Aniela Jaffe, "Symbolism in the Visual Arts"
Man and His Symbols approaches its 50th birthday... Rereading pieces of the book, I am struck by how pertinent some of its efforts to reconcile the past and Modernism still appear, as well as how well Jaffe's comments on visual arts apply to all the arts--as Chagall suggests when he says "painting, like all poetry."
Jaffe: Chagall's quest in his work is also a "mysterious and lonely poetry" and "the ghostly aspect of things that only rare individuals may see." But Chagall's rich symbolism is rooted in the piety of Eastern Jewish Hassidism and in a warm feeling for life. He was faced with neither the problem of the void nor the death of God. He wrote: "Everything may change in our demoralized world except the heart, man's love, and his striving to know the divine. Painting, like all poetry, has its part in the divine; people feel this today just as much as they used to."The French painter Alfred Manessier defined the aims of his art in these words: "What we have to reconquer is the weight of lost reality. We must make for ourselves a new heart, a new spirit, a new soul, in the measure of man. The painter's true reality lies neither in abstraction nor in realism, but in the reconquest of his weight as a human being."
The British author Sir Herbert Read once wrote of Chagall that he never quite crossed the threshold into the unconscious, but "has always kept one foot on the earth that had nourished him." This is exactly the "right" relation to the unconscious.
Jean Bazaine: "...A form that can reconcile man with his world is an 'art of communion' by which man, at any moment, can recognize his own unformed countenance in the world."Jaffe: What in fact artists now have at heart is a conscious reunion of their own inward reality with the reality of the world or of nature; or, in the last resort, a new union of body and soul, matter and spirit. That is their way to the "reconquest of their weight as human beings." Only now is the great rift that set in with modern art (between "great abstraction" and "great realism") being made conscious and on the way to being healed.
Jaffe: And yet it seems important that the suggestion of a more whole, and therefore more human, form of expression should have become visible in our time.Tomorrow's post: Most questions answered no. 3: about Giacometti's The Palace at 4:00 a.m. and the title of this blog. Secrets revealed!