Preferred Citation: Creeley, Robert. The Collected Essays of Robert Creeley. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1989 1989.

René Laubiès: An Introduction

René Laubiès:
An Introduction

One doesn't have to develop theories to look at anything, all he has to do is open his eyes and look. Or call that the rational minimum for an attitude toward some character of painting which may not have a formal category, or some settled opinion concerning it, which can be appropriated for a guide.

Such guides are in fact deceptive. What the eye sees is also deceptive, but in a more useful sense. Say, for example, that you come into a room, drop your coat on a chair, switch on a light—and there, on the wall, is the shadow of a monster—perhaps. Obviously it is a shadow, and what else could it be. Just as the man who looks like Harry is not Harry, unless he is Harry. But this can wait.

A picture is first a picture, the application of paint or ink or whatever to a given surface—which act shall effect a thing in itself significant, an autonomy. And it may of course be that there has been something seen, a visual impression, which the man painting wishes to record, literally, without distortion, that is, without more change of that impression than his media, and the limits of himself, enforce. So representational painting, as we know it, has partially at least the necessity to overcome, by virtue of technique and media, a disturbance of the object, of the thing, so that its use is in the fact of its transference, from there to here or wherever it is, to the picture—so at last the picture is the thing, without need of further reference.

It is here that nonfigurative art becomes relevant, insofar as it

Black Mountain Review , Spring 1954.


can be, in inception, without reference of this usual kind. But that is a vagary, and one which has caused much confusion. Forms are—there are no 'dead' forms; form is the declaration of life. And not at all generally, because what we call life is utterly specific, and must be—to be itself. But the nonfigurative painter does not begin with the bowl of apples, however much he may see it. Or if he does begin there, his process is different from that of the man who would paint it as 'real.' He eats the apple, and then paints the picture. That is the sense of it. So it is a different engagement, a different sense of intent.

But often, wandering through a gallery of contemporary work, one looks up at the walls, and is bored. It is nothing, the painting is not 'real.' A clutter of unspecific forms, without trees or sunsets, proves little.

And this is how it can fail, insofar as such 'forms' may have nothing to declare of themselves—except that they are 'A Painting,' which is very hopeful. Otherwise it could and does happen—no argument can withstand it—that at times we are all of us shaken by forms perhaps unidentified but intimately involved with us, and unmistakably. Can we anticipate that? Or is it ridiculous for me to see the shadow as a thing, a very real thing, which frightens me? Laubiès knows this very deeply, and anticipates it.

It is his art, if you will, to begin here, at this point of things as yet unrecognized, without more reference than themselves. It is his purpose to effect these things as form, as a painting, simply there. So that we are involved unmistakably—like a sound perhaps, which no 'language' has yet found 'words' for, may affect us nonetheless.


René Laubiès: An Introduction

Preferred Citation: Creeley, Robert. The Collected Essays of Robert Creeley. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1989 1989.