"The eye is not enough..." / by Jeannine Cook

I found a wonderful quotation from Paul Cezanne in this week's Christian Science Monitor (http://www.csmonitor.com) . It was in an article about the French in Aix-en-Provence fighting the high speed railway that is possibly going to pass through the area Cezanne immortalised in his paintings of the area - think Mont Sainte Victoire, for instance (http://www.iblblio.org/wm/paint/auth/cezanne/st-victoire/). Cezanne was explaining his decision to leave the fast-paced urban sophistication of Paris and return to Aix, a very provincial, traditional, almost backwater town. He said, "The eye is not enough, reflection is needed".

It is a statement that goes back, in some ways, to the sense of place, and the need to allow that place to seep into one's subconscious. He was talking, I believe, about needing time to think deeply about what was important to him, what he wanted to try and say in his art in a genuine fashion, untrammeled by the much more relentless pace and demands of a big city. Some people thrive in a pressure-cooker environment, others don't. Cezanne had struggled to advance in his art in Paris, he had haunted the Louvre and frequented many other talented artists. But I suspect that many of us artists come to a stage where time and mental space are needed to allow changes and progress in the art we are trying to accomplish.

Cezanne also knew his home area well. He knew how and when the light would move over landscapes that he felt deeply about and thus wanted to explore in what would be innovative watercolours and oils. He knew the best seasons and times of day at which to paint Mont Ste. Victoire, for instance. He had the time to reflect on such rhythms and use them to his advantage. His canvases of the Jas de Bouffan landscapes show the same awareness of season and place. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_C%C3%A9zanne) He could reflect on how he wanted to depict still lifes, the people he knew well in Provence, the landscapes he loved. He had more time in Aix to create art that was pioneering, adventurous, highly individualistic and daring. He had been prescient to say that "the eye is not enough, reflection is needed". Perhaps we all need to remember this wise advice in our own paths in the art world.