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Notebook

Notebook, 1993-

APPROACHES - In The Words Of . . . .

From: Ferrier, Jean-Louis, Director and Yann le Pichon, Walter D. Glanze [English Translation]. Art of Our Century, The Chronicle of Western Art, 1900 to the Present. New York: Prentice-Hall Editions. 1988.

Jean-Paul Sartre

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The Real and The Imaginary
1940 - Writings and Theories

When I look at a drawing, my gaze contains all the human intentions that produced that drawing. Someone drew those lines to make a picture of a runner. This picture undoubtedly needs my consciousness to be viewed as such. But the artist knew that, even counted on it; he asked for our participation when he drew those black lines. It should not be thought that I first see these lines as simply lines, and then as parts of a picture. In our perception itself, the lines are representative. Look through a sketchbook: you might not necessarily grasp the sense of each line, but you will know that each one represents something and that this is the very reason for its existence. Thus, the capacity to represent is a real quality of those lines, one that I sense along with their size and shape. You might say that this is simple knowledge. A cube is also knowledge: I cannot see simultaneously its six sides. Yet when I look at this piece of wood, it is a cube that I see. Any imagery of the consciousness produced by this drawing is thus built on a real position of existence that preceded it and which motivates it on the level of perception, even if this consciousness itself could establish its object as nonexistent, or simply neutralized the existential thesis . . .

When we interpret a stain on the tablecloth or a swirl in the wallpaper, we are not really giving these forms representative properties. In reality, the stain represents nothing; when I see it, I see it only as a stain, such that when I move to the level of imagery the intuitive basis of my image is nothing that had previously appeared in my perception.

There are two possibilities: In one, we move our eyes freely without fore thought, and we consider the outline of a stain as we will, following the order that pleases us, seeing arbitrary relationships in this or that part in an overall movement that draws us in no particular way. This is what happens when we are sick in bed with nothing to do: Our eyes roam over the wallpaper. Sometimes a shape emerges out of the swirls, that is, with these eye movements we see a somewhat coherent grouping. My eyes trace a path that remains outlined in the wallpaper, and I say to myself: It is a crouching man, a bouquet, a dog. That is, out of these free movements, I set up a hypothesis, I give the shape that appeared a representative value. Most of the time, I don't expect to see a whole image, but something crystallizes suddenly. "It looks like part of a bouquet, the top of a face," etc. This knowledge has incorporated itself into my eye movements and directs them: Now I know how to finish the image, I know what to look for.

Or, a certain shape appears by itself and invites the eye to follow it . . .

Once again the shape is only suggested: We can hardly make out the forehead and the eye, but we already know it is the head of an African man. We finish it ourselves by reaching an agreement between the real givens of perception [the swirls on the wallpaper] and the creative spontaneity of our movements. Thus we will find the nose, mouth, and chin ourselves.

Jean-Paul Sartre, The Imaginary

[An Exerpt From: Ferrier, Jean-Louis, Director and Yann le Pichon, Walter D. Glanze [English Translation]. Art of Our Century, The Chronicle of Western Art, 1900 to the Present. New York: Prentice-Hall Editions. 1988. p. 393]




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