Return to Painting
The closer an artist comes to a conceptual method of functioning visually, the greater his work. The greatest of all artists, Vermeer, devoted his paintings to a single theme: light itself. The guiding principle of his compositions is: the contextual nature of our perception of light (and of color). The physical objects in a Vermeer canvas are chosen and placed in such a way that their combined interrelationships feature, lead to and make possible the painting’s brightest patches of light, sometimes blindingly bright, in a manner which no one has been able to render before or since.
(Compare the radiant austerity of Vermeer’s work to the silliness of the dots-and-dashes Impressionists who allegedly intended to paint pure light. He raised perception to the conceptual level; they attempted to disintegrate perception into sense data.)
One might wish (and I do) that Vermeer had chosen better subjects to express his theme, but to him, apparently, the subjects were only the means to his end. What his style projects is a concretized image of an immense, nonvisual abstraction: the psycho-epistemology of a rational mind. It projects clarity, discipline, confidence, purpose, power—a universe open to man. When one feels, looking at a Vermeer painting: “This is my view of life,” the feeling involves much more than mere visual perception.