Monday, 15 November 2010

I was right… 3 years ago

Three years ago, after reading the correspondence between Henri Matisse and the painter Pierre Bonnard, I wrote a post titled “The art of ordinary”, quoting a postcard that Matisse sent to his friend Bonnard from Tahiti. Matisse despaired of his inability to paint anything or take any good photograph despite the beauty surrounding him.

My hunch, when I wrote this article, was that the Tahiti trip, far from being sterile, had planted the seed of what would become Matisse’s colourful cut out papers.

So I was pleased to discover I was right. In his book “Conversations with Picasso”, the photographer Brassaï remembered a visit he paid to Matisse on Friday 20 December 1946. Matisse was in bed, cutting out his coloured papers that evoked Oceania and he told Brassaï:

“The memories of my trip to Tahiti only come back to me now, fifteen years later, in the form of haunting images: stony corals, corals, fishes, birds, jellyfish, sponges ... it is curious, isn’t it, that all these enchantments of the sky and the sea did not entice me immediately... I have returned from the islands completely empty handed ... I did not even bring back photographs ... even though I bought a very expensive camera. But over there, I hesitated, "If I take pictures of everything I see in Oceania, I told myself, I will only be left with poor images. And photos may be preventing my impressions to act deep inside me ... "I was right, I think. It is more important to let things soak than wanting to catch them on the spot.”

You need to allow time for ideas and impressions to incubate. It takes months, years, and sometimes fifteen years, even for artists like Matisse. But time will come.

No comments: