AGONIZING THE ART

ON BEING AN ARTIST AND STARTING A PAINTING (or a poem)

You come across words, in the most unexpected places at times, that just strike home so appropriately. There is a wrestling and an uneasiness that I experience each time I approach a brand new picture-to be. There is rarely an exception. And while reading the brilliant book: “The Hare With Amber Eyes” by Edmund de Waal, I was absolutely delighted to come across some words of the German/ Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke addressing the very issue of what it is like to be an artist. So I have two quotes (below) that encapsulate the seemingly long and struggling period leading up to the lifting of the paint brush and laying down the first brush stroke. And within minutes you experience all sorts of emotions- from loss of confidence through to relief. Rainer’s comments bring assurance to all who write and paint.


“Surely all art is the result of one’s having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the end, where no one can go any further. The further one goes, the more private, the more personal, the more singular an experience becomes, and the thing one is making is, finally, the necessary, irrepressible, and as nearly as possible, the definitive utterance of this singularity.”

― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Small Rainer-Maria-Rilke

The Swan
Rainer Maria Rilke

Listen
This laboring of ours with all that remains undone,
as if still bound to it,
is like the lumbering gait of the swan.

And then our dying—releasing ourselves
from the very ground on which we stood—
is like the way he hesitantly lowers himself

into the water. It gently receives him,
and, gladly yielding, flows back beneath him,
as wave follows wave,
while he, now wholly serene and sure,
with regal composure,
allows himself to glide.


And this is just one of those drawings that I am simply waiting to start the painting- but just don’t seem to be able to swing it just yet. Maybe after lunch I will land on the water.

small

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