'Oh I see a marvellous and bright painting but it is not by me, it is by no one. I do not see the sculptures. I see darkness. Alberto Giacometti.
The above quote is taken from the first page of Yves Bonnefoy's extraordinary book Giacometti. I have been reading this book for several months now and I continually return to the avant garde and surrealist chapters that look at the early sculptural works of Giacometti. One of my favourite works is from his surrealist period titled 'Suspended Ball'. I feel this sculpture permeated my thinking throughout this project and I was always searching for its beautiful simplicity in the things I attempted.
I will post some of the thoughts of Bonnefoy with regard to this sculpture. There has been a lot written about this work elsewhere but I felt Bonnefoy's ideas were the most lucid to me and placed the sculpture very much within its period of creation. Before I started reading Bonnefoy's writing on Giacometti I was really only familiar with his later figure work and I had looked at these when I was working on my previous project about the self.
Giacometti like all great artists had an ability to see beyond the period in which time had placed him. The great artists are able to see their period as an historian would writing many decades later. Their work seems to capture the moment precisely or else it acts as a catalyst for future moments. History takes on this linear narrative and the artists forming part of it seem somehow able to levitate above their own time period and make work that encapsulates things from this future perspective.
Bonnefoy discusses in detail Giacometti's work and writes extensively about nearly all of his sculptural works. He always writes beautifully and it was very interesting for me to read what he said about this particular sculpture. He saw it as a symbol discussing 'physic parts of life… or a schematisation of certain body parts'. Interestingly Bonnefoy also interpreted what appears a fundamentally abstract / surrealist piece as something equally akin to a scientific model and the ball as an early example of the 'association between modern scientific research (the atom) and psychoanalytical and artistic creativity.' I felt that this analogy opened a door for me in seeing the ball itself not just as I had been doing as a circular object of formal abstraction derived from Greek geometry but as something now more 3 dimensional with a history of associative sculptural scientific meaning. I of course now equally saw that the ball could also be the circle from a sculptural point of view and one could play with that 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional difference and not lose any of the power of their essential form. The circle had featured in my own work throughout my course and I was interested in the ideas Bonnefoy was putting forward as I wanted to understand more deeply perhaps my own reasons for its use.
Up to this point I felt the circle was pure geometry but I began to see more clearly association with the eye, science, the atom and its use in early 20th century art. I was of course aware of Duchamp's bicycle wheel and other sculptural uses but this sculpture seemed to posses some power to make me see more coherently about the various possibilities of interpretation. I think along with Camilla Low's 'Spring Rain' this was the most influential piece of sculpture in terms of opening up my own 'ways of seeing' during the project.
Bonnefoy identifies a peculiarity in the interpretation of the piece in relation to the Surrealist movement. He identified a symbology of sexual organs and disturbed desire which contradicted the surrealist principle that the surrealist artist 'must avoid knowing what the symbol he manipulates mean in connection with his own life'. Bonnefoy explains how such simple a piece can encapsulate the sexual preoccupation of an age that had become convoluted by Freudian explanation of suppressed sexual desire being the route of human dysfunction.
This is an extremely complex piece both in how Bonnefoy interprets its meaning and also in how he sees it as a challenge to surrealist art. I don't think a useful purpose would be served be writing too much more about those aspects as the prime essence of my blog is to highlight the things that have influenced me and not of course to go into great detail about another authors opinion upon a particular piece of work. I found Bonnefoy's interpretation very useful and enlightening and I think it influenced me in my final decision about how my work might look and how I might use simple forms to contain complex meaning that might not initially be apparent yet absolutely valid.
Giacometti was a genius of sculpture so I am not assuming I can remotely scale those heights but I do feel I can reinterpret aspects of this work into my own sculptural piece. As a foundation student looking at these great works I find it both inspiring and intimidating in equal measure. One goes to create enthused by greatness to only meet with personal limitations and limited artistic experience. I think coming though the inevitable disappointments in one's own work and to keep being inspired by other artists work is possibly the key, despite the many failures, to ultimately reaching a place of satisfaction in the future.
In closing I wanted to produce a sculpturally creative solution to my project brief and I felt a number of elements were connecting to help me get a better appreciation of how I might develop something that contained the things I had found most important to me creatively over the 12 weeks period.