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Patrick Swift (1927 – 1983)


Irish-born painter who worked in Dublin, London and Algarve, Portugal.
Patrick Swift
For the notion of progress in the arts, (either spiritually or artistically) has been discredited by many respectable intellects (Kierkegaard and Baudelaire above all, both of whom encountered the idea when it first reared itself in its present form in Europe).
Swift quotes
For even the painter himself cannot be fully aware of the way in which the picture gets made: there is a wide area of the unpredictable in the act of pushing paint about in the definition of an image.
Swift
Each work of art is a complete entity existing in its own right and by its own particular logic. It has its own reality and is independent of any particular creed or theory as a justification for its existence. This is not to say that artistic development may be considered as a self-sufficient process unrelated to social reality, because art is always concerned with the deeper and fundamentally human things; and any consideration of art is a consideration of humanity. But it does mean that we cannot apply the principles and logic of the past to a new work of art and hope to understand it. The eternal verities with which the artist is concerned do not change, but our conception of art does, as does our conception of form, and these must be extended if we are to understand fully and basically the meaning of a new work. It is a complex matter, but the elemental principles are always simple. The mass of modern art theory that developed around the fantastic changes of this century's painting can be largely ignored; only one or two fundamental principles are important. Probably most important in the new aesthetics from the painter's point of view was the statement of Degas, seventy years ago, in his unheeded advice to the Impressionists. He spoke then of a "Transformation in which imagination collaborates with memory... It is very well to copy what one sees; it is much better to draw what one has retained in one's memory”…This attitude, and all it implies, underlines the work of practically every painter of importance since 1900. Ultimately, it meant that the day of stage props and models was gone, and that imagination was recognised as the most important quality in an artist.




Swift Patrick quotes
A situation has occurred wherein a premium is put on any work qualifying for the term "progressive"... The idea of progress in the arts; the notion that we move forward from one good thing to another in a simple progression and in a single direction... Baudelaire dealt so profoundly with this... But this can be said: if there were such a thing as a direct and simple progression from the work of one generation to the next the historical difficulty of the Progressive Artist could not exist... the popular notion of the Progressive and the New Art may not after all be the last word on a complex subject. That there may be, even to-day... such a thing as the absolutely modern. That as before it may be something unexpected, and not completely accounted for in the arrangements for encouraging the arts... 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... It may be necessary to be absolutely modern.
Swift Patrick
The idea of objectivity in the evaluation of pictures introduces the concept of rational and scientific assessment. There are some sciences involved in the making and in the study of pictures, but the art itself is finally not a science and will not submit to scientific regimentation because its life depends on the degree to which it is inhabited by mystery, speaks to us of the unknown. It is simply an avoidance of the interesting difficulty to subject the inexplicable to the process of rational explanation. For since the real pleasures of painting and the reality of its meaning exist in the part of its structure which cannot be explained, all suggestions and pretensions at explanation must lead us away from the area of greatest interest. This is to say that such analysis as purports to lay bare the machinery which makes a painting work — makes it a good painting — not only leaves out the most important factor, the element of mystery, but actively denies the reality which is the justification for the art at all.
Patrick Swift quotes
The development that produces great art is a moral and not an aesthetic development.
Patrick Swift
A more rewarding approach to painting, in my opinion the only valid one, is to regard it as a deeply personal and private activity and to remember that even when the painter works directly for the public — when there is sufficient common ground to allow him to do so — the real merit of the work will depend on the personal vision of the artist and the work will only be truly understood if it is approached by each in the same spirit as the painter painted it. We must be willing to assume the same sort of responsibility and share the dilemma out of which the work was created in order to be able to feel with the artist. Since the deepest and truest dilemma, from which all good art springs, is the human condition we have every right to regard the needs of our own consciousness as the final court in judging the merit of a work of art, we have in fact a moral obligation to do so. This demands the precise honesty from the spectator as was required from the artist in making the painting. It is their common ground, the area within which communication can occur. Art in the end speaks to the secret soul of the individual and of the most secret sorrows. For this reason it is true that the development that produces great art is a moral and not an aesthetic development.
Swift Patrick quotes
Painting is created from within and we must begin from within if we are to understand it.
Swift
To know what it is to look at things, life as a prayer, a mass, a celebration.
Swift Patrick
His work is full of the signs of those two cardinal sins from which (as Kafka pointed out) all the others spring: impatience and laziness. The work of every artist is conditioned by the way in which he resists or yields to these temptations.
Patrick Swift
All art is probably erotic in its ultimate character, but painting more than anything else is a purely nervous erotic activity... The eroticism of Caravaggio is special because it exists in that area between the simple sensual appreciation of the object which produces the desire to posses it, and the passionate but detached concern of the Observer, which also seeks to posses but to posses through understanding.




Patrick Swift quotes
No real painter ever wants be known through any other medium than his painting.
Patrick Swift
It is noticeable that rejection and selection no longer operate in terms of merely quality but on kind. This is exactly the situation confronting the Impressionists who attempted to show their works in the salon of 1865.
Swift quotes
For the painter, for whom painting is a vital activity and a way of life — not merely a profession — such attitudes as we find in the histories are deadly. For him the only benefit, at least the deepest and most important benefit, which he can get from the study of the Masters comes from his capacity to see the painting in a thoroughly contemporary way. I mean in the present tense — the tense after all in which it was painted. Not for instance as an early this or a late that, nor as a good example of chiaroscuro or some other aesthetic or technical quality but as an immediately important human statement completely relevant to his life at the moment and convincing for that reason. If a work does not strike the painter in this way all further analysis of it will be futile.
Swift Patrick
It is not necessary to subscribe to the tiresome conception of the artist as rampaging Bohemian to understand that the activity of painting is socially useless, or at best occupies a dubious position...In the remote purity of his solitariness, where the work of art is made, the artist is supremely the anti-social creature.
Swift Patrick quotes
One who opens his eyes and sees. To be good at seeing. How difficult not to see anything but the visible. And nothing will be left but dust and manure. Attempting the impossible. Approach the mystery.
Patrick Swift
In the end each man experiences only himself. To refer to your neighbour or twenty million of them for your touchstone of reality is a logical nonsense in the life of the individual person. When one reflects on the personality of Lautrec in these pictures, brave, unconcerned, scornful, and violent, it becomes a monstrosity of sophism to consider his size or shape as relevant factors.The painter celebrates life where he finds it. His morality is the morality of enjoyment, of the continuous development of his own taste without shame or fear. It is a sort of heroism.
Patrick Swift quotes
But of course these pictures are not shocking; good painting never is.
Patrick Swift
Any painter who thinks he has something to say to the people, or anything to contribute to the world of ideas or literature, is treading dangerous ground; the influence of literature on painting is at all times dangerous if not deadly. Painting is a visual art; and the job of the artist must be to create in visual terms the tension experienced. One cannot argue or explain in paint. The aim is not to put in everything that will help, but as little as one can help, so that a picture is in one sense a “sum of destructions”. It is a question of honesty and courage: “One produces only the necessary” — Degas
Swift Patrick
Metaphysics — what metaphysics do those trees have?


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