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Quoting the artist
Contrary to a generally held view, I think that painting is not in any direct sense a means of communication or a means of self-expression. When you are painting you are trying to discover, to uncover, to reveal. I sometimes think of the activity of painting as a kind of archaeology - an archaeology of the spirit.1
Art is neither an instrument nor a convenience, but a secret logic of the imagination. It is another way of seeing, the whole sense and value of which lies in its autonomy, its distance from actuality, its otherness.3
I do not, myself, believe in artistic creation. In art as in science, I believe in discovery.4
The painter, like the archaeologist, is a watcher, a supervisor of accident; patiently disturbing the surface of things until significant accident becomes apparent, recognising it, conserving this as best he can while provoking further accident. In this way a whole image, a whatness, may with luck gradually emerge almost spontaneously.5
Since painting first interested me, I have been drawn to a constant tradition which I think of as central to this old European art. This implies a peculiar use of oil paint; not to symbolize, not to describe the object, nor to realize an abstract image but rather to allow the paint, while insisting upon its own palpable nature, to reconstitute the object of one’s experience: to metamorphose into the image of an apple, a sky, a human back.6
In certain works of old masters, the paint (with its qualities of colour, tone and texture) has been transformed into the experienced object. Obversely the image of the object has become paint. This dichotomy, this tension pulls taut the nerves of insight. Reality is stripped down to a deeper layer and the ordinary is seen to be marvellous.7
I think of the art of painting as another way of seeing another approach to reality - another porthole, as it were, in the submerged bathysphere of our consciousness.8
In the context of our everyday lives, painting must be regarded as an entirely different form of awareness, for an essential quality of art is its alienation, its otherness. In art at most profound level, actuality – exterior reality – is seen to be relevant, parallel, but remote or curiously dislocated.9.
To see is to transform. Art is a transformer.10
What counts in painting is, I believe, recognition of significant accident within a larger preoccupation and not dexterity and skill and calculated imposition.11
The painting itself dictates and, although the resultant image may seem rhetorical to some it appears to me to be almost autonomous, having emerged under one’s hands and not because of them.12
The hand can act as an independent being to bring about the emergence of the image. The painter must wait for this without imposing his ideas, watching intensely and critically for what may happen.13
Like the Celts I tend to regard the head as this magic box containing the spirit. Enter that box, enter behind the billowing curtain of the face, and you have the whole landscape of the spirit.14
Clearly, it is not possible to paint the spirit. You cannot paint consciousness. You start with the knowledge we all have that the most significant human reality lies beneath material appearance. So, in order to recognise this, to touch this as a painter, I try to paint the head image from the inside out.15
People believe - it's a reaction I've often come across during exhibitions - that in some way you're making a "statement" about the person you've painted. I'm not making a statement at all, you know, I'm simply trying to discover, to uncover, aspects of the Beckettness of Beckett, the Baconness of Bacon.16
In painting you can only hope for discovery. Invention for me is Recognition.17
I once came across a Chinese acupuncturist on French television who seemingly could alter the metabolism of a growing lemon as effectively as that of a human being. I was fascinated. For years I had myself been trying to realise the interiority of lemons and other fruit throughout the 'Presence' period and beyond - trying to discover some image of their inner reality. It would seem that life, in its multiplicity of forms, is one.18
1 Louis le Brocquy, 'Notes on painting and awareness,' Address at the seminar 'Corps, Poésie, Peinture', Faculté des Lettres et Sciences Humaines, Université de Nice, 8 February 1979. Reproduced in Dorothy Walker, Louis le Brocquy (Dublin: Ward River Press 1981; London: Hodder & Stoughton 1982).
3 Louis le Brocquy, 'A Painter's Notes on his Irishness', The Recorder, Vol. 42, (New York: The American Irish Historical Society, 1981). Reproduced in Dorothy Walker, Louis le Brocquy (Dublin: Ward River Press 1981; London: Hodder & Stoughton 1982)
4 Louis le Brocquy, 'An Interview with Louis le Brocquy by George Morgan', The Irish Landscape (Kinsale: Gandon Editions 1992).
5 Louis le Brocquy, 'Notes on painting and awareness,' Address at the seminar 'Corps, Poésie, Peinture', op cit.
6 Louis le Brocquy, 'Notes on painting and awareness,' Address at the seminar 'Corps, Poésie, Peinture', op cit.
7 Louis le Brocquy, 'The Human Head: Notes on Painting & Awareness', 18th Distinguished International Department Lecture, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (Dublin, 14 November 2005) Edited from Actes du Colloque 'Corps-Poésie-Peinture', Faculté des Lettres de Nice Métaphores, No. 5 (Nice, February 8, 1979)
11 Louis le Brocquy, 'Notes on painting and awareness,' Address at the seminar 'Corps, Poésie, Peinture', op cit.
12 Louis le Brocquy, 'The Human Head: Notes on Painting & Awareness', 18th Distinguished International Department Lecture, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, op cit.
15 Louis le Brocquy, 'An Interview with Louis le Brocquy by George Morgan', The Irish Landscape (Kinsale: Gandon Editions 1992). p.13.
16 Louis le Brocquy, Michael Peppiatt, 'Interview with Louis le Brocquy', Art International, Lugano, Vol. XXIII/7, October 1979, p. 66. Reproduced in Louis le Brocquy, The Head Image (Kinsale: Gandon Editions, 1996).
17 Louis le Brocquy, 'Notes on painting and awareness,' Address at the seminar 'Corps, Poésie, Peinture', op cit.
18 Louis le Brocquy quoted by Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith, 'The Human Image Paintings of Louis le Brocquy', Notes, le Brocquy Archive, 2002.