Monday, August 03, 2009

when poets make pictures...

jacques prevert collage 4

jacques prevert collage 5

jacques prevert collage 6

jacques prevert collage 7

jacques prevert collage 3

jacques prevert collage 2

jacques prevert collage 1

anyone who is familiar with the blog already knows my love of visual work by certain writers - brion gysin, henri michaux, victor hugo, and hans christian andersen. here, a post on another visual body of work by a writer - the collages of jacques prévert.

prévert, of course, is known as a poet, and probably most famous for his poem - to paint a portrait of a bird:

First paint a cage
with an open door
then paint
something pretty
something simple
something beautiful
something useful
for the bird
then place the canvas against a tree
in a garden
in a wood
or in a forest
hide behind the tree
without speaking
without moving …
Sometimes the bird comes quickly
but he can just as well spend long years
before deciding
Don’t get discouraged
wait years if necessary
the swiftness or slowness of the coming
of the bird having no rapport
with the success of the picture
When the bird comes
if he comes
observe the most profound silence
wait till the bird enters the cage
and when he has entered
gently close the door with a brush
paint out all the bars one by one
taking care not to touch any of the feathers of the bird
Then paint the portrait of the tree
choosing the most beautiful of its branches
for the bird
paint also the green foliage and the wind’s freshness
the dust of the sun
and the noise of insects in the summer heat
and then wait for the bird to decide to sing
If the bird doesn’t sing
it’s a bad sign
a sign that the painting is bad
but if he sings it’s a good sign
a sign that you can sign
so then so gently you pull out
one of the feathers of the bird
and you write your name in a corner of the picture

prévert made collages for much of his life, although the beautiful book i have on his collage work is in french, so i hardly have any facts to share. clearly his friendship with several of the surrealists were an influence on these things (the introduction to this book was written by breton's friend and collaborator philippe soupault).

certainly, max ernst's collage works should be at the forefront of any discussion of such similar work, but i think unlike someone like frederick sommer, who seems to be working from ernst as a true model, prévert works his way into his own territory - much like the psychedelic approach of bruce conner.

surrealist tendencies can be seen in all of prévert's collages in terms of horror, fantasy, and eroticism; but many of them carry a kind of somber pathos, as well as subtlety, that is all his own. some of the works feel very much like the late collages of joseph cornell - mostly because they are just plain "weird", but what prévert's best works really share with cornell's late works is a feeling that these objects are connected more to cosmic truths than grounded ones - i.e. the mystery contained in the worlds they create speaks to us about the unseen things within our own... good stuff indeed.

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Blogger ArtSparker said...

They have some serenity in them, while Ernst made operas - admittedly, his materials tended that way. I have the bird poem hanging in my apartment.

10:02 AM  
Blogger gd said...

steve, whats the name of this prevert collage book?
id love to find a copy.

10:30 AM  
Blogger sroden said...

it is simply called jacques prevert collages... i suppose at least it's a truthful title...:-)

7:35 PM  
Blogger Will said...

I had no idea! Searching for a copy immediately.

Thinking of the visual work of writers, I keep meaning to feature this book of Queneau's drawings and paintings. Buchet Chastel also publishes a book of Apollinaire's art (just stumbled on it), so they might have a series we should investigate.

8:09 PM  

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