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  • Spontaneity Displayed through Technology
  • Jacques Mandelbrojt

In previous articles and notes [1,2] I have pointed out and interpreted several characteristics of my paintings:

  1. 1. I make them very swiftly, but only once I have a clear mental image of the painting I want to make and when I anticipate the strokes of the brush that I will make.

  2. 2. A consequence of this way of working is that I leave the background of the paintings blank. This corresponds to the discontinuous character of mental images. "One characteristic of the mental image of Pierre is that it is sparse," writes Sartre [3].

  3. 3. I often make paintings in series, each one being, so to speak, a consequence of the previous one, so that a series corresponds to a flow of images in my mind.

  4. 4. I like painting on long, narrow canvases starting from the top (for vertical painting) and continuing to the bottom without going back. The format of the painting induces the onlooker also to view the painting from top to bottom, so that these paintings have, so to speak, a vertical axis of time. When several paintings of a series of such vertical paintings are put side by side, this series therefore has two axes of time: a vertical one corresponding to the virtual intrinsic time of each painting, and a horizontal one corresponding to the succession of the paintings [4]. This can also be done with Japanese folding albums (Fig. 2a). Although most of my series are stacks of paintings, one is a folding album (see Fig. 2b).

Time being an essential element of my paintings, they thus have a natural link to music, which is the art of time. The recent CD Paintings Perused (produced by Laboratoire de Musique et Informatique de Marseille [MIM]) [5] is made up of 400 of my paintings distributed in seven sequences—one for each of the composers of MIM. Seven marks appear simultaneously on the screen of the computer, each one corresponding to one of the sequences. When one clicks on one of the marks, the paintings of the corresponding sequence are seen one after the other, while the corresponding music is heard. Both the paintings and the music were made especially for this CD; in four of the sequences the composer chose a sequence of paintings and then composed music inspired by that sequence. In the other three, I made paintings inspired by the music of the composers.

These sequences of paintings accompanied by music turn out to be a natural framework for the characteristics of my paintings, as described above. The method suggests, as shown below, a specific way to introduce spontaneity into the visual arts.

In Paintings Perused, although each elementary painting in a sequence can be considered complete, the painting I wish to consider is the sequence itself and not one of its elements ( just as a conventional painting is often built by degrees, layer after layer, as if several pictures were resting on one another). This sequence is a space-time painting, which, like music, creates a flow of sensations. It corresponds to the sequence of paintings I described above, but the flow is all the more evident, as the music gives a beginning and an end to the flow of the elementary paintings in each sequence. Each of these space-time paintings seems to me to respond to what Delacroix longed for: "We should make sketch-paintings with the spontaneity and directness of a sketch" [6]. Each elementary painting in the sequence is spontaneous, like a sketch; the sequence itself has the richness of a painting.

Two Kinds of Time in Sequence

I mentioned earlier the two different kinds of time seen in a sequence of vertical paintings. In Paintings Perused, each elementary painting in a sequence also has its own time—virtual time recapturing the brush-stroke, its ampli-fication, [End Page 380] rapidity and intensity. "A painting is time that has become space," asserted painter Olivier Debré in a TV interview. In this respect, as I have emphasized [7], I find that the pencil or the paintbrush is more eloquent than the mouse of a computer, which, in my opinion, rarely...


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