Diary of the Plague Year: Day 8 24 March 2020: more from The Black Notebook; Barnett Newman

‘The driving force of modern painting has been to change, to reconstitute the painting medium from a photographic technique of realistic rendering into a medium of pure expression. Modern painting is an attempt to change painting into a poetic language, to make pigment expressive rather than representational.

It is in poetry that the problem of handling a realistic tool, a tool that permits of realism without being realistic, has been solved. In music, the pure abstract element of tone has made it easy. Sometimes attempts have been made in music to imitate naturalistic sounds, but those attempts are unnatural and not very usual. It is easier and more natural for music to deliver its message, to present its concepts, in terms of the abstract nature of notes of sound. In music there never is an attempt to relate sound to any conventional prejudice, or natural sound, whereas in literature and in painting it is natural for us to associate the word or the painted object with the thing in nature, to combine its evocative nature with its appearance. In poetry, however, the element of music contained in it has permitted the artist to approach the abstract handling of the language usual in music, so that we have learned to react to the words themselves. The whole drive of poetry, therefore, and in recent times of painting and prose, has been in the direction of music, to divorce the languages of literature and of painting from the conforming dichotomy of meaning inherent in their media so that they would function purely and abstractly in the manner of musical notes.

…since the important truth underlying the creation of any art form and determining any style concerns man’s relation not with the universe but with himself.

Selected Writings and Interviews
Barnett Newman

 

 

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