«I mostly think of my work as a painting»

Not being convinced that art is therapy, I will again turn my mind to the study of ekphrasis.

Ekphrasis – representing a work of art in a literary language – makes explicit the connection between visual art and literature. So lets start with a little excerpt from an interview Kevin McNeilly made with the Canadian author Anne Carson

KM: Do you conceive your work in any visual sense?

AC: Oh always; I mostly think of my work as a painting.

KM: Ut pictura poesis?

AC: No, not capturing what’s out the window. But making it like what Mallarmé talks about, using words so that you create a surface that leaves an impression in the mind no matter what the words mean. It’s not about the meaning of each individual word adding up to a proposition; it’s about the way they interact with each other as daubs of meaning, you know as impressionist colours interact, daubs of paint, and you stand back and see a story emerge from the way that the things are placed next to each other. You can also do that with language.



Art is not difficult because it wishes to be difficult, rather because it wishes to be art.

—Donald Barthelme

Ekphrasis (also spelled “ecphrasis”) is a direct transcription from the Greek ek, “out of,” and phrasis, “speech” or “expression.” It’s often been translated simply as “description,” and seems originally to have been used as a rhetorical term designating a passage in prose or poetry that describes something. More narrowly, it could designate a passage providing a short speech attributed to a mute work of visual art. In recent decades, the use of the term has been limited, first, to visual description and then even more specifically to the description of a real or imagined work of visual art.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Reblogged this on Poetry on the run and commented:
    Canadian author Anne Carson on the connection between visual art and literature…

  2. Rio says:

    We know now that it is not just a chemical or mechanical process that allows us to see colour, it involves the brain. And the way we attribute meaning to visual representations is also highly evolved. When I have spent too much time working in a literal context, I feel better after spending the time looking and drawing. It is just a fact.
    Whether we accept art as therapy or not is not an issue in the context of ART with a capital A. But to be fair, artists aren’t really an issue in that context either, at least until they’ve been proven to be financially bankable, or have been dead for a while and appear to represent a trend.

    I don’t have a problem with anything that scurries around trying to define art, I just want it to always be possible. We are not just the sexy apes, we are the artistic apes. It is essential to our health as a species.

    1. Sigrun says:

      Art is what distinguishes us from apes?

      1. Rio says:

        I think we are apes, we are just the ones who are really artistic (and sexy). 😛

        If something distinguishes as a separate species it has to be our ability to kill on such an incredible and horrific scale, oh and sometimes build decent roads and water systems. 🙂

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