The Loom of Art

The Loom of Art

The Loom of Art

The Loom of Art

Excerpt

This book is neither a manual nor a history of art, certainly not an encyclopaedia, and still less a treatise on aesthetics: it is a game; essentially a game with images, a play of images. There has been much talk in recent times of the primacy of images over idea. André Malraux has conceived his I'Univers des Formes (The Arts of Mankind) as a close coordination of text and illustration: the text serves as a commentary on the image, but the image comes in obedience to the governing train of thought. The present book has been fashioned out of images that have grouped themselves, by analogy or contradiction, into confrontations, which in turn have come together into larger complexes. It is therefore a work of memory -- and of visual memory: but this does not exclude its domination by a directing fine of thought; for (as Bergson has shown) since a man preserves within him all his perceptions, feelings and thoughts, memory is simply a faculty of recovering, at exactly the right moment, materials called up by our creative power in answer to some task, action or idea. Here the text came afterwards and is merely added to the images, rather than following them up.

Contrary to the fashion at present prevailing among editors and publishers, I decided that the text should be separated from the illustrations and not interwoven with them. The philosopher who sets out to meditate upon the world does not climb a mountain to get the widest possible view of the world or the universe, but is more inclined to shut himself up in a cell: as Poussin would have said, to grasp the prospect one must forget the aspect, and an act of separating oneself from reality is an essential part of the very effort to attain and apprehend it. In this book, therefore, ten chapters act as prefaces to ten books of images: they are not -- any more than are the image sequences -- guided by logical deduction, for to the author also the writing of this book was a game-and one that was meant to be free from any too narrow enslavement to the business of commentary or to the discursive style. Its thought, in the description of these complexes of images, sometimes rises to a panoramic view, and at other times, like a tracking camera in a film studio, descends to enjoy and linger over a specialist's close-up examination of a given sequence -- these changes being always governed simply by the author's caprice or taste. For everything in this book is the result of a personal choice; and that is its least defect: its only justification is the pleasure experienced in evoking the marvellous world of forms. Uncommitted to any historical scheme, as well as to any preconceived ideas, it was, in short, an exercise of relaxation after the author's labours in writing a manual (A Concise History of Art).

What I should like is for the reader to share my pleasure and to go on with the game I set before him. For this small world of images is full of echoes and reverberations which the reader . . .

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