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DRAWN TO THAT MOMENT

Drawn to that moment because often skill in drawing expresses itself as a manner, and then
its application to what is being drawn is indirect. Mannerism - in the
John Berger general rather than art-historical sense - comes from the need to
invent urgency, to produce an 'urgent' drawing, instead of submitting
to the urgency of what is. Here I was using my small skill to save a
likeness, as a lifesaver uses his much greater skill as a swimmer to
When my father died recently, I did several drawings of him in his save a life. People talk of freshness of vision, of the intensity of seeing
coffin. Drawings of his face and head. for the first time, but the intensity of seeing for the last time is, I
There is a story about Kokoschka teaching a life class. The believe, greater. Of all that I could see only the drawing would
students were uninspired. So he spoke to the model and instructed remain. I was the last ever to look on the face I was drawing. I wept
him to pretend to collapse. When he had fallen over, Kokoschka whilst I strove to draw with complete objectivity.
rushed over to him, listened to his heart and announced to the As I drew his mouth, his brows, his eyelids, as their specific forms
shocked students that he was dead. A little afterwards the model got emerged with lines from the whiteness of the paper, I felt the history
to his feet and resumed the pose. 'Now draw him,' said Kokoschka, and the experience which had made them as they were. His life was
'as though you were aware that he was alive and not dead!' now as finite as the rectangle of paper on which I was drawing, but
One can imagine that the students, after this theatrical experience, within it, in a way infinitely more mysterious than any drawing, his
drew with more verve. Yet to, draw the truly dead involves an ever character and destiny had emerged. I was making a record and his
greater sense of urgency. What you are drawing will never be seen face was already only a record of his life. Each drawing then was
again, by you or by anybody else. In the whole course of time past and nothing but the site of a departure.
time to come, this moment is unique: the last opportunity to draw They remained. I looked at them and found that they resembled
what will never again be visible, which has occurred once and which my father. Or, more strictly, that they resembled him as he was when
will never reoccur. dead. Nobody could ever mistake these drawings as ones of an old
Because the faculty of sight is continuous, because visual cate- man sleeping. Why not? I ask myself. And the answer, I think, is in the
gories (red, yellow, dark, thick, thin) remain constant, and because so way they are drawn. Nobody would draw a sleeping man with such
many things appear to remain in place, one tends to forget that the objectivity. About this quality there is finality. Objectivity is what is
visual is always the result of an unrepeatable, momentary encounter. l e f t when something is finished.
Appearances, at any given moment, are a construction emerging I chose one drawing to frame and hang on the wall in front of the
from the debris of everything which has previously appeared. It is table at which I work. Gradually and consistently the relationship of
something like this that I understand in those words of Cezanne his drawing to my father changed - or changed for me.
which so often come back to me: 'One minute in the life of the world There are several ways of describing the change. The content of
is going by. Paint it as it is.' the drawing increased. The drawing, instead of marking the site of a
Beside my father's coffin I summoned such skill as I have as a departure, began to mark the site of an arrival. The forms, drawn,
draughtsman, to apply it directly to the task in hand. I say directly filled out. The drawing became the immediate locus of my memories
of my father. The drawing was no longer deserted but inhabited. For
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in our lives. unmistakably that. The plate camera and the pocket watch. A photograph is evidence of an encounter The advent of the cinema and television means that we now define between event and photographer. their very function. \\liat is the nature of this challenge? A fossil also 'challenges' If I look at the drawing now I scarcely see the face of a dead man. It is still fossil or the drawing.e. Yet if somebody from the lenges disappearance but its challenge is different from that of the village came in. what it refers to becomes more appearance which will disappear. The change which has taken place is subjective. The faculty of sight developed as impressive than the reason for referring to it. unchanging. at offers for my father's return into it is quite distinct from that offered 148 149 .records an a painting often acts as a disguise . there was now a door through which moments of a life could that has previously appeared. (Our aspiration towards objec- to discover the camera. Such an idea is worked like a filter: from behind. it projected an image which. own making. becoming increasingly familiar.) We use for many different reasons but it was not in order to improve on the photographs by taking them with us. Whereas a drawing or painting the meaning of the static image had been lost. their own looking. The drawn image contains neither would drawings. The imitative facility of Any image . A drawing or between drawings and paintings. A photograph is static because it century