Click on the pictures to see enlarged versions of the images.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Art Class

(La trahison des images or The Treachery of Images,
also popularly known as Ceci n’est pas une pipe or This
Is Not a Pipe
, by René Magritte, 1898-1967, Belgian
Surrealist painter)

We have now come to the end of this month’s examination of ekphrasis, literary commentary about works of art.

In their studies of examples of art, the poems have dealt with images that are not the reality but are instead the descriptions or representations of a reality.

The picture above is not the object; it is the image of the object. “Could you stuff my pipe?” asked Magritte, its painter. “No, it’s just a representation, is it not? So if I had written on my picture ‘This is a pipe,’ I’d have been lying!”

What does it mean for this painting to be just a representation? “Nowhere is there a pipe,” wrote the French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984). “Scarcely has [the person who is explaining this painting] stated, ‘This is a pipe,’ before he must correct himself and stutter, ‘This is not a pipe, but a drawing of a pipe,’ ‘This is not a pipe but a sentence saying that this is not a pipe,’ ‘The sentence “this is not a pipe,” is not a pipe,’ ‘In the sentence “this is not a pipe,”
this is not a pipe: the painting, written sentence, drawing of a pipe — all this is not a pipe.’”


Let us begin with a simple line,
Drawn as a child would draw it,
To indicate the horizon,

More real than the real horizon,
Which is less than line,
Which is visible abstraction, a ratio.

The line ravishes the page with implications
Of white earth, white sky!

The horizon moves as we move,
Making us feel central.
But the horizon is an empty shell —

Strange radius whose center is peripheral.
As the horizon draws us on, withdrawing,
The line draws us in,

Requiring further lines,
Engendering curves, verticals, diagonals,
Urging shades, shapes, figures . . .

What should we place, in all good faith,
On the horizon? A stone?
An empty chair? A submarine?

Take your time. Take it easy.
The horizon will not stop abstracting us.

~ John Galvin, born 1951, American poet and painter



I'm sorry to see the month end--many thanks, Maria!

But, I must say, I'm glad the Michel Foucault quote ended! Holy cows, what a headache! ;-)

MARIA said...

I am glad you have enjoyed our exploration of ekphrasis. The theme for November will be quite different.

As for Foucault -- I had to check twice to make sure I got the words and all those single and double quotation marks right.

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