If it is successful, I’d throw out everything

Mercer Street (You Just Know That This Sends You) ©MAIERMOUL
Mercer Street (You Just Know That This Sends You) ©MAIERMOUL

Light on the surface as well as light in the depth is somewhat what I mean.

David Sylvester: Something’s got to determine, while you’re working, your idea of what you’re driving toward. What would that criterion be?

Well, to be specific, I might think I would like to do four red shapes that are all the same size but each is slightly different. And then I’d like to do a blue shape that’s the same size as a red one, with the idea that all these things can be the same size. But each has a different meaning and a different space in relation to what’s next to it. Now, that’s an idea, and an idea does not make a beautiful painting. So as this progresses as I paint, I become more and more involved in the drawing, the colour, the work, the size of the canvas, and not that idea — although it’s that idea that got me going — so that, if it is successful, I’d throw out everything but the actual painting of it. But something of that original idea transcends it, and hopefully gives the picture that much more meaning.

David Sylvester: ‘Beautiful’ is a word that has become in our time unfashionable.I think when I say ‘beautiful’ I mean something moving to someone who really knows. Now, that’s an infuriating thing to say, because most people would say: how dare you, who says you know and I don’t know? Or that you can see and I can’t see? So that I sound very dogmatic, because if you use the word ‘beautiful’, you also use words like ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘right’, ‘wrong’ — though I wouldn’t say ‘ugly’ was the opposite of ‘beautiful’, since many clumsy pictures can be beautiful pictures. Dead unfelt pictures are not beautiful, don’t work. If you have seen enough and know enough and your feelings are open enough to allow yourself to be moved or puzzled– there are relatively few people like this — you just know that this sends you, this is beautiful–

-Helen Frankenthaler, Interviews with American Artists, Yale University Press 2001, David Sylvester