Art Vent

Letting the Fresh Air In

On process and creativity

February 18, 2010 - 7:06pm -- Carol Diehl
Alberto Giacometti, Tete Noire (Diego), 1951, oil on canvas, 31 7/8" x 25 5/8"

Reader Joan, in a comment on my post below, "Elizabeth Gilbert and Creativity" contributed this from James Lord's Giacometti: A Biography, and I felt it was worthy of reprinting as a post on its own:

It becomes always more painful,” Alberto (Giacometti) said, “for me to finish my works. The older I grow, the more I find myself alone. I foresee that at the last I shall be entirely alone. Even if, after all, what I’ve done till now counts for nothing (and it is nothing by comparison with what I would like to create), fully aware of having failed till now, and knowing from experience that everything I undertake slips through my fingers, I enjoy my work more than ever. Is there any understanding in that? Not for me, but that’s how it is. I see my sculptures there before me: each one—even the most finished in appearance—a fragment, each one a failure. Yes, a failure! But there is in each one a little of what I would like to create one day. This in one, that in another, and in the third something that’s missing in the first two. But the sculpture of which I dream incorporates everything that appears isolated and fragmentary in these various works. That gives me a longing, an irresistible longing to pursue my efforts—and perhaps in the end I will attain my goal."

Giacometti and Beckett, each in a deeply individual way, personified the pure commitment of the creative man. Driven beyond the conscious self by a need to express what defies expression, they found the strength to sustain that need in the ironic authority derived from a mortifying acknowledgement of failure. Beckett had learned that words are powerless to convey an idea of a feeling, just as Giacometti had found that neither paint nor clay can possibly embody the experience of vision. But both were infatuated with the expressive possibilities which baffled their passion for self-expression. It was the futility of the pursuit that made it fascinating and saved the effort from becoming monotonous. Its purpose was not to produce works of art but to wrest from the process of perception its utmost resources. A thankless, well-nigh ridiculous task, performed with humility as an act of pride.


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