Resonant Thoughts: John Berger’s “Portraits” (2015)

“The gestures come from his hand, his wrist, arm, shoulder, perhaps even the muscles in his neck, yet the strokes he makes on the paper are following currents of energy which are physically his and which become visible only when he draws them. Currents of energy? The energy of a tree’s growth, of a plant’s search for light, of a branch’s need for accommodation with its neighboring branches, of the roots of thistles and shrubs, of the weight of rocks lodged on a slope, of the sunlight, of the attraction of the shade for whatever is alive and suffers from the heat, of the Mistral from the north which has fashioned the rock strata. My list is arbitrary; what is not arbitrary is the pattern his strokes make on the paper. The pattern is like a fingerprint. Whose?

It is a drawing which values precision—every stroke is explicit and unambiguous—yet it has totally forgotten itself in its openness to what it has met. And the meeting is so close you can’t tell whose trace is whose. A map of love indeed.”

John Berger, Portraits (2015), p. 272.

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