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Putting this talk together proved to be more difficult than I thought it would be. It is a big subject and evokes a wide range of ideas. The original title I had proposed was What is the difference between a vertical line, a diagonal line and a curve? I envisaged using this title to talk about the principles derived from Albert Gleizes which I use in my own painting, and in a way that will still be the topic. But I found I wanted to go outside the specificities of Gleizes' teaching and speak about the intentions of other artists who abandoned figurative imagery. Insofar as I have been able to cobble together a coherent theme out of that it may be a contrast between intensity on the one hand and visual mobility on the other.

Mobility was the theme I first wanted to pursue with my vertical and diagonal lines. Vertical and horizontal lines in a painting affirm a principle of stability. The diagonal introduces a feeling of instability which can, skilfully handled, launch the eye into a coherent and directed movement about the canvas which must ultimately be circular - it must join up with itself, if it isn't to go outside the limits of the canvas which would bring the movement to a halt.

The characteristic of intensity on the other hand is that it invites serious, concentrated attention but remains static. It does not enter into mobility or time. A classic example of this may be the work of Mark Rothko. He provides us with a simple, striking colour effect on a large scale but there is no possibility of the eye moving from one thing to another. The effect could be described as hypnotic. We are drawn into the painting. This I would say is what characterises the best of mainstream abstract art - the mobility of the eye argued for by Gleizes has not entered the mainstream even though it was powerfully present, at the beginning of the whole process, in Cubism, especially in the work of Gleizes himself, Robert Delaunay, Jean Metzinger, Juan Gris and in George Braque, especially in some of his papiers collés. Less so, I think, in Picasso.

Another way in which I could have approached the topic might have been to contrast two historical movements:

1) the movement from illusionist painting in the 19th/20th century to abstraction, keeping in mind that the term does not necessarily imply a total absence of recognisable figurative imagery, and

2) the movement from an 'abstract' art to an illusionistic art that occurred in Western Europe in the transition from 'Romanesque' art  - a mobile art in the sense argued for by Gleizes - to the single point perspective that became the scientific means of creating an illusion of three dimensional space during the 'Renaissance'. 

This would obviously have been an interesting approach, but there is a difficulty. The development that occurred in mediaeval Europe was a development of a whole society bound together by a common object of love given by the Church. The work of the artist-craftsman had a generally recognised social purpose. The development that occurred in the twentieth century was quite a different phenomenon. Here we are talking about initiatives taken by individual artists or groups of artists with widely different motivations and ideas as to what they wanted to do. It was not a movement of the whole society and though 'abstract art' has now become respectable in the academic world and in the art market it is still not generally accepted within the society at large. Nor I believe could it be since it has no generally accepted principles or generally accepted social purpose. It remains an individual, specialist taste, and the possibility of wider acceptance has I believe been radically undermined by the general acceptance of the most illusionistic art of all - photography and film. 

I think that covers just about everything I want to say in the course of this talk. What follows is not a talk illustrated by photographs of paintings but a collection of photographs of paintings with remarks and explanations which will for the most part elaborate on the themes I've just outlined, especially the counterposing of intensity and mobility.