teve Chandler has made a typo in a card he printed from my journal. Actually, he's not caught the Yeat's reference in "Y tooker innisarms anmaaderis the long night over " I think of it in the night clearing from a storm. I've lost another lover. I've lost my sweet birds. Surely someone can at least remember 'Lake isle of Innisfree'? Was that Yeats coming through in my line? It is four in the morning. I get up to find "Lake Isle of Innisfree". I open to Yeats' section in Oxford English Poets. The first poem is "Where My Books Go". I have never noticed this little poem before.
All the words that I utter,
And all the words that I write,
Must spread out their wings untiring,
And never rest in their flight,
Till they come where your sad, sad heart is,
And sing to you in the night,
Beyond where the waters are moving,
Storm-darken'd or starry bright.
-William Butler Yeats
Where My Books Go
Twenty years earlier, I had discovered with drugs, the difference between a vision and having to construct the Imaginary in my mind from raw materials, as I would build a construct, and the gratuitous appearance before one's eye or mind's eye of a 'vision'. Is this a metaphor for something bigger, I asked. The householder? The Hermit?
PAINT: An Artist's Statement
The marvelous substances of which paint is made and used by an artist to reveal the structure of things, do so with the very materials of which the motif itself is made, carbon, iron, or hydrogen. Likewise these substances, here on a canvas, are illuminated by light created and released by the same substances consumed out there in the solar furnace. It is through the relation of the artist's interior life to image, an emergent biography of the unconscious that tests those excavations for authenticity. This process shows where paint handling is efficacious or fails to deliver. It is this activity which certifies in the artist's mind that the hand-arm-shoulder brain is in touch with a correct image of Reality. This is true on whatever scale it may exist; be it in the room, landscape, world, heavens or beyond the power of imagination to anticipate before the work was made and began to live before the eyes of others, to influence the future.
It is a search for the unknown, unseen and un-named that is usually supposed to belong to the conscious mind. However, now that we know the Self is seen by scientists as an artifact of the conversation in the bicameral brain, I feel safe saying the conscious mind itself is best represented by the left brain. This half is condemned to forever replay it's serial reality in language and in numbers. And when left is alone with the right brain, its questioning, nagging voice we call Self, ransacks the storehouse of feeling on the right for its sensuous experiences and sets about busily codifying them in left brain terms. Tired from that labor, it claims authorship of its appropriation.
The process of Ideogram containing Pictogram is the most interesting of all questions about early man. It contains within itself the results of dialog between the two hemispheres. The left assumes language is the only clear communication because it's the side that does the talking. Consequently, the left brain does not create anything that is free of the past. In its demand for the certainties of precedent, it is trapped in Time. Painters, manipulators of materials to delight the senses, discover heretofore unknown truths about the nature of our existence and environs, such as those flaws of coloration, the centuries old black holes which suck the viewers' attention away from the rest of the painting and into themselves.
To remove paint from service to Image alone is to free it from bondage to time. It is where I see my work directing itself, as if all the information about the world and myself has been seen and the motions of the universe on the surface of the canvas want only to be free of the small scale of the field whereon we live.
-Robert La Vigne
How surprising it always is to find myself producing a work, pertinent and useful to a project after months of studies and even finished drawings, while waiting to choose which to use. Then, in idle exercise, IT will come. I am stunned, each time, that this could be how it happens.
A curious property of the brain exhibited to me after open heart surgery, was its unavailability for the kind of intense concentration needed in extended work. It's full time occupation was directorship of my body's healing from the trauma of surgery. After ten or twenty minutes, during the first two months of recovery, interest in what my mind was occupied with doing, simply stopped. Later, I found I could work, with practice, on small and easy projects.
Clearly, this first-hand knowledge of a need for total access to the brain reveals a lot about the social trait of humanity, and how it's at loggerheads with the basic law of creation: big fish eats little fish. Now, scientists have gotten to watch atoms of tin on copper, perform as if alive and trailing bronze. An aside on Society: by big fish banding together, they get to eat all the little fish. From the standpoint of man's higher mind, how can there be a Great Mind as Creator, when the mind of Man is imprisoned in a brain that is only meat to another animal.
To the Viewer:
These photographs by me & drawings & watercolors by Robert La Vigne mark over four decades of friendship and artistic collaboration. Robert La Vigne was so to speak the `Court Painter' for the large group of poets gathered in mid Fifties during `San Francisco Poetry Renaissance' beat period. His work - large oils & drawings of Peter Orlovsky & John Wieners - occupies an honored corner of the Whitney Exhibition 'Beat Culture & the New America 1950-1965', presently installed at S.F.'s DeYoung Museum. La Vigne was painter among poets, and made sketches of Neal Cassady & his lady Natalie Jackson (hung here side by side with my photo of Natalie & Neal under the marquee--drawings of Philip Whalen, Poet, now Roshi Whalen of Hartford Street, S.F. Zen Center (who delivered a cache of La Vigne's drawings & watercolors left in his hands decades ago for this Gallery exhibit--of Gary Snyder; also portraits of Kerouac (cover illustration of J.K.'s Scripture of Golden Eternity), of Philip Lamantia. His orgy drawings of myself, Natalie J. & Peter Orlovsky can be found in my Collected & Selected Poems under the appropriate texts, as well as his illustrations of A Strange New Cottage in Berkeley (done for a poster) and Poster of Kral Majales reproduced in aforementioned volumes. Working with Auerhan avant guard S. F. Press & David Haselwood printer he designed the cover of Olsen's Human Universe & later a cover for my limited edition of Howl. He had made panoramic orgy scrolls-ink illustrations which encircled the audience at Berkeley's Little Theater March 1956 for the first complete reading of "Howl" & first recitation of "Sunflower Sutra" & "America." This exhibit, including 1996 drawings by La Vigne (#'s 29, 20 + 31, 32) for a cover of recent booklet of dreams to be printed in Spain, thus honors a long & deep art friendship."
