This morning I tried to describe to my friend Linda how the energy in my studio can shift suddenly in ways I find difficult to predict or control. A form may appear quite by accident while painting that produces an unexpected sense of elation and expansion. Linda listened to my halting description of this instantaneous reaction and suggested that the relationship we have with visual imagery is more complex than we might have supposed. Yes, we are about the job of bringing new forms into existence. But there is the possibility that those invented forms are capable of entering into an esoteric dialectic, a back and forth that does not live in language as we currently use it.
This is an exchange that is subtle and rarely referenced in the art criticism and theory I have read. There are hints at this, like the following quote from Stevens (But of course! My favorite all time poet):
When I was a boy I used to think that things progressed by contrasts, that there was a law of contrasts. But this was building the world out of blocks. Afterwards I came to think of the energizing that comes from mere interplay, interaction. Thus, the various faculties of the mind co-exist and interact, and there is as much delight in this mere co-existence as man and woman find in each other’s company . . . Cross reflections, modifications, counter-balances, complements, giving and taking are illimitable. They make things inter-dependent and their inter-dependence sustains them and gives them pleasure.
–Wallace Stevens, 1940 Letter to Hi Simons
Thank you to such stuff, a wonderful treasure trove of images and ideas, for this memorable quote.