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Excerpt from an interview by Martin Friedman
"… the actual space and spatial relations exist in my painting still as what we refer to as pictorial space. It has definitely defined limits, and I think that the problem is that we’re so accustomed to thinking of space in the sense of real space, or we talk about outer space and all the various forms of three-dimensional space and whatever attempt there is to define the space in a canvas, it’s always by analogy.
If you are going to be precise and analyze the space on a painted surface, this is something that exists as it is, perhaps is measurable, and that may be the question if you’re talking about space from the scientific point of view, it’s something that can be measured. Now, is pictorial space something that can be measured? I think that the whole notion of measurement is irrelevant. It perhaps is more a matter of scale and that’s why I think the question of the size of a painting comes up in relation to a discussion of space.
Since you don’t have the illusion of vast space as you have in a representational painting, you have to accept the literal, actual size of the painting, and this is the space that we’re confronted with – that’s what you’re looking at. It might be six foot of space, or ten foot of space, or whatever it happens to be, and then you’re involved in a question of scale in relation to your own size and the size of other objects. …I feel that I use color in terms of an emotional quality that seems to – there seems to be an emotional quality that color offers us – a vehicle for the expression of feeling.
Now what this feeling is something I probably can’t define, but since I eliminated almost everything from my painting except a few colors and perhaps two or three shapes, I feel a necessity for making the particular colors that I use, or the particular shapes, carry the burden of everything that I want to express, and all has to be concentrated within these few elements. Therefore, the color has to carry the burden of this effort. …I think when you get into a question of the expressionist feeling, this also can become a very vague thing.
Actually, if I were asked to say what I mean by feeling, I would say that feeling is everything that I’ve experienced and thought. It isn’t purely just feeling in the emotional sense, in the sense of feeling joy or grief or any specific emotion. It’s really, as I see it, an attempt to express abstractly almost all my experience which is emotional. And, at the same time, I attach a great deal of importance to the thought process and a kind of intellectual approach to painting; and I can’t separate them. I can’t compartmentalize and break down, as you did with various examples that you gave, because the whole effort of my work is to make a synthesis of all these things.
In other words, to get a totality of my experience, which is emotional, irrational, and also thoughtful. And there’s a thing called an intellectual approach to painting which is considered to have been for a long time one of the important attributes of French painting, and I’ve always felt that this is an important element in my own work.
Now, if you’re talking about the intellectual elements and aspects of painting, this is also something which is very hard to pinpoint; but I think it exists in French painting as a kind of sense of structure and order and a thoughtful approach rather than an impetuous approach like, for example, the German expressionists who by comparison are very emotional rather than intellectual.
I am interested in the immediacy and the directness of a statement, but I think the fact that I keep returning, and there is a similar theme which keeps recurring over and over in my work, would indicate that this is not impetuous that it’s a carefully considered attitude toward painting.
…I feel your feelings for this sort of thing that happens in a painting where there are corrections and changes and you reconsider what to do; and as a result of that there are certain things that happen in the painting that are extremely interesting. I think I have the same feeling as you do about that. However, I also think that you and I both share a hangover from the art of the past and I feel that my own work, as well as anybody else’s where this occurs, that the appeal of this is this hangover that we have for the art of the past and the art we’ve been brought up to admire and in which this process which is very painterly, in a sense, becomes established as a value.
Now, it isn’t really a value; it only has become established as a value because we come to accept these things of the past, and this is something that has always occurred in the work of every painter, no matter how much he aims to paint in an a la prima manner.
But, my feeling is that if I can make a pristine statement in which I don’t muff anything and there are no fortuitous values of that sort, it may not have the charm and the disarming effect of someone who speaks to you and stutters and then you begin to feel sorry for him and you like his inflection and in the course of his trying to explain something he brings out a great many irrelevant ideas which are interesting but beside the point, it probably is much more interesting than someone who says something, says it very succinctly and to the point, and there you are – you have it.
And this is what I would really like to do, for example, as we are talking now, a lot of very interesting things might come out, but the most difficult thing is to say precisely what I want to say without fumbling around and – well, perhaps I have a tendency to oversimplify; but I’m inclined to think that this is one of the points of the kind of painting I’m involved in – that the very nature of abstraction, the very nature of abstract thought is to reduce the complexity of all of life and to bring it down to something very simple which embodies all this complexity."