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Donner à sentir, à toucher et à entendre. René Char et la peinture de Wifredo Lam

Martine CRÉAC’H


The word “synesthesia” was largely employed to designate the re-foundation of the relationship between music and painting, especially by the current of symbolism, in order to overcome “the lack of a common principle, available in the earlier paradigm through the notion of imitation”. In a broader perspective, it invites to re-think the function of art: is it intended only for sight or an experience of sensitive immersion attracting all senses? The title of the current study, taking up the title of Éluard’s book, Donner à voir, highlights this double meaning. I intend to consider it by a comparison between two texts of poets who praise the work of the painter Wifredo Lam: this comparison challenges the relationships of the subject and his surrounding world. I intend to demonstrate that the approach to painting by the French poet René Char, even when he pays tribute to the very painters celebrated by the surrealist André Breton, sets a different relationship with art. Against the visual fascination of Breton, against his denial of music, against his despise of the tangible aspect of painting, Char considers painting as a concrete art that encompasses other senses than the eye. Such an idea of the visual arts is to me one of the very characteristic of Char’s aesthetics and one of the important stakes of the dialog it follows with surrealist aesthetics. My study relies on contemporary art theories, notably those of Duthuit and of Tzara, which set in a wider context the optical primacy of the relationship to the visuals arts in France in the 20th century and which put it into the perspective of the art of non-occidental civilizations. I also call for the contribution of philosophers and historians such as Gumbrecht and Jolles.

Keywords: René Char, André Breton, Georges Duthuit, Wifredo Lam, Tristan Tzara, visual arts, surrealism, non-occidental art, non-hermeneutics