Saturday, December 16, 2017 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Patrick Swift (1927 – 1983)


Irish-born painter who worked in Dublin, London and Algarve, Portugal.
Patrick Swift
To paint even a bottle is dramatic. A leaf will do.
Swift quotes
Good painting is not produced by any unintelligent following of inspiration or temperament.
Swift
New knowledge is only useful in so far as it opens up new vistas for the imagination, and no more so than the old forms which the artist must understand only in order to reject.




Swift Patrick quotes
The Art of painting is itself an intensely personal activity. It may be labouring the obvious to say so but it is too little recognised in art journalism now that a picture is a unique and private event in the life of the painter: an object made alone with a man and a blank canvas... A real painting is something which happens to the painter once in a given minute; it is unique in that it will never happen again and in this sense is an impossible object. It is judged by the painter simply as a success or failure without qualification. And it is something which happens in life not in art: a picture which was merely the product of art would not be very interesting and could tell us nothing we were not already aware of. The old saying, “what you don’t know can’t hurt you”, expresses the opposite idea to that which animates the painter before his canvas. It is precisely what he does not know which may destroy him.
Swift Patrick
In so far as it is concerned with truth that goes beyond appearance and form, art is transcendental. The consciousness of this is often a snare for the painter who is led by a false preoccupation with some literary or intellectual conception of reality into a time-conscious literary form. Nano Reid realised with the instinct of a painter that for her the whole truth existed in the head, the body, the structure of life: it lay there revealed in the form, the line, a timeless and profound reality.
Patrick Swift quotes
You may know a good painter by his habit of work: a good painter works constantly.
Patrick Swift
Obey God by living spontaneously.
Swift Patrick quotes
Caravaggio speaks to us out of a consciousness that is brooding and obsessive, and affects us in a way that is not simply artistic. By this I mean that he comes close to presenting us with a sensation of amorphous and desperate desire unredeemed by an authoritative vision. It can be felt in the apprehensive boredom of the unsuccessful pictures and in the oppressive intensity of the best. If this sensation were deep enough it might have destructive effects, since we all live within that margin of order which we succeed in imposing on life, i.e., on the unfulfilled longings of the heart, and his work might then be truly diabolic. His genius operates in that world of antithesis where the conflict between ideal and reality rages, and the moral victory, i.e., the ultimate affirmation of the goodness of life, is always so tenuously won that we feel the dread of chaos intensely- even when he is completely successful. If there could be such a contradictory phenomenon as the uninnocent artist he might be it. He indicates the sort of sensations we might expect from such a monster. But since he is wholly innocent beneath the apparent evidence of corruption he ends by moving us in a profound and religious way.
Swift
For to be contemporary is not necessarily to be part of any movement, to be included in the official representations of national and international art. History shows that it may well be the opposite. It may be that it is the odd, the personal, the curious, the simply honest, that at this moment, when everyone looks to the extreme and flamboyant, constitutes the most interesting manifestation of the spirit of art.
Swift Patrick
The virtue of hope has only a serious position within the eschatology of true religion. To the man who prays it is the supreme virtue. Art on the other hand speaks to us of resignation and rejoicing in reality, and does so through a transformation of our experience of the world into an order wherein all facts become joyous; the more terrible the material the greater the artistic triumph. This has nothing at all to do with "a constant awareness of the problems of our time" or any other vague public concern. It is a transformation that is mysterious, personal and ethical.* And the moral effect of art is only interesting when considered in the particular. For it is always the reality of the particular that provides the occasion and the spring of art — it is always "those particular trees/ that caught you in their mysteries" or the experience of some loved object. Not that the matter rests here. It is the transcendent imagination working on this material that releases the mysterious energies which move and speak of deepest existence. [*“An ethos is a difficult thing that cannot be formulated and codified; it is one of those creative irrationalities upon which real progress is based. It demands the whole man and not just a differentiated function” — Jung]
Patrick Swift
The interesting thing is what happens in the specific picture: its precision in terms of the sensations it produces — the illusion it creates and the effect of this illusion on the psychology opposed to it. General philosophical and technical information however interesting in itself is secondary to this reality.




Patrick Swift quotes
Its life depends on the degree to which it is inhabited by mystery, speaks to us of the unknown.
Patrick Swift
Life is more important than art — quantity is only important in that the amount of activity is greater not the number of works.
Swift quotes
I believe when you bring, say, a plant into a room, everything in that room changes in relation to it. This tension — tension is the only word for it — can be painted.
Swift Patrick
What trace of the creature subsists in the work. It is a way of staying alone, passing the time subjected to the object — silent, still. Walk with humility in the landscape. To be some natural thing — an ancient tree — no thinking — not to think is central to the activity.
Swift Patrick quotes
Metaphysics — what metaphysics do those trees have?
Patrick Swift
Perhaps this is the great weakness of all criticism, that it tends to take facts derived from the examination of unimportant works and applies them in making a judgement about a man whose whole importance rests in the successful work, where these facts do not exist.
Patrick Swift quotes
I think that I probably have a real talent for painting trees if I developed it assiduously. I want to give them great density and depth pile heaps of detail into them and yet keep the sense of presence which is the whole point.
Patrick Swift
Technical criticism in particular is the despair of the artist. No one but an idiot would offer a poet his comments in terms of spondees and trochees; why must the painter daily suffer the indignity? Any picture which makes one conscious first of its technical qualities, good or bad, is not a good picture, whatever else it may be.
Swift Patrick
I do not know if there are in fact such things as definable social standards of aesthetics that would have any historical or artistic value, but whether there are or not it seems clear to me that for the painter nothing less than complete personal involvement of a moral nature will do.


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