This is a picture that I made using mixed media on paper. It is unfinished, yet I am content to leave it exactly as it is.
The expression “Art is never finished, only abandoned” has been attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci and many others, but it actually came into being because of the words of a poet, Paul Valéry.
In March 1933, Valéry shared an analysis of his poem “Le Cimetière marin” (“The Cemetery by the sea”) in “La Nouvelle Revue Française” (“The New French Review”). He wrote:
“Aux yeux de ces amateurs d’inquiétude et de perfection, un ouvrage n’est jamais achevé, – mot qui pour eux n’a aucun sens, – mais abandonné ; et cet abandon, qui le livre aux flammes ou au public (et qu’il soit l’effet de la lassitude ou de l’obligation de livrer) est une sorte d’accident, comparable à la rupture d’une réflexion, que la fatigue, le fâcheux ou quelque sensation viennent rendre nulle.”
“In the eyes of those who anxiously seek perfection, a work is never truly completed—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned; and this abandonment, of the book to the fire or to the public, whether due to weariness or to a need to deliver it for publication, is a sort of accident, comparable to the letting-go of an idea that has become so tiring or annoying that one has lost all interest in it.”
I do not entirely agree with this sentiment. Of course making art, like all work, can get tiring, but that’s not why I leave things unfinished. To me, it is a matter of pleasure to stop before a painting gets over-worked.
Tweaking and ‘fixing’ a picture often wastes materials in the process, the colours can get mucky, and in the end, the whole thing can appear gaudy or overdone. Oh yes, I have wrecked many paintings in my time, and often burned them afterwards, too. Reading Valéry’s “abandonment, of the book to the fire or to the public” made me laugh.
Customers buy my art in the “unfinished” state, and friends who receive art as a gift in any state cherish it: I know this because they still have stuff from years ago in their homes, which is sweet.
Art is never abandonded, it simply reaches what I call ‘the point of pause’, and being selective about that moment brings a reward of its own.
- Paul Valéry (1933) ‘Concerning the Cemetery by the Sea’, Periodical: The New French Review, pg. 399, La Nouvelle Revue Française, Paris, France.
- English translation by Rosalie Maggio.