Abstract Canvas Prints No 71 : ‘Is this what I see?’
If ten people want to stand on a hill and take a photograph of the same view, using the same camera, the results would be near identical.
If the same ten people sat down for a few days and painted that view, the results would be markedly different.
Not because one individual might be a more accomplished artist than the other, but owing to the nature of humans: we can all look at the same view, but we don’t see quite the same thing.
We bring our own unique mix of prejudices, experiences, tastes and knowledge to any given situation, informing how we interpret what is before us.
We’ll see things we find interesting and ignore those that we don’t.
Given such a task, I’m fairly sure that Cézanne would have picked out a combination of static subject: farm buildings, water trough, hay.
That’s because he preferred to paint entities that didn’t move: motifs at which he could take a good long look, that afforded him the chance to have a proper think about what he was seeing.
He was an artist determined to figure out how a painter could represent a subject with complete accuracy: not a fleeting moment like an impressionist landscape, or the one-view-fits-all accuracy of a photograph, but accurate in the sense of it being a true reflection of a rigorously observed subject.
It was an issue that tormented him. Asked what his greatest aspiration was, he replied with just one word, ‘Certainty’.
The critic Barbra Rose got it right when she said that the old master’s starting point was, ‘This is what I see’, whereas Cézanne’s was, ‘Is this what I see?’