26 January 2017

Reading about John Berger

At the top of the piles of books are those I want to read soon - they get shifted up as more books are added to the heap - 
About Looking (1980) is not, of course, his memorable tv series Ways of Seeing (1972), but it will be worth another look.

The memories published in the Guardian included a couple of paragraphs that struck a chord with me. Geoff Dyer wrote:
he was reliant, to the end, on his art school discipline of drawing. If he looked long and hard enough at anything it would either yield its secrets or, failing that, enable him to articulate why the withheld mystery constituted its essence. This holds true not just for the writings on art but also the documentary studies (of a country doctor in A Fortunate Man and of migrant labour in A Seventh Man), the novels, the peasant trilogy Into Their Labours, and the numerous books that refuse categorisation. Whatever their form or subject the books are jam-packed with observations so precise and delicate that they double as ideas – and vice versa. “The moment at which a piece of music begins provides a clue to the nature of all art,” he writes in “The Moment of Cubism”. In Here Is Where We Meet he imagines “travelling alone between Kalisz and Kielce a hundred and fifty years ago. Between the two names there would always have been a third – the name of your horse.”
Olivia Laing wrote:
His essays on painting are packed with unforgettable images, the diligent, inspired seeing of an artist who’d given himself over to written language. Vermeer’s rooms, “which the light fills like water in a tank”. Goya, whose cross-hatched tones gave “a human body the filthy implication of fur”. Bonnard’s “dissolving colours, making his subjects unattainable, nostalgic”. Pollock’s “great walls of silver, pink, new gold, pale blue nebulae seen through dense skeins of swift dark or light lines”. Art criticism is rarely this plain, this fruitful, or this adamant that what happens on a canvas has a bearing on our human lives.
I also liked the idea of "reapprehending possibilities". Whatever that actually means, it sounds fruitful...
His readers are the inheritors, across all the decades of his work, of a legacy that will always reapprehend the possibilities. 
Berger at home in Paris in 1999 (via)
Ali Smith said that without him, we must continue to pay "creative attention", and  his friend Simon McBurney wrote:
He was never not listening.

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