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Vision locates the outside world for us

“Vision locates the outside world for us.  In its primitive stage, in the cradle, it is unfocused and undifferentiated.  Boundaries between the inner and the outer appear to be unclear.  Space is imprecise and frustrating. 

The sense of self and of the whole self-contained body as its vehicle is a daily goal.  As this goal is gradually won, objects, other beings, are granted their freestanding existence.  The achievement is hard-won, to be measured against continual rehearsals of earlier stages where the diffuse, undifferentiated environment threatens to overwhelm or to persecute, or to be available for omnipotent manipulation.  Kind or harsh aspects of the environment are separated in an anxious denial of wholeness.  When this wholeness is accepted — wholeness of the body-as-self, wholeness of the other, the outer world as freestanding and autonomous — then Good and Bad are allowed to join and to interact.  The possibility of love exists — a love which is more than invasion or envelopment, taking or being taken — but which can endure in a steady state because the whole object of feeling can be incorporated, good and bad, with a subject which is itself whole.

“It is certain that the drive toward making art has a deep connection with these ancient experiences.  Art means nothing to me if it is not symbolic in some way of the self and its struggle to define and stabilize itself vis-a-vis the outside world.  Painting means nothing to me if it does not symbolize vision and the part vision plays in the definition of a stable body seen at a distance, a stable self-image, and consequently a stable, freestanding view of the outside world.

“Those traditional criteria of wholeness, balance, and so on seem to me to have meaning only as qualities won in the face of opposite forces — fragmentation, collapse, chaos.  When we say a painting works, it is as if we are acknowledging that the body is intact, whole, energetic, responsive, alive.  This can be said irrespective of the cultural shaping that has been given to it — that is, irrespective of whether it is abstract or figurative, stylistically experimental or conservative.”

Andrew Forge, Painting and the Struggle for the Whole Self, Artforum, 1974



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