In Art, One Does Not Choose a Form of Expression

Text written by Maurice Raymond, entitled In Art, One Does Not Choose a Form of Expression, published in Le Devoir, on December 14th, 1957.
A) In painting, I do not believe that one deliberately chooses one form of expression over another. Over the span of a career, there may be some pauses, some moments of clear-mindedness, but the most significant orientation occurs unbeknown to the author, who will only later recognize its scope.

In my case, the real cause was my desire to reach a level of art that would be more intimately linked to a profound inner state. An art form served piping hot and as genuine as possible. The elements of traditional language may no longer have anything in common with the author. And yet it is essential that the music we make is built along scales, rhythms and forms that are truly personal. In a word, that we express our own inner music.

B) The greatness of non representational art is that it is intended to reflect the most spiritual values: essence rather than matter. However if this path is taken with an extremist attitude, it leads to angelism.

It is, of course, a vulnerable art form. If the spectator does not have the deep mental disposition required to understand its intangible message, which takes shape at an intuitive level, the work could very well sink into oblivion. To a great extent, what gives life to a painting is what we carry within ourselves. This is what triggers the groans of a certain kind of audience which has neither the wits nor the vision to do justice to such works, in which it cannot decipher unknown values that it has never encountered in other areas.

Also, representational art is more accessible, as it stems from easily verifiable data, but it is often subject to some confusion which may lead an inexperienced audience to see representation as and end in itself, instead of the means that it actually is. The mind does not always succeed in sublimating matter. So materialism becomes the hidden trap lurking in this form of expression. An artistic painter may wonder at such considerations, yet as we mentioned earlier, we do not make choices indifferently, we do not paint according to our wishes, but rather according to what we are.

There are also intermediate forms of expression. Reason has this habit of trying to classify and organize everything, to create categories. The terms referring to various genres are absolute, yet our inner reality is all in undertones and therefore could never match such fixed reference points.

C) More than anything we must be sensitive to quality. The mode of expression is of secondary importance. The works of representational art we see today are in step with a lineage that will no doubt prove eminently fruitful for some time yet, but given how sensations fade over time, it is more and more difficult to find fresh impressions when faced with recent works of this type. Just as it is more and more difficult for a composer to move us with such classical forms as the rondo or sonata. The poet who uses the iambic pentameter or the sonnet is in a similar situation.

On the other hand, as non representational art is generally exploratory in nature, one can more frequently stumble upon something new.

D) The two formats have always existed. Today, a large part of what used to be the “raison d’être” of representational art has been taken over by other media. All of the documentary aspect is amply served by the profusion of illustrated magazines, photographs, movies… This has highlighted the values most intimately linked with painting. While, in the past, we had to look for them between the lines, non representational art places them on center stage. This freedom to go for the essential is so valuable that it is sure to be with us for a long time.

Either of these two types of paintings will continue to coexist as long as they constitute the most adequate means of expression for highlighting different essences. Once again this is not a matter of reason or logic.

© Copyright - Maurice Raymond, painter