25 August 2016

Cave Youth

 How he sees himself, and by association the artist, anywhere, anytime, is part of the mystery of his late works, and can only be disentangled from the web of consideration at peril of losing the real meaning of a lifetime's work. "I must quote you something from an essay by Evgeny Zamyatin," he writes in September 1974:

No revolution, no heresy, is comfortable and easy. Because it is a leap, it is a rupture of the smooth evolutionary curve and a rupture is a wound, a pain. But it is a necessary wound: most people suffer from hereditary sleeping sickness, and those who are sick with this ailment (entropy) must be allowed to sleep, or they will go to their last sleep, the sleep of death.
This same sickness is common to artists and writers: they go contentedly to sleep in their favourite artistic form which they have devised, then twice revised. They do not have the strength to wound themselves, to cease to love what has become dear to them, They do not have the strength to come out of their lived-in, laurel-scented rooms, to come out in the open air and start anew. To wound oneself, it is true, is difficult, even dangerous. But to live today as yesterday and yesterday as today is more difficult for the living.

Guston adds: “I jumped out of my skin, as you can imagine, when I read this.” But, he says, and but again…

— Dore Ashton, A Critical Study of Philip Guston 

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