op slot by bernlef. a book about two friends, artists, a photographer and a painter. it reads like a calmer and more subdued combined version of josipovici's infinity and his bonnard book.
the painter dies (in the presence of the photographer) and the photographer has to photograph the paintings for a catalogue for a last exhibition. thereby they encounter their past and discuss various ideas on art.
op slot means closed, locked, you say it about a door, the deur is op slot. the door is locked. closed like an oyster, a comparison used for describing the personalities of those artists, the painter, the photographer and the painter's wife. a withdrawal competition. in the book the door to the painter's wife's room is closed after she's lived her last 30 or 40 years in the loonybin.
the painter paints selfportraits, showing him with a withdrawn face, absentminded. on the photos of the photographer he has thinking, but not seeing eyes p91. and looking is not yet seeing. p114
the idea of the transcendence of the self again. not transcendence though: metamorphosis: your absence is necessary for the presence of something p.33. to take yourself back in order to give all space to the subject and by way of that sort of withdrawal, in that sort of metamorphosis the actual strength of the images hides. by way of eliminating yourself you find appearance, presence, hidden and only visible in the proportions of different colours, shadows and light...
[Je moest jezelf wegcijferen om het onderwerp alle ruimte te geven, zelf als het jezelf betrof. Op geen enkele wijze mocht er een persoonlijk spoor in het beeld achterblijven. Juist in de metamorfose can het persoonlijke naar het onpersoonlijke school de kracht van een beeld. Door jezelf te elimineren kwam je te voorschijn, verhuld en alleen zichtbaar in de verhouding van kleuervlakken, van schaduw- en lichtpartijen. p92]
but while there is an understanding of this sort of metamorphosis it does come across to the painter's wife, to her it feels as if there is no inside of people for him, only surface. outside. subjects. despite all that talk about going for the ineffable, the unseen, the incomplete which stands in stark
contrast with his focus on the outside of his wife's body, the perfectionist ideas about her body and a disregard for the
inside, the unseen of her thoughts. he paints her like she looks into her own dreams which well might be nightmares, but he knows nothing about them.
[Toch begrijpt hij van de binnenkant niets. Hij doet alsof er geen binnenkant van mensen bestaat en misschien is dat voor hem ook zo. p148]
things he abstained from painting: the sea, eyes (almost as difficult to paint as eyes), things that move.
maybe he abstained from painting moving things, because he wanted that if the onlooker looks at the image, the image will move under your look, looking as the force that brings life to something [en hoop dan dat er iets uit tevoorschijn komt, iets dat gaat bewegen onder je blik p75]. and too: to secure something on a painting without stopping its movement [iets vastleggen zonder dat je het tot stilstand bracht. p48].
but also -- as if a refusal from a refusal -- a shying away from the obviously difficult in order to focus on the silently difficult and thereby not seeing the mystery in everything, seeing it only where he wants to see it. and yet he says that nothing is simple, if you look precisely enough at something [niets is eenvoudig. als je maar nauwkeurig genoeg kijkt. p31]
this idea of metamorphosis of the self has quite different consequences, for the painter it leads to some renewed presence of his self, some intensification of his existence, but for the model it means annihilation of the self.
the problem of the model, the wife. pregnancy that so-called ruins the body and so on, aging kicks in and the old female has to be replaced. he hires younger models but paints them with the head of the wife, doing injustice to both of them. by being attached to an image, a perfection she couldn't fulfill. to betray seeing is to look only at things that you recognize. [Wat mensen kijken noemen, is meestal een verraad aan het zien. Ze zien alleen maar wat ze herkennen. p107]
as a consequence she wonders: can you not just withdraw your soul, but also your body; at that time she already lived since long in her inner exile. [Zou het mogelijk zijn om niet alleen je gedachten maar ook je lichaam binnen te houden? p147]
what is as interpreted as jealousy between mother and daughter is actually the mother's concern of how men will react to her daughter's body.
on the other hand, the photographer's looking (or rather not looking) at women can be coped with by the painter's wife, because his ideas of youth are different than to those of the painter: as youth when you look at it, it doesn't respond like ages does, the comparison he uses is that the eye glides away from youth like water from a duck.p95 somewhat similar to the way black and white photography is more democratic and therefore more secret, black and white photos leave you clueless, one has to find one's own way in the better fotos. a photograph never has to be an anectode, never ought to be a complete whole p114. his looking is not a force that brings things to life, but rather that finds a way through them, life is already in the image.and this is the point where images start to become less important...
quite consequently the book ends without images. in deliberation. they are not there, but something not being there doesn't mean it's op slot, locked up, inaccessible. maybe the images are all in the way of seeing... the painter's wife destroys the selfportraits of the painter, their daughter burns the notes of her mother. the photographer deletes the images of his dead friend he took on his -- unloved, because he prefers analogue -- digital camera, pushes that camera away, gently; and how not to betray seeing?