by Francis Ponge
Excerpt translated by Manuela Kölke (from German)
What do painters who ask you to write about their painting want?
They want their works (exhibition, collection of paintings), in addition to appearing before the world’s eyes, to also ring in the world’s ears at the same time.
They want words about their painting to bring about a sort of prescription for thought. That one furnishes words (in bulk) to those who will visit the exhibition or flip through the album.
They also want the connoisseur to say: “Indeed, there is this or that in so and so’s painting,” or rather, “No, there is not this, nor that, but instead this and that.”
Of course, there is (at least) another thing at play: there are real objects, namely canvas and paint.
Above all, they want the connoisseur to be struck that one can think and say so many things about the works of the painter in question, because for the connoisseur this seems a guarantee. Is good painting, then, that which we talk much about a lot, and that which we will always talk about a lot? That which will provoke controversies, explanations, for a long time? Or, on the contrary, would it be the painting that gives us the (immediately obvious) impression that it would be wrong to say anything about it, that it ridicules in advance any attempt at explanation? That one must limit oneself to proclaiming: how pretty or beautiful it is, how agreeable it is to have it close by?
In any case, good painting is that about which, in every attempt to say something, one could never say anything satisfactory. Continue reading