Dimensions: 210 x 210 mm
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“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” Leonardo da Vinci
There is no finer inspiration for a collaboration between writers and artists than this timeless quote from Leonardo. It demonstrates that the notion of the complementarity between different art forms is as old as art, and not the invention of a multi-media age.
In 26 Prints, we have paired 26 print makers with 26 writers from the writer’s organisation 26. There have been creative constraints. Each writer was randomly allocated a print, not knowing if they were going to get a print from a living print maker, or one of the great but departed artists. The most recent print was made in 2016, the oldest was by Dürer in 1508.
Once allocated, the writer was allowed to borrow the print for about a month, live with it, and
then create a poetic response in precisely 62 words, no more no less. This number, a mirror image of 26, is known as a sestude, and it’s a cunning length. It’s long enough to allow the development of an idea, but not long enough to turn into an essay. Writers who try it also discover that it’s never quite enough words. So choices are involved; editing is hard but essential.
From the (living) print makers’ perspective, the opportunity to see how a writer creatively responds to their work is irresistible. There are inevitable surprises. What did the writer see that was not part of their original intention? It’s a chance to see their work not only through the eyes of viewers, or collectors, which of course is always valuable, but through the eyes of a dedicated creative response.
For the writer, it’s a concentrated act of looking. David Hockney always talks about the joy, and the discipline, of looking. And when you are tasked with honouring the print by responding to it in words, you realise with a shock how casual your normal looking actually is. The obligation to inhabit the print, and to know it properly, takes you to a very different place in your relationship with it and teaches you how to look, and indeed how to look for words. A new respect opens up for art, especially for those writers who were paired with an artist or a print that either they knew nothing about or wouldn’t have naturally chosen to collect.
Our hope for this exhibition is that the dialogue between the print and the sestude opens up a new way of responding to the prints. If the viewer’s experience of the art is deepened and enhanced by seeing the poems alongside, then we’ll be more than satisfied.
We like to think that Leonardo would have approved…
Martin Lee, Director at 26, March 2017