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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Monday, July 31, 2006
    The compulsion of the artist
     
    The French painter Pierre Bonnard was feeling very depressed one day so his friends took him to the Louvre in Paris to look at the art - and it was observed that he spent a lot of time staring out through the windows. When the visit was over and the group had departed, they paused for coffee and reflected about what had impressed them most. 'I liked the windows best of all,' offered Bonnard.
    Another fabulous French painter, the prodigiously rebellious Jean Dubuffet, frequently expressed a related idea: 'When the pompous platforms of culture are erected and awards and laurels come raining down, then flee as fast as you can, there'll be little hope for art.'
    The compulsion of the artist, it seems, is not only to make art but to flee and flee and to keep on fleeing - out the windows towards what is personal and what is real. To flee the world of art!


    - I find myself reading Michael Leunig again tonight, for refreshment and renewal and because in a moment of strange clarity I realised that I wanted to compose next week's five BBC Thoughts for the Day in a Leunig style... which brought me back to a familiar and welcoming place somewhere very deep in my centre...

    The quote is from a recent article which Leunig wrote in The Age, linked from a new Leunig website which carries some great pieces of writing by the Melbourne cartoonist, some lovely pieces of visual art by the philosopher of the everyday.

    The quote describes very well the compulsion which gripped me today... to flee towards what is personal and what is real. I find myself writing common prayers about wheelie bins, shipping containers, plastic bags, phone masts, and shopping trolleys.