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Patrick Swift (1927 – 1983)


Irish-born painter who worked in Dublin, London and Algarve, Portugal.
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Patrick Swift
There are ambiguities in the art of painting but they are the ambiguities of a fine precision: the discovered fact of the image containing at the same time the reverberations of the unknown, the truly mysterious… I would take this further and add that painting is itself precise in its ideas. In the sense that the image is the idea in its purist form.* [*“The image is a principal of our knowledge. It is that from which our intellectual activity begins, not as a passing stimulus but as an enduring foundation” — St. Thomas Aquinas, Opus XVI]
Swift quotes
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.
Swift
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.




Swift Patrick quotes
Nano Reid does not begin a portrait with any ideas about the person she draws. She is concerned with the head, its existence as a structure with certain characteristics. She is so much concerned with this that her portraits are inevitably deep studies of character and personality. The head, the face, the lines and features, contain everything for the painter who understands well enough to put it down.
Swift Patrick
All art is probably erotic in its ultimate character, but painting more than anything else is a purely nervous erotic activity.
Patrick Swift quotes
They verge on the realm of the confession- hovering on that vital line between the simply revelatory and consequently vulgar, and the honest statement that is moral and consequently dignified.
Patrick Swift
There is a sense, and a very exciting sense, in which art is moral. When Stendhal says a good picture is nothing but a construction in ethics, one recognises a truth about art which opens up vistas that are at the same time liberating and terrifying. The ethics of art are terrifying because real art by increasing our knowledge of ourselves increases in exactly the same proportion the ethical commitment.
Swift Patrick quotes
The Art of painting is itself an intensely personal activity… 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... 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
Everything written about art is profoundly unimportant.
Swift Patrick
It is by deciding what is real for him and portraying it convincingly that the painter serves the true ends of art. The question of “social” reality does not arise on this profoundly personal level. On the other hand the question of personal salvation and our relationship to God does. Art, if it is successful in the task of questioning reality, if it is good painting and not merely a performance of dexterity, will be an affirmation of God.
Patrick Swift
Its purpose is moral, that is, the evaluation of experience; in the deepest sense, the development of taste.




Patrick Swift quotes
The techniques for making art thus morally acceptable, of drawing its fangs, are endless; and each generation finds its own. Just now the democratic machinery for rendering art safe is so efficient that it seems that the system can absorb anything. It would be exciting to think that somewhere in Europe there was a man making art which was so violent and true that the system could not take it.
Patrick Swift
There is the modern phenomenon of the artist declaring all is void, nothing is possible, and soon is making his fortune out of despair and emptiness. I am too romantic to accept the dishonesty inherent in such a role, or perhaps it is my religious education. Such a position cannot be a religious position. (I) do not accept that the artist should not engage in other activities though when he does he must accept a different responsibility.
Swift quotes
Art, if it is successful in the task of questioning reality, if it is good painting and not merely a performance of dexterity, will be an affirmation of God.
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