Bernard Noël does not consider writing that responds to art to be a translation into verbal form of a visual impression. He refuses to read images as signs, focusing instead on trace, gesture, and the artistic materials themselves, and seeks in his criticism not to represent the visual, but rather to investigate the shared material basis of canvas and paper, and to involve the reader in the reception of his text as he believes the viewer to be engaged by works of visual art. This article discusses in particular Noël’s essay ‘L’Encre et le vide’ (2001), written to accompany ink paintings by Zao Wou-Ki. Noël sees these images as projections of the body rather than as the expression of thoughts or experimentation with signs, and suggests that they rise up from the page. In turn, he grants his text volume and produces a sense of unfolding instead of description or analysis. With reference to Lyotard’s Discours, figure, I argue that Noël’s art writing is creative. Just as Lyotard’s figure, which disrupts discourse, is not equated simply with the intrusion of the visual into the verbal, here text and image are both shaped by their contact with one another.