3: Object Lesson: Reflection on the mystery of image


The Human Condition I, 1933, 100 x 81, Claude Spaak, Choisel.



At first glance, one would think the painting on the easel inside the room is identical with the scene outside the window. A second look will find that the scene which seems to extend from the canvas carries the same brushstroke as that on the canvas, i.e., it is also painted; paradoxically, now we find what we think to be nature is also duplicated, or duplicated from the representation; which one is the duplication? Our perceiving habit? We may further ask ourselves. Who is the "I" who sees the painting? Who is the "I" who presumes the resemblance between the painting and the painted scene? And who is the "I" who recognizes that the painted scene is not nature but merely painted picture too? Subjectivity is shifting. Textuality is questioned.

The Waterfall, 1961, 81 x 75, Alexandre Iolas, New York.


In The Waterfall , the validity of the painting as a mirror that reflects the reality (a woods) is subverted by the leaves surrounding the mirror, which are supposed to be reflected on it. The unreflected image of the leaves shatters the validity of the representation.

The different natures of the two presences (that of the painting-within-the-painting and that of the leaves which surround it) are of a spatial order, but they are so linked that the spatial order ceases to be a matter of indifference: it is only thought itself which can see itself simultaneously in the forest and away from the forest. As for the title of the picture, The Waterfall, I merely meant to point out that the thought which conceives such a painting undoubtedly overflows like a waterfall.

Suzi Gablik, Magritte 97.

Two drawings from La leçon des choses (Object Lessons), from Suzi Gablik, Magritte, p10, p100.

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