All entries for Wednesday 18 August 2004
August 18, 2004
Van Gogh's technique was also to apply a diagram to the figure in order to divert it from purposiveness into an unlocking of sensation. You can see in this work just how, as Deleuze says, for the painter the hand becomes a second eye and the canvas becomes a second mind.
The painter sees the figure. Seeing in this case is just the repetition of singular affects on the complex assemblage of planes of the mind. The eyes and their movement overlay a rhythmic action on this repetition of affects. Secondarily, the painter diverts this rhythm (of movement and light) to the hands, which have corresponding ways of moving, characteristic means of applying paint (and other painterly movements). This is what Deleuze calls the diagram. Van Gogh developed new diagrams of his own, of his own hands, which you can see clearly in this painting. With the application of sensation through the diagram and through the material of the painting, the canvas is built up into zones, lines, contours, planes, thicknesses, colours etc. At this point the painting faces a great danger, as described by Cezanne, the danger of becoming chaotic, of the sensations on the canvas failing to form a balanced and self-sustaining resonance: chaos. Adding new sensations to the canvas inevitably pushes it towards chaos. The greatness of the painter, as you can see in Van Gogh, is the ability to push the canvas towards this catastrophe, only to rescue it and restore the balance and resonances.
In this way, as Kant would have agreed, the adventure of painting is an adventure of the kind experienced in thought itself, an engagement with catastrophe and a subsequent return.
To reiterate Kant, sensation is thought without purposiveness. It is thought that is not taken up by a concept into some telos, some definite finality beyond itself. Just a present, not a future or a plan. It is an impression, but not that of the Impressionists. An impression expressed, but not that of Expressionism. Always outwards facing to the world, but with an entirely internal character of its own. Already a complex assemblage of interactions across the many planes of the mind, planes that anticipate perception, but singular as these complex registers resonate at the sime time. This singularity frames the sensation, but not in any discursive context, only as a repetition of affects.
In his rejection of narrative in favour of the triptych, the attendant figure and repetition, Bacon is the most Kantian of painters yet. His approach is always to address the sensation with a diagram (as Deleuze calls a painterly technique applied to thought). The diagram imediately diverts the path of the sensation onto the canvas and back out into sensation. Diverts it away from assimilation to concepts and narrative. It establishes, frames, a second register like that of the anticipations of perception, this time on the canvas. The painting becomes a focus for the repetition of the sensation, to the painter and others. It is as Kant says, a sensus communis.
Cezanne, it is said, is the painter who puts vital rhythm into the visual sensation. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, p. 43
This vital rhythm is what Deleuze later calls the diagram of the painter. It is:
…the operative set of asignifying and nonrepresentative lines and zones, line-strokes and color patches. ibid, p.101
They are applications of paint and the hand of the artist that rhythmically reappear. Diagrams are used to unlock sensations, to release them from their immediate take-up in discursive and representational diversions, to bring us to the sensation itself, in its plurality and complexity…
…there are not sensations of different orders, but different orders of one and the same sensation… ibid p.37
…but for no reason other than its own actuality. This complexity, singularity and actuality turned Cezanne towards nature:
Every sensation, and every Figure, is already an "accumulated" or "coagulated" sensation, as in a limestone figure. ibid p.37
Cezanne sought the event or irruption of the sensation as we experience in nature:
This is what one must achieve. If I reach too high or too low, everything is a mess. There must not be a single loose strand, a single gap through which the tension, the light, the truth can escape. I have all the parts of my canvas under control simultaneously. If things are tending to diverge, I use my instincts and beliefs to bring them back together again… Everything that we see disperses, fades away. Nature is always the same, even though its visible manifestations eventually cease to exist. Our art must shock nature into permanence, together with all the components and manifestations of change. Art must make nature eternal in our imagination. What lies behind nature? Nothing perhaps. Perhaps everything. Everything, you understand. So I close the errant hand. I take the tones of colour I see to my right and my left, here, there, everywhere, and I fix these gradations, I bring them together… They form lines, and become objects, rocks, trees, without my thinking about it. They acquire volume, they have an effect. When these masses and weights on my canvas correspond to the planes and spots which I see in my mind and which we see with our eyes, then my canvas closes its fingers. It does not waver. It does not reach too high or too low. It is true, it is full… cited in Cezanne by Ulrike Becks-Malorny, Taschen 2001
Cezanne, Mont Sainte-Victoire
Some principles of successful military command:
- Recruit and train forces, divide them up, and arrange them according to the terrain in which they will operate and the opposing arrangements of enemy forces. This requires intelligence, strategy, and imagination.
- Identify a sufficiently distant goal so as to allow for a wide range of local conditions to emerge on the path to that goal.
- Provide the forces with time and space in which to operate with relative autonomy in order to explore and adapt to local conditions so as to move towards the objective. This requires diplomacy, political guile, and a certain charm in dealing with those who demand results.
- Encourage the different individual divisions of the forces to advance with speed or caution as required so as to co-ordinate with each other.
- Maintain the necessary lines of supply and communication to and between the divisions (resource going to the front).
- Maintain the necessary lines of supply and communication from the divisions (resource returning to the command).
On art and the battle ground of the canvas:
As i think Deleuze indicates in his book on Bacon, these artists had a deeply strategic understanding of how to enable, command even, their artistic powers. Each of these principles of good command can be seen in their practices. For example, Deleuze describes how for these artists the terrain is sensation, the enemy is figuration (the figural locked to representation), and the relatively autonomous forces are the artistic diagram (a difficult term, capturing a technique in its relation to the figural but not at the mercy of representation). The diagram is unleashed into unanticipated and dangerous territories of sensation:
The diagram is indeed a chaos, a catastrophe, but it is also a germ of order or rhythm. It is a violent chaos in relation to the figurative givens, but it is a germ of rhythm in relation to the new order of the painting. As Bacon says, it "unlocks areas of sensation." Deleuze, Francis Bacon: Logic of Sensation, p.102
Deleuze describes in great detail Francis Bacon's strategy for painting, for creativity, for achieving all of the above for the cause of the campaign, creating paintings that each unlock sensation in a new way. He sees this in all great painters, citing Van Gogh and Klee as well, and of course Cezanne, who was prior to Bacon the most effective documentor of the battle ground of the canvas.