Berger on Cezanne

18 Dec

Some quotes from John Berger’s recent Guardian Article on Cezanne’s Paris retrospective:

“During his journey as a painter, I believe his state of mind changed eschatologically, his thinking becoming more apocalyptic. From the very beginning, the enigma of the substantial obsessed him. Why are things solid? Why is everything, including ourselves as human beings, made of stuff? In his very early work, he tended to reduce the substantial to the corporeal: the human body in which we are condemned to live. And he was acutely aware of what being flesh meant: our desires, our blind longings and our aptitude for gratuitous violence. Hence his repeated choice of subjects such as murder and temptation. It was perhaps better that the black box be kept shut.

Gradually, however, Cézanne began to expand the notion or sensation of corporeality, so that it could include things that we do not normally think of as having a body. This is particularly evident in his still lives. The apples he painted have the autonomy of bodies. Each apple is self-possessed, each has been held in his hand and recognised as unique. His empty porcelain bowls are waiting to be filled. Their emptiness is expectant. His milk jug is incontestable.”

“….during the last 20 years of his life, Cézanne begins to apply those swabs of colour to the canvas, not where they correspond to the local colour of an object, but where they can indicate a path for our eyes through space, receding or oncoming. He leaves more and more patches of the white canvas untouched. These patches are not mute, though: they represent the emptiness, the hollow openness, from which the substantial emerges.”

“Cézanne’s conviction that what we perceive as the visible is not a given but a construction, put together by nature and ourselves. “The landscape,” he said, “thinks itself in me, and I am its consciousness.” He also said: “Colour is the place where our brain and the universe meet.””

 

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