pen’s black

So, I’m editing the first chapter of my diss, still fixing up and finishing up little things and also writing out larger passages, and see the comment of my former supervisor, Sam, to add reference to Merleau-Ponty on the “pen’s black quality”. So I wrote out in black pen, what Merleau-Ponty had to say about it, here you go:


And here is what I was writing about the black in the painting, that called for this reference:

There is a very strong contrast between the black and the red in the way in which they relate to the “natural” brown and green colors of wood and foliage. The black comes on top of the red as if stopping the flow of red, and its cold blackness suggests ashes, the burned, hard life-less matter.[1] This painting has so much contrast and so much darkness in it, that even from a comfortably close distance to the artwork it is often hard to distinguish “objectively” between black and dark brown or dark green. And yet, when described phenomenologically, the difference though subtle, is clearly visible. There is something particularly cold, particularly sharp and hard in the black proper, the way in which it cuts into the eyes much more than dark brown or dark green, the way in which it seems more than merely dark, as if it has a different dimension of darkness altogether.[2] The thickness and consistency of the paint in the dark green patches of foliage on the branches, is not much different from the black ones (except the green patches are more “chunky” whereas the black ones are more linear) and yet the green ones come almost naturally out of the flow of the red over the brown lines of branches, whereas the black patches feel odd, and seem to seal and petrify the surface of that flow. This black is one of the “signs” of death here, but not only of a particular dying, but also, as we will see later when talking about the “crack”, of depth and darkness that come along with death and with the mysteries of what is beyond, behind or underneath the face of the world that is brought together for us by the light.


[1] The motive of burnt trees becomes much more pronounced in Harris’s Lake Superior paintings, but even in Algoma it has been present in the paintings of the Group of Seven, see for example Frank Johnston’s Fire-Swept Algoma (1920).

[2] Merleau-Ponty says similarly about the black: “I say that my fountain-pen is black, and I see it as black under the sun’s rays. But this blackness is less the sensible quality of blackness than a sombre power which radiates from the object, even when it is overlaid with reflected light, and it is visible only in the sense in which moral blackness is visible. The real color persists beneath appearances as the background persists beneath the figure, that is, not as a seen or thought-of quality, but through a non-sensory presence.” (PP, 305, old book)

3 thoughts on “pen’s black

  1. Ти ж знаєш, є ще таке філософське питання: чи існує взагалі якийсь “real colour beneath appearances”. Або інакше: чи існує в принципі the notion of colour. Або ще ширше: що таке “існує” поза “appearances”?)) такі питання постають у “філософії тілесності”?


    1. Так, звичайно, це центральні питання, частково в постмодерному стилі. Коротка відповідь – так, існує, тільки не як “об’єктивний”, чи “суб’єктивний”, а як феноменологічний, чи феноменальний, як кому більше до вподоби. Оцей мій чорний колір, який “cuts the eye” – це і є справжній колір, який є, існує, – фенестаі, чи якось так ніби-то греки казали (звідки власне і поняття феномена).

      Розгорнутіше пояснення від Сема – ось тут: Я вчора приготувала була цей пост, але відклала, щоб не завалювати. Відповідь самого Мерло-Понті – треба погортати книжку, зараз під рукою не маю.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s