Peter and Robert,

I 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.

I 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.

I 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.

Because 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 possible.

That’s the reason for this letter.

During 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.

As 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.

Thanks, I owe you one.