It (painting) is a kind of immersion in substances, a wonder and a delight in their unexpected shapes and feels. When nothing much is known about the world, everything is possible, and painters watch their paints very closely to see exactly what they will do. Even though there is no contemporary language for that kind of experience, the alchemists already had names for it centuries ago. They knew several dozen varieties of the material prima, the place where the work starts, and their terms can help us understand there are different ways of beginning the work. They had names for their transmutations, and those can help give voice to the many metamorphoses painters try to make in paint.
Science has closed off almost every unsystematic encounter with the world. Alchemy and painting are two of the last remaining paths into the deliriously beautiful world of unnamed substances.
- James Elkins, "What Painting Is"
To the extent that contemporary artists can make people look longer and harder, they must dare to give their work a complicated openness, a surprising particularity. Artists have to find ways to pull the audience in, for only when people come to understand that within a painting or a sculpture they can find a time that is outside of time will they want to keep looking. Only then will they see that although nothing in a painting moves (at least in the sense that sound moves in music or bodies move in dance) everything in a painting is alive. And then the surface opens up, and effects multiply, and you see more and more. You enter into an intimate, imaginative collaboration with the artist. If the very idea of instantaneous unity comes out of a feeling that in the world things can happen with this much speed, a more circuitous and layered way of looking suggests a release from the compressed, fast-forward pace of daily life, which has always troubled people, and surely does today. If you can unlock a moment, you can enter a realm of freedom. Artists show the way. To look long is to feel free.
- Jed Perl, "The Art of Seeing"