Can man find an existence independent of the meat we live within? Which wannabee Queen of England coined the 'Court Painter to the Beat Generation' number that Allen repeats.
This is a study for a painting in memory of my late friend Allen Ginsberg, well-remembered by many for "Sunflower Sutra", a poem that addresses, before it happened to him, the subject of his surprise later, after the publication of Howl, that the book had reached small town America. The 'lone goof in town' learned from it, that he was not alone in the world, that there were other towns, and each had its own single outsider.
In the poem, he directly addresses us as he speaks to the dried stalk of a sunflower growing from an industrial garbage heap.
"--We're not our skin of grime, we're not our dread
bleak dusty imageless locomotive, we're all
beautiful golden sunflowers inside, we're bles-
sed by our own seed & golden hairy naked ac-
complishment-bodies growing into mad black
formal sunflowers in the sunset, spied on by our
eyes under the shadow of the mad locomotive
riverbank sunset Frisco hilly tincan evening sit-
Ed Sanders' account of his teen-age whoops of joy in a Kansas backyard, his newfound freedom after reading Howl is one of the best I've encountered. I think its in one of my favorite books, Tales of Beatnik Glory. (When do we get volume three, Ed?) This is a study for a memorial to Allen.
Painting is like a piano. Not furniture straddling a lot of carpet. More Piano-Forte, the instrument's sharp cut hard and soft plucked song in air. Some atoms gathered there on a wall, their colors waving chords that jiggle my cells in unison. Eye is warp-speed edge of Mind, the viscera itself waiting in the brain pan for a lid to pop open onto painted slabs flinging photons along the optic nerve in a direct line to the center of that gray organ.
November 25, 2000
Just today, looking for the passage on motif to get papa C's quotation right, I encounter a reiteration of my thoughts trying to write this, to explain my life. My note reads:
"Organization is contrary to the principal of discovery by determining the outcome, predicting the outcome". In my search of M-Ponty, for something else today, after weeks of fruitless search, I find the motif passage:
"His meditation would suddenly be consummated: 'I have found my motif',..."
Each new painting by an artist gives new meaning to every past work he's made. The experience of doing this, which sometimes actually comes while painting, gives clue to the effectiveness of what's going on between him and his canvas. Or conversely, that result may not be comprehended immediately, and maybe it shouldn't. If the work has entered unknown territory, the mystery remains how sometimes, it can be comprehended in the act of being made and other times overlooked during years of passive viewing until the cells to see it have formed, grown, the mind a pupil of its meditations.
The illuminations in the mind of the painter while this is happening, of getting to see, through a move in the wet paint at hand, what a mysterious passage in an earlier work means. And, that that meaning, not consciously made, is revealed and affirmed now in a new work. A direction how to read the past.
Painting is a process of self-discovery. And as such, is repository of the meditations of a viewer. I once noticed my paintings were playing out the movement I made when I had brushed on the wash of frottage. That is, the stroke of the large brush and its wide long sweep came later to conscious attention, while making an image, or not, to represent its pure motion, just as the wadded rag's irregular folds set out the mountain range and lotus petals in that first one in the fall of 1969.
Five and Dime Books, Abaton Press
"The fundamental element of this cosmos is space. Space is the all-embracing principle of higher unity. Its nature is emptiness; and because it is empty, it can contain and embrace everything. In contrast to Space is the concept of substance, of differentiation, of 'thingness'. But nothing can exist without space. Space is the pre-condition of all that exists, be it in material or immaterial form, because we cannot imagine an object nor a being without space. Space, therefore, is not only a condition sine qua non of all existence. But a fundamental property of our consciousness."
"Our consciousness determines the kind of space in which we live. The infinity of space and the infinity of consciousness are identical."
-Lama Anagarika Govinda
Some Notes on Cyberliths
The question arises, always, about the intention of the artist. I hold, that any such intention predetermines the outcome of the work of art, and thereby prevents the entry of the unknown. And the unknown is the very subject of all art. Like Space, it is all-receptive.
The work that results is an object of contemplation, that leads the mind of man, the seat of his consciousness, to spaces not seen or even imagined before. The life of the painting, the photons organized by color as it deflects them from its surface, is streaming directly by optical channels to the brain. Eyes are the viscera exposed, openings directly to the center of the brain, a tool for organizing the body to imagine and test its extension in space.
Space as the subject of painting can point to photos made by the Hubble telescope. Just as 'outer' (as we call it) space contains bodies of size beyond our capability to imagine, so the space of a painting accommodates fragments from beyond powers of past imaginings. Whether objects in a still life, the spaces in a forest, the fragments of an object or just particles of paint, it is true (but of course, what cannot be true) to the laws of the space in our galaxy and universe.
Experience of this suspension on a magnetic ladder, our structure in space and time, reminds us how fragmentary we are. We are those magnetic fields interacting with bosons to make a floating accretion of myriad parts cohere. It is Intersection. No wonder the human eye can connect dots.
It is my pleasure, from early attempts to find a way to paint a compound subject, to have encountered time enclosing another time, where I stumbled onto a space perpendicular to the picture plane and with Jackson Pollock's lead, to remove measurement, encountered multiple times in space. No longer, since Cezanne, was it necessary to overthrow a single point of view ruled by converging lines.
The problem, of course, is to make such a complex and active work aid the viewer in repose so he can enter the meditative state, the only one where paintings are fully experienced.
Shapely art is made of lines. But those lines can and may be created simply by a viewer moving his eye from place to place on the surface of a painting, the movement to connect points in space a metaphor for larger motion.