Paintings Should Stick in the Throat

A question and its answer … are the painters still those painters who are painting the great cave? Do they paint the buffalo on the wall as hunger, the eagle as freedom, and the woman with a big bottom as love? Do they paint the buffalo as the table that magically sets itself? Have they meanwhile left the cave, cleared out of the community, and forgotten all those universal, comprehensible agreements, because magic does not still hunger, because flying does not work and yearning for love does not breed love? Have they traded the cave for some other place? Propagandizing about needs, ‘What does man need?’ feeds upon a yearning for freedom and the fear of death and entices us into taking another way, off the painters’ course. The smart ones, hotshots, innovators, activists – in the forefront madmen and hotspurs – have remained within their own skulls. They proclaim plucky mottos: paintings should stick in the throat, eyelids should be nailed down, and hearts grabbed with pliers. Fish bone, air raid and separation. Well, one still sits together around the fire, warms up the studios, has had enough to eat, and is in love. On battered canvases are those sumptuous ornaments filled with jumbled lines and rich colours; crystalline galleries hang over the frames. All that once stood erect, the still life, has been knocked over, the landscape has been seized and uprooted, the interiors tangled, and the portraits scratched and pierced. Painting became music. Surrealism won. Everything durable has been kicked out of the paintings.

Now, the tone goes right through walls, the line stands upside down. Are the painters now unhappy and freezing? They dance and celebrate with their friends, they invite their fathers and drink Capri with them. A black painting is as white as the sky. The colours in the dark cave are aglow. Light is superfluous. Everything is utterly different, anyway. The paraphernalia of Venus, Zeus, the angels, Picasso were invented by the painters, as were the bull, the roast chicken and the lovers. The pear-wood palette became a pail, the brush a knife, an axe and a club. The largest paintings are larger, and the smallest are smaller than ever before. Someone painted a painting weighing five hundred pounds. A Chinese handwalked over the canvas. A Norwegian painted 168 acres of birch wood on one and one-half square inches of canvas. This is not the way I want to continue. Hygiene, I mean religion, is employed. Discipline is one thing, education another, and meditation, too. Intoxication is used to prepare or to stabilize an attitude. Some eat well, others purify themselves through fasting. While I see no point at all in bustling around, in being confused, zap, zap, my friend between New York and Cologne makes the best paintings in his trouser pocket, where his canary sits. Does one see more of the world by climbing a ladder, does one see still more by lying down flat on the field and by sticking one’s nose in the ground? Either way. The difference between a German and an Italian apple tree is enormously large. In Tuscany in the garden I made photos of such trees. Back home in Germany I was terribly excited by these exotic apple trees, these unpaintable fairy-tale-tree-inventions. I realized that I did not want to paint an apple tree at all. I was still under the mother and had stuck out only my nose. The world had not opened up, the secret remained hidden within the object, but now there was confusion. This is an experience, but not of the kind that broadens your mind through shifting horizons. The first la-la sounds and the first dot-dot-comma-dash are indeed vehement creations for the one who makes them. This is not theory. I composed Fidelio, I know precisely that as a six-year-old I conducted this very piece; hare and dog I painted when I was eight years old, signing them Albrecht Dürer. One of these watercolours is in Vienna, in the Albertina, the dog is lost.

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