NOW it is a different sort of contest - not what you saw - not what you - we - talked about. Now the contest is between knowing and not knowing. Since you were here - a week ago? - I've painted three pictures - the first - a brick wall, me & Musa behind it. In front of the wall, a sort of scrimmage is taking place - arms, discs, etc., the abstract forces are trying to pile themselves up into a permanent mound - BUT - a hammer looming in from the top-side is definitely hitting this structure, making it seem as if it is crumbling, collapsing. Added to all of this, and below my profile and Musa's frontal view, is a fluttering, a merry mix-up of buzzing insects - bugs - demon bugs - a happy commotion. They, too, seem to be adding (I know they are) to the general dismantling of the piled-up structure. It is a painting of crumbling - of dissolution. As I look at it now - today - I was heading for another state of feeling not known to me.
The second picture is of me talking and smoking in a vast blue-gray but dense atmosphere. I am talking feverishly - there is a big pileup of cigarette butts plastered right smack on my cheek - and they form - God knows what - some sort of thick cluster of stuff, which moves in a sort of radial-like movement - in - out - and across (BUT THEY ARE STUCK!). I started to shake when I painted this picture, God, there is no picture plane! It is just real, that's all there is - just real - no plane at all - What nonsense - this idea of a plane - No - all there finally is left is just the moment - the second - of life's gesture - fixed forever - in an image - there - to be seen. (You could put your hand right into the image!)
Everything else is only a notion - a cluster of notions about art, just programming you might say. Well, this smoking talking man set me on my ear - I couldn't wait to start on the next. I decided to do a large one - on the wall this time. It is Thursday - the day you were here a week ago - and I have painted a large - large - cluster of people - beings, in a flood of closeness - there is no picture plane now whatsoever - There is now instead every mood - from anger - to sorrow - to peace - to resignation - to awe - to stillness - no movement, no diagram at all of held ideas - it is a mound of flesh, of eyes, cheeks, ears, bones, craniums - you could run your hand over it all, go into the narrow spaces between the heads, but there wouldn't be much room at all. A feather might barely get in. There is no order especially - if there is an order to it at all, I don't know it - don't comprehend it - it is like nothing I've done before - not one area in this mound stops to let you look at it. Ah, so that's what "art" is - lets you stop - isolate it - lets us "see" it - but here in this new picture there is "nothing" to see - except multitudes of masses, that go on forever - in the mind. There is no plane - at all. You could mingle with this crowd, move into it - submerge yourself in it - be part of it. You would hear voices, murmurs, weeping -
- Philip Guston