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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.

Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz

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Metaphysics of Art
1919 - Writings and Theories

A deeply pessimistic mind, and a philosopher, playwright, and painter, thirty-four-year-old Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz is the theoretician of the pure form. His essay Les formes nouvelles en peinture et les malentendus qui en decoulent [the new forms in painting and the misunderstandings that derive from them] puts the metaphysics of art in perspective. Sometimes called "confused and verbose," this essay is, however, of an unequaled richness--lyrical, explanatory, scathing with irony. The passage that follows underlines what is tragic in the existence of any artist, but also emphasize the permanence of art.

The artwork must be born, excuse the grotesque expression, from the most vivid tripes of the individual, yet freed to the utmost from this viscerality in the end. That's the recipe, but it is difficult to apply.

Through which terrible detours shouldn't the artist err, which abysses shouldn't he cross, enduring incomprehension, the contempt and the laughter of "connoisseurs," before he reaches his own style, which will be imitated by the horde of art jackals - buffoons or exploitive businessmen - once he has conquered the terrible fortress where the eternal Mystery reigns. The genuine artist does not follow the beaten paths, he is always on the wrong track, even though the only right and unique one, his, seems to be determined in advance. Therefore, one should be amazed, while traveling these paths that are lacerated, bitten to shreds, among the black depths of the Mystery, that the first one who ventured into it, when all around were virgin forests bristling with dangers - anguish, lies, madness, helplessness, disgust - did not miserably perish. Alas, too often we admire all this once the show is over, this sometimes sordid, sometimes sublime tragedy that is the artist's life. Actually, his life is often just a sum of senseless events, generally absurd and illogical events, because his life is not governed by clear goals, such as fortune, success, or scientific truth, not even by the incarnation of some precise idea, but by a brutal force in whose hands the artist writhes in convulsions as though he were a victim of tetanus or strychnine poisoning. This implacable force is the necessity to communicate to other human beings, in the guise of the beautiful, the monstrosity of solitary existence in a boundless universe, a universe that itself is the sole and tragic beauty of this existence. How come, then, the result is so meager, after the poor artist has lived through such horrible adventures?

Art is a field where the lie cannot, under any condition., lead to positive results. Utilitarian values, with the exception of very primitive ones, change constantly, but what was truth in art in ancient Egypt or ancient China is still truth to us, and will remain so as long as democratization and mechanization will not turn us into automatons incapable of experiencing the metaphysical.

Stanislaw Witkiewicz, Les formes nouvelles en peinture et les malentendus qui en decoulent

[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. 197]




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