Colored Balls of Wool

TLS December 18 & 25 2009

from Frank Whitford's review of Vincent Van Gogh: The complete letters, edited by Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten and Nienke Bakker:

Though self-absorbed, the letters testify to both the uncertainty and single-minded struggle of a painter who suffered, in the beginning at least, from a lack of facility, even from clumsiness. Like Cezanne, Van Gogh had to work hard to achieve anything. Then he discovered how to take strength from his weaknesses.
High-key colors helped him convey his feelings and so influence ours. A key passage about his painting "Interior of a Cafe at Night" (1888) explains how he did this.
In my picture . . . I have tried to express the idea that the cafe is a place where one can ruin oneself, go mad or commit a crime. So I have tried to express, as it were, the powers of darkness in a low public house, by soft Louis XV green and malachite, contrasting with yellow-green and harsh blue-greens, and all this in an atmosphere like a devil's furnace, of pale sulphur.
His palette was unconventional; his colour combinations even more so--pink beside yellow ochre, dashes of Naples yellow beside citron. Most of these juxtapositions were surely intuitive, though Van Gogh did keep a box of variously coloured balls of wool to help him find unusual combinations. The box is in the exhibition (and may help explain his use, beginning in 1887, of long parallel strokes of pure, contrasting colors like patches of embroidery.


from Raymond Martin's review of Barry Dainton's The Phenomenal Self:

Like virtually every other neo-Lockean, Dainton is struck by what he takes to be the conceivability of oneself . . . surviving radical changes in one's physical constitution. But unlike most neo-Lockeans, he is equally struck by what he takes to be the conceivability of oneself surviving radical changes in one's psychological constitution. The importance that other neo-Lckeans, including [Derek] Parfit, assign to psychological continuity, Dainton assigns to experiential continuity. . . .
The central feature of the sort of experiential continuity that, in Dainton's view, is essential to one's continued existence is "a phenomenal unifying relationship" that binds together experiences in ordinary streams of consciousness. He says that this relationship, which he calls co-consciousness, is that of being "experienced together", a notion that he takes as primitive, but thinks will be "utterly familiar" to everyone. In his view a "compound conscious state consists of nothing more than experiences, and the unity of these experiences is the product of relationships of co-consciousness among its constitutuent parts". Hence, in his view, experience--that is, co-conscious experience--is self-unifying.


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