No Eye is Uncontaminated

Karl Ove Knausgaard, A Man in Love – My Struggle: Book 2: 383

When I was outdoors, walking, like now, what I saw gave me nothing. Snow was snow, trees were trees. It was only when I saw a picture of snow or of trees that they were endowed with meaning. Monet had an exceptional eye for light on the snow, which Thaulow, perhaps the most technically gifted Norwegian painter ever, also had, it was a feast for the eyes, the closeness of the moment was so great that the value of what gave rise to it increased exponentially, an old tumbledown cabin by a river or a pier at a holiday resort suddenly became priceless, the paintings were charged with the feeling that they were here at the same time as us, in this intense here and now, and that we would soon be gone from them, but with regard to the snow, it was as if the other side of this cultivation of the moment became visible, the animation of this and its light so obviously ignored something, namely the lifelessness, the emptiness, the non-charged and the neutral, which were the first features to strike you when you entered a forest in winter, and in the picture, which was connected with perpetuity and death, the moment was unable to hold its ground. Caspar David Friedrich knew this, but this wasn’t what he painted, only his idea of it. This was the problem with all representation, of course, for no eye is uncontaminated, no gaze is blank, nothing is seen the way it is.

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