when social time became unilinear. In the nineteenth forces us to stop and enter its time. (An event in itself has no appearances. if appearances. Thus. had moved forward to become double-faced. and the flux of disappearance cease. the instant became the maximum which could In. A photograph chal- instead I see aspects of my father's life. For example: the story triumphs over oblivion. Great paintings are not an active response to continually changing contingencies. image has been selected for preservation. The more disguised in this way. more clearly. it is understandable that this very enter: the drawing. it drew out my memories of the past more than a personal dream.) How does a drawing or painting encompass time? What does it Recognition is an essential part of this construction. between the pencil marks and the white paper they any given moment. The 'space' that my drawing ring in the ceaseless flux of disappearance. disappearance but the challenge is meaningless. grasped or preserved. our static image. if it was presented in those terms. The need always a construction with a history.i. arose tivity can only proceed from the admission of subjectivity. image of his death mask a kind of life. A drawing slowly questions an drawings (or paintings) as static images. depended upon this. are win inventions. A drawing or painting is static because it encom- exchangeable. the I should perhaps explain here why I make a certain distinction reflex camera and the wrist-watch. construction may give birth to the idea that everything will one day be with one face. it has supplied the energy for a large part whilst. and the instantaneous or moving image. passes time. THE LAST PICTURES DRAWN TO THAT MOMENT each form. instead of being simply an object of perception. forwards. bringing back memories of time past. construct from events. the drawing challenges disappearance. if such a subjective process did not exist. The photographed Yet. the more complex the set of appearances it could process of its own creation. My father came back to give the music offers a centre. or. vectorial and regularly has stopped time. The fossil is the result of random chance. it is we who more them. in a more general sense. our arguments. Drawings reveal the process of their painting presupposes another view of time.a device for depends upon the phenomenon of reappearance sometimes occur. was of human culture. and recognizable. What we often overlook is event's appearance and in doing so reminds us that appearances are that their virtue.like the image read from the retina . And recognition hold in its stillness? A drawing is more than a memento . the experience of looking. it was only because memories. he would see only a drawing of a death mask. are a construction emerging from the debris of all marked. But even a third-rate drawing reveals the it developed.

an object owned by him or. The painted moment has remained (almost) unchanged for three centuries. it also 1976 involves. with the explain. And here it is incidental that I am density per square millimetre of assembled moments. there is no sight in nature as unchanging as that of a drawing or painting. for diagram- matic convenience. as we look at it. a photograph of him. The Sense of Sight: writings. The static image of a drawing or painting is the result of the opposition of two dynamic processes. It would be naive to suppose that this has to do with accuracy: Delft at any given moment never looked like this painting. then the act of drawing. but a tree-being-looked-at. On the other hand. looking at a drawing which I drew myself. the Every day more of my father's life returns to the drawing in front of examination of the sight of a tree (a tree-being-looked-at) not only me. by driving upstream. But it anybody else would offer the same 'space'. works in accord with the same hopes and principles which have led To draw is to look. and refers back to. Disappearances opposed by assemblage. derives from. It has to do . has a plenitude and actuality that we experience only rarely in life. but it consists of the evidence of many glances which can be seen together. takes minutes or hours instead of a fraction of a second. Referência: From each glance a drawing assembles a little evidence. If. 1993 On one hand. achieves the stationary. New York. examining the structure of appearances. Within the instant of the sight of a tree is established a life-experience. it has become a site of arrival. Yet this painted moment. as I have tried to with the density per square millimetre of Vermeer's looking. Vintage Books. Whereas the sight of a tree is registered almost instantaneously. We experience everything we see in the painting as absolutely momentary. what is unchanging in a drawing consists of so many assembled moments that they con- stitute a totality rather than a fragment. An equivalent drawing by As a drawing. THE LAST PICTURES DRAWN TO THAT MOMENT by a letter from him. the drawing above my table is unremarkable. This is how the act of drawing refuses the process of disappearances and proposes the simultaneity of a multitude of moments. one accepts the metaphor of time as a flow. a river. not a tree. The reflections in the water have not moved. A me to draw for thousands of years. At the same time the experience is repeatable the next day or in ten years. of departure. It works because from being a site drawing of a tree shows. Vermeer's view of Delft across the canal displays this as no theoretical explanation ever can. much previous experience of looking.