Rothko, the Haijin
If one likes Mark Rothko and haiku, one can draw an imaginary rhizome between the colour field period paintings and the short poems, just some simple poetic assumptions, games of affinities and convergences. Most of the colour fields are composed of three dissimilar weightless blurred shapes (sometimes two, sometimes more), which figure colour as a “dramatic character” in Rothko’s words, who wants to “give life to space through colour.”
Rothko’s sense of space has its origin in a concrete experience which could also be that of a Haijin. The painter lived in Oregon where he felt, while watching the immensity of a landscape, the disintegration of Self in the infinite: standing on a hill, he saw the empty expanse immersed in fog, and through its veil, a tiny dot appeared: a car. Rothko was invaded by the experience of his own futility. The painter could never forget this vision and feeling. And his works are variations on this theme of individual life and infinity, of totality and emptiness. (Antonioni, who admired Rothko, once told him: “My films are like your paintings, they speak about nothing but accurately.”)
Colours suspended on canvas, like haiku are floating in thin air. Paintings are simple but not evident, the apparent simplicity of abstraction conveys wonder against revelation. His paintings are vague and multiple images of a trans-reality, signs that suggest without describing. Colour summing both form and matter, as no spiritual creation is possible without the body, without sensuality no mysterious transmission with spirit.
Gaze shifting between colours, between words, giving to see the interval between things, are disturbing any attempt at Cartesian thinking. Often words and too accurate representations are powerless to reflect emotions, it is rhythms, vibrations and pauses which allow it. The viewer is touched, overwhelmed, or even upset only by means of colour without any metaphorical picture: everyone discovers their own emotion in their own unconscious.
Dazzled, forgetting time, we enter a world of pure feelings: we contemplate a mysterious but revealing mirror-like surface. Empty. But to only see coloured rectangles on a canvas, is to see one’s own emptiness. The canvas, object of transference, is more fascinating than reality. Poetry is more real than truth.
If one dared, one would also mention music: in poetry rhythm, pauses, assonances, onomatopoeia are the fabric of the poem. In painting, music is present through silence. The solitude between the painting and its viewer: and silence becomes vibration. Rothko abandoned too precise references, removed titles from his work, fearing that too many explanations would paralyze imagination. He said: “silence is so accurate,” silence between words, between sounds, and around vibrant colours of the canvas.
People often speak of serenity about his paintings but to this he answered that it is more “a serenity to the brink of explosion.” And this is the strongest affinity between Rothko and haiku.
all of sudden eye see
blinking black red black
your face the neonlight
©Marie Veronika Zorn
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