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JK: So, you mean to make symbols, but no statements.
WB: Not in the narrative sense. I would say that while a sign has specific signification, the symbol may have resonating significations. One can’t control or limit it. We can’t absolutely limit association. Moreover, these forms may be akin to dramatic personae, though without plot. Literary intention reduces these things, counters what they are. I don’t want to sound as if I don’t have intention in my work, but I follow as much as direct it.
JK: Well, from a writer’s point of view, the presence in your work of symbolic structures tells me something important. Many of these paintings can, I think, be read in two ways: either as having a psychological dimension, and/or a noumenal value. I would suppose that you are working, whether you know it or not, in a very ancient mode: that you are pursuing what I call poetry in your painting. And the painting is poetry of a certain kind: the bodily. It is saying something about how we are in the world, rather than how the world is to us. I would say, again, that the painter cannot say how we are without telling a story, though not an anecdote. That you are seeking to reveal something by means of the fragments that compose the incarnate person.
WB: That may be true.
JK: It seems to me that there is an increasing tension in the work. Fragments seem lifeless, yet in your repertory you’ve managed to impart to them sadness, loss, isolation, loneliness, longing or dreaming. Is there an element of hieratic symbolism, an elegiac quality entering in? Or is that simply my literary response?
WB: I think that if there’s a continuing life of that sort in those paintings, it is not by predetermination. Rather, the state of mind during their making may provide their expressive character.
JK: How do you account for their greater intensity, as it seems to me?
WB: In the past eight years what’s happened, I think, is that the work comes increasingly from inside.
JK: Then to say you have a repertory of symbols is not the same as saying you have a vocabulary.
WB: That’s true. The vocabulary of forms evolving over these past eight years continues to change: new forms present themselves, and in new combinations.
JK: How do these images come to you? Do you wait, solicit them each day?
WB: No, I don’t wait. If one has a fairly constant schedule, one works from day to day.
JK: It’s as though you are walking along a path and you meet those images.
WB: I think they emerge in the process.
JK: Sometimes I get the feeling that it’s as though with each drawing or painting you had presented a memory of an existence on some other plane than that of the making. In so many of your paintings there are lines of connection between the images, lines that I think of as temporal relations that are not narrative, if such a thing’s possible. I often have the delusion that I can read them out, though they don’t read as any kind of story one has seen. Perhaps like some of the cave paintings, where relations between hunters and animals and some of the signs resemble very faintly, archaically, the kinds of relations think I perceive in your works. Yet we suppose they were doing magic, whereas you are not. Not that sort of magic. If there is that numinous presentation of time itself implied in the relations between your mental images, it’s a time I haven’t seen before. And yet you are not painting time: time emerges as a result of the configuration. All sorts of time, for which one can easily put in the adjectives: real time, metaphysical time, spiritual time, philosophical time.
WB: Well, Jascha, in hearing your response to the work I am interested in these adjectives, but you know that in the process of painting I can hardly be aware of such implications.
JK: Another question comes up here. We live in a world in which certain issues in art, let’s call them humanist issues, were destroyed as we entered the 20th century. Since then, many kinds of art have been made that are not at all concerned with humanist values. However, the elements that you have selected throughout your work have a dual, complementary range: on the one hand, landscape and the fragments taken from it of rock, earth, sea, flowers, trees; on the other hand the human body. Both the non-human and the human, which began to merge during the last ten years, and to be refined and reduced to what you term mental images. One might say that those images are the precipitation of what the artist still holds dear. There are but these few things that surface on the canvases and in the drawings. Would it be possible to speak of them as landscapes of the spirit?
WB: I am interested in the spirit of the work. And the thing that concerns me is what I would call presence. The presence of a work. Moreover, each work seems to have a kind of destiny, and I believe that, seen in retrospect, an artist’s whole body of work will have had a destiny.
JK: You’re saying the artist’s filling in the details of a whole that isn’t known as yet and yet he does know it in each detail he creates. I’d call that a metaphysical view.