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What, then, are the steps followed by this spiritual technique, by this technique that imitates nature in its manner of working?

Life is the harmonious opening out of a seed. The living work is a germination. The seed has a knowledge of what it will be and its liberty is its ability to be what it must be. If the seed is separated from its destiny, its liberty can only be a bondage. It is the same with the worker, who is the seed of his work. When he undertakes it, he knows what it is, and his freedom is to realise it as perfectly as his abilities enable him. When the worker loses the knowledge of what he is doing, his work becomes a bondage. The worker is the centre of his work: that is the nature of the seed. He is at first the unmoving extension in the nature of the space of the work to be done. He acts. Then his gestures which, entering into the formlessness of his chosen materials, awaken them to the regular repetition of the cadences, impose on them different directions, change the effects of their extensions, multiply, by linking in a regular, measured fashion, those cadences that belong to the nature of time. Right up to the point at which the interweaving of space and time, of inertia and mobility, have realised the unity that had been planned in advance, the RHYTHM wished for, the FORM envisaged.

In a few lines I have tried to outline the technique of the traditional periods of history. An artisanal technique, deeply moving in its simplicity. A technique developed through action, unlike the procedures of those spatial, classical periods which only develop in reaction to external stimuli. A technique that can be turned to any purpose and that has the power to adapt itself as easily to the everyday as to the liturgical. Think, for example, of the 'Christ in Glory' of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe, from the twelfth century, a painting with a grandeur and simplicity of means, a clarity in its 'doing' and in its 'saying' which cannot be separated one from the other. What an object realised, to achieve the sacred with such apparent facility. The figure of Christ is the centre of the painting, the principle at the heart of every seed; its extension defines the undefined space of the wall. A word in passing. In the twelfth century, the representation of Christ had the effect of helping to advance that Nominalist realism that, during the course of the following century, was destined to triumph over the traditional, transcendental realism. Nonetheless, everything in nature's mode of operation is still respected. The figure opens up; in entering into movement it becomes an interplay of different currents; the folds of the robe give way to regular spiralling waves; they agree to die in space to be raised again in time; the individual that is shown in the undefined and finite moment is gently turned to the lasting and willed continuity of the person. The cadences become more urgent, the waves stronger, the determination to proceed holds firm, and a diadem of concentric circles overwhelms the image, which is reduced to being a vague memory - right to the point at which the transfiguration is realised, the cadences have achieved their end, the waves come together in the last of the circles, the perfect rhythm, the unique form, eternity. The Resurrection in glory of time and space. The halo is a result of the same operation. It is the fulfilment of the figure pre-ordained in the shape of the head; in its circularity, it spontaneously dominates the eddies of the cadences that have been generated by the different directions opened up by the extensions in space. Ever so subtly, it adds an element that troubles the supreme purity of the rhythm. The halo confirms the gloriole and blends with it unhesitatingly.


Illustration from Albert Gleizes: HomocentrismeMoly Sabata, Sablons, 1937 and Association des Amis d'Albert Gleizes, Ampuis 1997



In my Homocentrism(10) I analysed the 'Christ in Glory' of Saint-Savin, drawing attention to the order of the natures which make it up. How else can we enter into a technique which imitates the operations of nature and understand its language? Have we the nerve to imagine that it can be done without totally renouncing the point of view that corresponds to the content and overall form of the paintings of the Renaissance? And in understanding its religious nature as a superficial detail that has no influence whatsoever on its formal structures? What errors such impertinence has already caused and will continue to cause! Following his religious formation and also his own experience as a worker, (11) the Christian craftsman or peasant of the twelfth century knew how to rise to the level of such work. He did not reverse the order of his work - a journey whose final end is God. But the learned intellectual of the present day, by contrast, is completely ignorant of all that because his formation has been different and, consequently, does not enable him to see the same things. Worse, because he is thoroughly convinced of the inanity and sterility of religious teachings, he thinks that the symbols and signs employed are irrelevant to appreciating what is really valuable and important in the act of painting.

(10) Homocentrisme - Le Retour de l'Homme Chrétien; Le Rythme dans les Arts Plastiques, Sablons (Eds Moly Sabata), 1937

(11) The traditional 'wise ignorance of the fool' ("docte ignorance de l'idiot") which was misunderstood by the dialecticians of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries - Note by Gleizes.

Reduced to its simplest, the spiritual practice which is built on the basis of the different planes of reality known to Man, may be expressed as follows: measure, cadence, rhythm. The order is determined by their autonomy and succession. Measure results from the body which gives rise to extension. Cadence results from the temporal soul which gives rise to the memory and to the future. Rhythm results from consciousness which confers on the soul the ability to judge the form that is derived simultaneously from the immobility of the measure and from the mobility of the cadence. The form is the OBJECT which is enfolded by the rhythm. The measures are infinitely variable, as are the cadences. Only the rhythm has a unique, transcendental archetype. In practice, so far as painting is concerned, it is the pure circle which prefigures it through its perfection and its oneness. It is the mediator between earth and heaven. By virtue of the flexibilities of the circumference, through the harmonious coming together of the measures and the cadences in their infinite combinations, one can endow the rhythm with appearances that can be renewed infinitely. The beauty is in the rhythm. The colour, organised in measure and in cadence, confers on it a fullness that is nothing other than light. Let us say finally, to clarify what must be understood by rhythm, that the rhythm in the circumference is the fully realised form. If it is not total, it is a thing of no consequence. Too many curved lines have been put to work that are said to be rhythmic, and that are not without a certain interest, but, by the mere fact that they are open, which is to say that it is impossible to know where they come from or, more to the point, where they are going, all that they have of rhythm is the name, since rhythm is organic, OBJECTIVE, while everything that is incomplete, hanging in the air, mere opinion, is SUBJECTIVE and incomprehensible .

The 'Christ in Glory' of Saint-Savin is hieratic, directly under the authority of the sacred. Its measure, cadence and rhythm proclaim the divine creation. But the spiritual technique is able to speak a language that is less sublime. It has in its own nature the gift of languages. We can find convincing proofs in Saint-Savin itself. In the scenes of the Apocalypse, the characters and animals which are represented, situated in space, are developed into mobile time through the activity of circular cadences skilfully placed and distributed. The interlacings of the paintings on the pillars attract the eye and compel it to put in action its mobile nature, thus reaching as far as the soul which, given the opportunity to fulfil its own nature, meditates, contemplates and rejoices. Here again we may regret that the commentators have seen nothing in these trampolines for the spirit other than clumsy aesthetic experiments and rudimentary decorative paint work. When one knows from what criteria they derive the basis of their judgement, one can hardly be surprised.



'Measure, cadence, rhythm'

Illustrations from Homocentrisme