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Mari Slaattelid
jun. 2019|Article

You can stand behind it, in the lee of the lantern with its tiny opening, a blind spot that resembles an eye. Standing behind this green, sweeping gaze, turned towards the fjord, you can paint a coastal landscape. You can paint a lantern, the one with the green gaze. The only thing you can’t paint is the gaze.

All painting is from a centre. Either it lights up or it doesn’t, as lanterns do. It takes up a position at the forefront of the wall, concealed by nothing. There it alternates between two versions of itself, warm object and cold fiction. Painting is these two things switching on and off: what hangs there on the wall, the physical thing in all its essence, or, a moment later, the illusion of space. What you see is either the thing or the space. No matter how shallow the illusion, still the change occurs. As easy as can be, you perceive both versions, yet each in turn. You do not constantly see what it is you’re dealing with: a type of paint, a certain type of canvas, mounted on a stretcher.

Painting is a positive form, a temptation. It’s a naive yearning-for-the-world that reminds you of what you always wanted. You don’t need to be enlightened or edified. The serendipitous painting always lies ahead of you.

Most of what you’ve been hoarding can be left behind. You can safely lose almost everything en route or throw it away once and for all when you arrive. You won’t miss a single one of the images or ideas you dispose of, and neither will they miss you.

Images themselves have memory. Suppose you flick through a book so fast that nothing sticks in the mind. Suddenly you’ve turned too many pages and you have to go back to check, until what you actually saw recognizes you.

A man on a ladder, the land across the fjord, a triangle on a mast fastened to the rock. Below him on the fjord, he has everyone who knows they’ve been seen, who knows they’re in the picture. For him everything is spirit-level level, the black fjord and the black land. Cosmologically he’s at home, a semblance of Caspar David Friedrich’s observers with their backs to the viewer, 200 years back in time, every one of them sent out like him, for the sake of painting.

Sometimes you see something and recognise immediately an image that will last. It will hang about your legs like a dog, and the dog becomes a figure for this very different image, another one that won’t go away, and which appeared from nowhere, full of trust and loyalty right from the start.

Why does one work put another in the shade? There is something at stake and art lies in not knowing what it is. General experiences are to be channelled into the painting and out again, and the same for intentions. Cleverness has to keep out of sight; what’s clever is in vain. You never have the overview nor control over what the work implies. In laying out events and views, you draw conviction from a wild practice. Theory – on its own flight between things in the world – does not know and cannot grasp why painting is three things: authority, humidity and weight.

Sometimes a film is accompanied by a behind-the-scenes film, a film about the film, an after-the-event account of what was happening outside the frame while the main film was being shot, this other film with a looser, lighter camera use. The film about the film is literal. Behind the scenes, the light is different and the sound is messy. Laughter is more relaxed than in the main film, and backstage the characters live their own bashful lives. They show and tell, letting air into inner rooms, leaving doors to private spaces ajar. The behind-the-scenes film has a charisma the main film has to do without. Like something that isn’t fiction, it occupies the very front of the screen.

What would a behind-the-picture picture be, given that the word barely exists? Deep Images is the term Robert Bly applies to his own poetic visual language, in which the laws of objectivity and logic no longer apply. In the real world, a behind-the-picture picture, that which precedes poetry and art, is a climate, a sense of the world, where visual material comes into being. Behind-the-picture pictures give other pictures their direction, they anticipate them, infuse them with light and air. Every out-front picture draws its colour from the picture behind. In the space in front of and around the actual picture, what lies behind is the great unknown. Semi-vision has already played its part and left the stage by the time the full picture lights up.

The world sees. The world you see sees you. The openness to being seen, or the sense of being part of the picture you see, equals to be home. When you extract a picture from the world, that picture contains you, you within the picture. In the behind-the-picture picture, you take part. In your own pictures, however, you don’t have to fiddle about. You are in the basic picture, you are here. If the behind-the-picture picture exists, it contains you.