still don’t understand how you managed to get me to agree to your
offer; to get me to promise that I’d make a painting on canvas in
your studio at the Meet Factory. Every time I think about it, I’m
astounded – I’ve not made a painting in six years.
suspect that in putting forward your request you were – whether
consciously or unconsciously – relying on the fact that you’d
done graphic design work for me and Gallery etc. on several occasions
pro bono, and my saying yes to your offer would mean we’d be quits.
In fact it wasn’t that much work... One of my characteristic
traits, about which I’m quite embarrassed, reared its head once
again: I never refuse anything. I constantly have the feeling that I
owe somebody something, including most of my friends and
acquaintances. So that means this is my problem, not yours.
don’t know how to describe the reasons for stopping painting with
any precision. It was not a clearly defined decision, more a sort of
feeling of aversion, and other highly unspecific emotions. Over those
six years I hadn’t made up my mind to reject painting definitively.
I considered it a fully-fledged medium, one that deserves respect.
Primarily I had misgivings about delimiting an unequivocally negative
situation, and there were two reasons for that. Firstly: my friends
on the art scene might think that in making a gesture of rejection
like I was belittling their work, regardless of whether that would
actually be the case, or not. And secondly: it would mean definitely
giving up the possibility of returning – at some point in the
future – to painting. I was thus concerned with conflict
limitation. Only after that could I actually think about my work.
of this, I did not take my promise very seriously. I thought I could
start painting again at any time, purchasing wooden frames, canvas,
paints, brushes. I soon realised that I was unable to force myself to
take this step. The mere thought of holding a brush in my hand and
starting to paint again made me want to... I was not very
enthusiastic about it. All attempts to convince me failed. I had to
admit that a problem existed, and I had to resolve it as soon as
the reason for this letter.
one of my many visits to your studio, I tried to come up with
“something” right there on the spot. Nothing came to me. I
refused to give up and for several days I tried to go through the
whole situation in my head and put everything together in the right
order. Finally one night it came to me: the culprit is the canvas
itself – it’s industrially manufactured from a mixture of linen
and cotton, paint is applied to it by machine, it’s stretched with
the aid of a mechanical device onto a standardized wooden frame. No
one notices it because in order for it to achieve social status, it
must first be covered with paint. No attention is paid to it while it
is in this state of intensive non-fulfilment; a fleeting glance is
enough to make everything clear. But for me this raw industrial
quality is more inspirational than working with the medium of
painting itself – applying colour, finishing off the process,
giving the canvas meaning. In so doing, I would be painting over the
point of contact with that part of our reality able to reproduce
itself in the form of interchangeable copies.
far as my ideas about my work and the way they may be realised are
concerned... I’m not in the right place to start painting again.
For that reason, I’m breaking my promise, even though “in your
eyes I will lose face.” Let me reassure you, however, that to
continue to stick to this commitment makes no sense. Even so, I’d
like to thank you for your offer, for a simple reason: I have finally
managed to take the last step towards parting with painting.