Really Clever References, Garcia Marquez Edition

The Simpsons, Episode 2, Season 6, at 1:21, features Marge reading a book called ‘Love in the Time of Scurvy’.

I nearly cried laughing.

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