In the shadow of a bowl.
Western aesthetics (like philosophy) is traversed by a flagship couple, which determines the shaping of a prior material by a form giving it a chance of configuration and identity of creation. And if we follow the classification of artistic productions established on this basis by Etienne Souriau, we make a distinction between primary forms (in the foreground, which refer only to themselves) and secondary or representative forms, which have the power, by offering themselves, to widen the horizon towards another of which they are the happy symbolization.
And this ability to pierce space into references of meaning has long appeared as a mark of superiority, in literature, poetry, or painting. While music, architecture, or ceramics stood back, immediacies that offered nothing to say and only everything to see.
Everywhere, however, circulates this marvelous "absence of the pebble and the tree"1, this presence to oneself which should not owe anything to a pose before a coveted look, which would signify the absolute presence and fidelity to oneself, that which one finds in a picture, figurative though it is, or which would not be and would not be defined by the one who would give it determination. Beyond the philosophy that weaves systems to explain, the narration that weaves stories to understand, the painting that frames a landscape of personal presence or action to show, a step may still be to be taken, that which involves making the silence that embraces while presenting, and deducting the gesture, only imposed in a rare discretion.
Because the material which offers itself to the power of the shaping form is not inert, it is itself animated by its own vibrations, elementary forces which interact. Aristotle had already pointed this out in his embryology: the form transmitted by the male progenitor has no power and the feminine matter traces by its resistance to the informing action the final identity of the embryo. It is a combat, hand-to-hand, of a material that is denuded yet not deprived, as a private form, only, of its tool of speech and information. Power is distributed, and it is in the singular alchemy of the elementary mixture and the proportional force of the components brought into contact, the agent and the patient, that the more or less predictable appearance of the final product takes shape.
It is undoubtedly so in the inaugural gesture of the ceramist and the potter, such as that of David Louveau, splendidly. Isolated from any prediction, from any guiding program, borne along on the musical accompaniment and the mute views of the lake facing his Swedish workshop, he has slowly followed the path of the material, passing from the more familiar accents of fine, shining porcelain to a more natural world, attentive to that elemental transformation which springs from modeling, since the wheel is set aside, to the glazes applied and the firing which converts the whole into a final harmony which he launches, but which is destined, by consent, to escape him to some degree, in a magical extension.
The work is however always signed, still recognizable. In this close listening to the material removed, preserved, rediscovered, close to a gathered interiority, close to meditation, he embodies what Etienne Souriau once emphasized as the unquantifiable law of artistic creation: the virtual power of existing with radiance, intensely, is metamorphosed into a final assumption of matter and form, into a super-existence, a new presence which lifts us above all that already exists, and allows us to breathe an air of strange and new cosmic harmony. By the presence of this bowl, with its rough texture, with forms that are at times maritime and restless, or recentered in its shimmering shadows of former times, a certain art of living, an enhanced life is given to us to see, to feel, to listen to, and perhaps to hear, sweet music of living, a song of vibrant matter.
And one understands, then, in this "special modesty"2 , which is that of a Morandinian bottle, of a bowl-haiku which brings reality into an airy silence, that while still a notch below a painting, we have arrived where the ideal of artistic creation finally seems to lie. And it is undoubtedly not without reason that the most beautiful moment of exchange between two beings, the ultimate gift which can flow from one to the other, passes by the mute appreciation of a cup whose perfection expresses the gratitude of the giver to the chosen one (Kawabata, Flocks of white birds).
"What does that mean, except that each of these experiences represents a personal effort, an attempt made along one or other of the various paths by which we can attempt this galvanization, this moving act of bringing a being towards its summit; but that in all the same metaphysical attempt is found, the condition of which remains the same: the intensification of the existence of a being in its totality, given and felt in this trial."3
A stone's throw from In Praise of Shadows.
1 Georges Perros, Les yeux de la tête, Le Nouveau Commerce, 1983.
3 Etienne Souriau, La Correspondance des arts, Paris, Flammarion, p. 312.