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Sunday, 21 April 2013


Act 1, Scene 8

The narrative began with Act 1, scene 1 on April 10, 2013.
To access all scenes, scroll to blog archive at the bottom of the page.



Cezanne
Well, for one thing, you have to consider the events of the time. Photography had become fairly commonplace, and photographers had begun their own experiments. They were certainly playing with new ideas of perception. Then there was electric lighting. Can you imagine how the brilliance of electric street lamps compared with the gas lamps we had grown up with? Suddenly there were harsh shadows and defined edges everywhere. You could not help looking at a carriage, for example, differently. Motion pictures, and stereopticons ... more and more change in the ways we saw the world. Do you remember playing with your grandmother's stereopticon? These little devices were fascinating ... still are, I think.

source: http://ephemeralnewyork.wordpress.com/category/union-square/

So, one didn't have to look very hard to find "new ways of seeing reality." To me, it seemed at first that these were all 'rule-breaking' when it came to perceiving the physical world around us. But then I thought, why not? We may not have been accustomed to these things, but they were here to stay. So, I began to wonder, if this, then why not that? If we can see a three-dimensional representation through the stereopticon, a revolutionary change in the way we saw things, then who's to say that objects in the world might not be analyzed and observed in still other ways?

And of course we cannot ignore the work of Edouard Manet ... a true genius. After Velazquez, we knew that we could take the viewer just slightly beyond the picture plane, into shallow space, and then beyond that into deeper levels within an illusion of three dimensions; and that we could then bounce that same viewer like a tennis ball off the deepest walls in the painting’s space and back to smash through the picture plane again and into the space in which he or she actually stands. And after Manet, we knew that we could also affirm the integrity of flatness. I gradually became more and more fascinated with pondering these various "planes" rather than concentrating on pictorial effects – atmosphere and so on, things that seemed more important to some of my Impressionist friends. But Monet's brush! Marvellous the shapes he could create in his brush strokes. In my own work, each brush stroke became a plane to manipulate. I suppose some would argue that my obsession with this sort of thing relegated other concerns, like colour, to lesser positions of importance; and while one cannot dismiss the power of colour to advance and recede, I do see evidence in my work for that point of view.

Act 1, Scene 7

The narrative began with Act 1, scene 1 on April 10, 2013.
To access all scenes, scroll to blog archive at the bottom of the page.



Back in the piazza, conversations continue. Those who have not wandered off to see other parts of Venice have formed several small groups. A few pigeons flutter by. The crowd of tourists is thinning as people find places to rest and relax at the end of an afternoon of walking and taking photographs. Cezanne has joined Ron Shuebrook in friendly conversation.


Ron Shuebrook
Cezanne
I must say that I find this city enchanting. I have not traveled a great deal, but I feel comfortable here. I suppose it has to do with the water, and the quiet. The world has slowed its pace here. I do wonder, however, about some of the invited guests. It's hard to imagine that some of them really belong here among such distinguished artists. Look at that fellow over there, for example, the one in the shadows. He appears to be making odd noises completely oblivious to the tall chap who is sitting with him.

Shuebrook
Oh, over there? Yes, that is a colleague of mine – the tall fellow, I mean – Martin Pearce, very talented, and smart as a whip. His is a highly informed intellect. The other man is an American, a rather odd one I'll grant you, Henry Darger. He is what we call today an outsider artist. You might have used the term naive, or perhaps self-taught. I suppose he fits with artists like Henri Rousseau. We can walk over to meet them, if you like.

Cezanne
Thank you, but not just now I think. What is he doing?

Shuebrook
Some believe that he may suffer from Tourette syndrome. I'm not sure you are familiar with the term. Sufferers sometimes seem not to have any conventional filters for their speech, and their behaviour. They can shout out very inappropriate comments at the oddest moments. Apparently his problem has not completely been resolved, even with treatments available today.

But, if you don't mind, I'd like to hear your thoughts about your own work. Venice is a gorgeous setting for a gathering like this one, although ideally I would have met you for a chat at a cafe´ in Aix.
But that aside, I'm so happy to have the chance to tell you of my own admiration for your work; you have been a crucial influence for me. Of course you know how widely artists around the world today concur with that sentiment. I wonder, have you seen Roger Fry's discussion of your work – it's a beautifully written and I think insightful little book.

Cezanne
No, I haven't seen it, but someone else mentioned it to me this morning. I wasn't around for its publication ... at least not until now.

Shuebrook
I'd like to read a short passage, if you don't mind. (Cezanne nods, and flicks his fingers toward the book, a gesture that says "go ahead." Shuebrook adjusts his glasses and reads.) 

"... the actual objects presented to the artist's vision are first deprived of all those specific characters by which we ordinarily apprehend their concrete existence – they are reduced to pure elements of space and volume ..." then a little about your intelligent organization of these objects, and then "These abstractions are then brought back into the concrete world of real things, not by giving them back their specific peculiarities, but by expressing them in an incessantly varying and shifting texture."

Cezanne
That's quite nice.

Shuebrook
Does it sound like a fairly accurate description of what you really do?

Cezanne
Yes, I think it's close. As you know, each of us has a very specific feeling about the words used to describe our work, but this doesn't offend me.

Shuebrook
What I would like to ask you, is how you found the courage to embark on this process of restructuring the visible world. Or perhaps you felt somehow compelled to do so?

Still Life with Apples, Paul Cezanne, 1894

Cezanne
I see. Yes, this is an interesting question, especially considering the art of the generation that followed my own – these younger artists fractured the old rules about reality in far more radical ways than I did.

Shuebrook
Well, with respect, I think many would argue that the paradigm shift you created was the truly radical moment for Modernism, and that many of the artists who followed you did just that – they followed. Not to minimize their achievement, but I simply want to point out how revered your work continues to be. It's the view of most students of the period that yours was the watershed moment.

Cezanne
That's very kind.

Shuebrook
But why? Why did you begin to see in a different way, and to translate that vision into art?