Forty three years have passed since I sent my first letter at the age of ten. I don’t remember which address I sent the letter to, and therefore that letter is like a message in a bottle cast into the open sea. As early as my childhood I got to know you and was exposed to the cubistic charm when I was studying painting according to the artist André Lhote’s school. I sent you my letter out of profound amazement for your personality and works. It was in 1963, ten years before your death. And now, after more than forty years have passed, I write you again, and I sense and know that even though you are no longer among the living – my letter is relevant. We, artists, create for our environment, but principally for those who haven’t been born yet. When we labor over our handiwork we are analogous to dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, for we hold a dialogue with past creators who have left our world but have left their impression through their works: and we, artists of the present, are influenced by their works and learn from them.
On writing to you now, I sense you are sitting opposite me and I am talking to you out of my most profound thoughts, and I’m certain that in a few days you’ll receive my letter.
An obsession is a troubling thought that man knows of its existence but finds difficulty in getting rid of it. For me you are a positive obsession bestowing strength, motivation and pathos for constant experimentation in the field of creative thought in general and in painting in particular. I am aware of the fact that my identification with you results from some resemblance in our personalities. Despite the difference between us I experience the volcanic flow within you, searching its outlet in obsessive and intensive, unrelenting and restlesscreativity. Your compulsive work is based on infinite research of the exposed reality and of the pictorial codes representing it, and it requests to reveal new actualities by means of innovative forms in the pictorial language.
Some say that on the one hand I’m an artist – create unflaggingly, as the Sambation River whose waves beat the rocksthrough a storm - and on the other, I’m dressed in a bourgeois coat. Possibly the bourgeois coat obstructs and delays me, but perhaps it is just this which grants me the balancing strength required to forge a productive path through the stormy creation, without deteriorating into self-destruction.
I have researched your life in depth. You too looked for an Archimedes point of bourgeois stability, and you found it in the studio closed from any preying eyes, in the suitable space which enabled you to focus on the white canvas and attack it wildly. The work is analogous to a bow and arrow shot to the target. In order to succeed in this you have to be recruited to a mission of skill, concentration, discipline, focus and attentiveness. We are in need of the bourgeois coat, so that the hand will manage to hold the bow with tenacity, and without shaking, so that the eye remains focused on the target without blinking – all this for the benefit of a precise shot.
You, Picasso, went to the very extreme in the field of painting. You allowed the hand to move in a conscious flow across the paper and reveal still undreamed of forms. “I don't seek – I find”, you said. But my research of you teaches that you searched before finding. You based yourself on a primary pictorial and amorphous schema which crystallized vaguely in your visual imagination and freed your imagination and hand for revealing the wistful, “to take the hand and the line for a walk”, in the words of Paul Klee, revealing the new. You weren’t satisfied with one painting, but you immersed yourself in an infinite number of sketches in order to give birth to the yearned for schema and create form for the concealed actuality you were searching for.
In your later years you sensed you had missed the target, as if you had only grasped half your heart’s desire. You couldn’t be satisfied and quenched. You felt you needed another decade to create the new style you still hadn’t formed, the new naturalism, as you coin it. Fifty years of wandering towards the chaotic style, in a process of deconstructing form and shattering order. From time to time you returned to the classical style, but you continued with your wanderings towards deconstruction, towards revelation of a process of morphogenesis, in presenting infinite alternatives for the evolving form. On the deathbed the desire to return to paint burned within you in order to give birth to the new substantiality which you had still not managed to painton the white canvas, although it was already ablaze in your feverish brain. Chronos, the god of time, maybe the devil too, didn’t concede to your request, and at the age of 91 they put an end to your wanderings, Goldmund wanderings. You have left behind you a comprehensive and variegated opus, which froma bird’s eye view can be distinguished by a clear trend of gradual transition from the realistic to the expressive, on to the cubistic and surrealistic, a diverse and infinite metamorphosis. Like a child modeling plasticine and creating amorphous and distorted forms, so you have searched after the logic in transformation from one form to another, from any pictorial schema to a new schema.
You were both a research scientist and a wizard. You endeavored to investigate reality and comprehend the secret of its truths through art’s reflection of the lie. As a wizard you attempted to insert a partition of a pictorial mask between life and the hostile and enigmatic world. Scores of amazing artists, first class creators, surrounded you. You were influenced and you influenced. Through your dominant personality and your virtuoso creativity you became a leader. On Henri Matisse’s death you felt that a great vacuum had evolved, and you painted his studio with an empty white canvas at its center – a painting which Matisse did not manage to paint.
Numerous painters wept at your death and mourned your going. Some of them I have met. There were of course artists who felt relief at your demise, although lamented you, as they felt frustration in the face of your power and greatness. Even decades following your death this was the feeling of numerous artists. After you everyone felt like after Bach, Mozart and Beethoven - if, how and what is possible to create in the shadow of giants such as these?Artists endeavored to make their way in other creative fields in order to avoid competition against your virtuoso hands. However, in the thirty years which have passed since the day of your demise we, artists, feel that it is impossible to escape any longer from the white canvas, and we are returning to it. We are in need of a new configurational visionin order to return to painting and continue to construct the Mecca which simultaneously conceals and reveals the world’s enigma; the metamorphosis, begun by you with your amazingly productive swing of creativity and continuing for eighty years of inexhaustible work. We bow down in silence towards your bed while you are dying, petitioning your advice and asking, quietly and cautiously, “and what next? What’s the secret of the new schema in the morphology of painting?” And you choke, coughing, wringing and with a contorted face– attempt to tell us something, to whisper your advice for the next generation. With a shaky hand you indicate to us to put in it paper and a pencil so that you may write a few words, and yet when we wish to give you a drawing book and the pencil – you return your soul to the creator of the world before managing to convey to us the secrets of the blazing beacon and its clues. And on your soul’s departure the blazing beacon has been extinguished forever. You have not managed to draw the sketch of the new configurational schema, but by the last ounce of your strength caused us to realize that it goes on, that there is hope, and that we are obligated to reveal the new style applicable to our era.
I am now staring at the ceiling, listening to enchanting Greek music, looking at your portrait from the 1920s, where you are standing upright at a street corner, sporting a hat and box of paints in your hand, a solid figure, strong, sensitive face, sealed, sad, not smiling to the world, I see in my imagination how you go and disappear, apparently to your home, to the studio. The wintry light peeps through the half-open shutter, the cat waits for you and the white canvas – greatly blinds the wonderful morning – waiting for the touch of the brush’s quiver.
There are four types of people: those that consider everything is chance, a series of random cases and nothing more, those that believe everything happens in accordance with a delimited divine command, those who choose their path in life and make their way on it while taking into consideration the infinite number of mazes of limits and restrictions, and those who claim that everything is possible, that liberty is limitless.
You, Picasso, you knew that there are boundaries, you knew that there is randomness and you knew that the hand of God is directing from above. However, between these three apexes you touched the secret of being, where “everything flows” and you lived according tothe need of ”creating yourself” in maximal liberty and with experimental daring. By means of your work you taught us that together with randomness, destiny’s command and life’s restrictions there is liberty in life and in nature and that is the gushing strength, from which everything arises and to which everything returns.
I am sending you my second letter about forty years after having sent my first, which has most certainly vanished into the depths of the sea. I’ll write you the rest in my paintings.
Yours in profound respect,
Ramat Gan, 18 April 2006