From the Italian Art Encyclopaedia 2013

SÉCAN Georges

G. Sécan (1913-1987) was born in Bucharest, the son of a French vice-consul and a Finnish woman.

He studied Fine Arts in  Paris and  Munich, getting several awards and winning important competitions since he was eighteen.  

He  lived  for  long  periods  in many European and extra-European countries, gaining  experiences which  left  deep marks in his pictorial work. On many occasions he was inpired also by Italian landscapes. Remaining out of the main artistic  currents  as well as  of the galleries  and  art merchants’ world, he has  however  succeeded  in  achieving an international  reputation  thanks  to  the widespread success  earned among  the best critics  and  among  the general public.

In 1941, he created  a new kind of painting  that he called  « Subform ».  Tapié redefined « Subformel » that kind of painting in which the artist tends to express himself straying completely from himself,

In  the attempt of  finding  again  a lost  ancient  tune, the  one  of the primitive man  in  front of  his simple and truest subconscious.      Sometimes, that  engagement  leads to  a transfiguration of the landscape or  simply of  a rhythmic sensation  into  images  whose  extreme  expressive violence,  as well as  the dazzling  intensity  of  colours, has few comparisons in contemporary painting.


This  great  artist,  who  died  over 25 years ago, has  never  had  art merchants  or  Galleries as reference, certainly because of disagreements he suffered in his youth with the above-mentioned art operators.
Thus it becomes nearly impossible to give a correct economic evaluation to this excellent master’s work.
 can  only remember  that, in the 70s, in the period when Sécan was invited  for a one-man exhibition at  Palazzo Reale  in Milan, immediately  afterwards  Picasso, the value of his works  had  internationally reached notable figures.


















From the UTET Encyclopaedia

Georges Sécan, French painter (1913), was born in Bucharest to a French father (the then Vice-Consul in Bucharest and a Finnish mother. He studied art in Paris and Munich, winning various awards and important competitions from the age of 18 onwards.  A wandering spirit, he has sojourned at length in countries in and outside Europe, including India, the Sudan and Egypt.  The experiences he gained from his journeys have left profound traces on his painting.  On numerous occasions Sécan has also found inspiration in Italian landscapes.

Whilst remaining apart from the main artistic currents ( although the recall to expressionism is not out of place), as well as from the world of galleries and art dealers, Georges Sécan has nevertheless attained international fame as the result of the open praise on the part of both the most important critics and the public, thanks to his prestigious exhibitions. 

With  a warm and vigorous brush-stroke, and an exceptional sense of colour, Sécan is the creator of a new genre of painting which, in 1941, he called “Subform” ( forms let loose from the profound subconscious). Tapié, on the occasion of an exhibition organized for Sécan by the Municipality of Milan at Palazzo Reale, redefined this kind of painting “ Subformel” in which the artist tends to express himself by his complete detachment from himself in the attempt at once again finding an ancient, lost understanding that of primitive man faced by his simple and truer subconscious. This commitment is sometimes translated in the transfiguration of the landscape ( a sunset, a sea-bed) or simply by a rhythmic sensation images of an exasperated expressive violence which, like the blinding intensity of the colour, have few equals in contemporary painting.



Georges Sécan – European Enciclopedia ed.Garzanti

 Georges Sécan ( Bucharest 1913), French painter. After studying in Paris and in Munich, after a figurative beginning, yet already attentive to abstract influences, he left Europe and, in India, he came in contact with Zen philosophy, which led him to deepen his researches of “self-contemplation”: that way, there were born the psychological presuppositions of a painting which, in 1941, with a notable advance on the informal vague,   he presented like subform painting ( forms sprung from the subconscious) At its roots there is a condition of ataraxy, meant as a  mastery of  a psychical store, a sort of vital surplus operatively transferred into an extremely vehement colouristic and visionary surplus ( Precivilization, 1961, Lausanne, Musée des Beaux Arts): it’s a technique which, if on one hand it seems to approach Sécan to the so-called abstract expressionism and to Cobra Group – which, at a certain point, he seemed to get near – it actually differs from them, because of its stating as authentic revelation of the subconscious, the element which distinguishes Sécan also from Surrealism ( seen as automatic recording of Freud’s individual repressed instincts ) and rather connects Sécan - in his mediation between East and West – to the world of archetypes populating Jung’s collective unconscious. Thus Sécan’s work alternates themes ranging from the art of portrait to musical notations, from Eastern landscapes to the series of “marionettes”, which the artist painted in Paris after the war, as a dramatic note picked among Europe’s ruins.


From the Universal Encyclopedia SEDA

A first-rate personage in the current artistic view, perhaps Sécan represents one of the most precious examples of that cultural internationality able to give a determining incentive, on the poetic and human plan,  to the historical community of the great cycles of art.  All Sécan’s life runs through a thick intertwining of events, of journeys, of meetings. Become famous while still very young, with great sacrifices and not few disillusions, he had to conquer the inestimable richness of his freedom. In fact, after bitter experiences, he decided to make his demanding pictorial speech advance, in a totally autonomous way, beyond the ambit of galleries. From that always renewed determination, his spirit progressively gained that consciousness and that rigour which very soon claimed  the most qualified critics’ attention and the most exigent public’s one. A very highly-cultured man,  friend of the greatest artists of our time, Sécan gave birth to a series of pictorial cycles  which coincide with the various phases of his restlessness travelling, as philosophical messages and as expressive sensitivity. In  the space of his very productive activity we can number the paintings inspired by the Buddhist philosophy, direct result of his stays in India; the canvases dedicated to Eastern themes, conceived in Sudan; the series of marionettes, dramatic annotation picked among the ruins of Europe after the war; the cycle of moral paintings, which ranges paintings supplied with a timing device starting a carillon ; the series of “Reactions” ; the space-temporal researches.


"I know I have found new and original accents for my painting, searching another self in myself, trying out further layers of subconscious, primordial, rudimental, metaphysical ones, completely unrelated to the usual vision of the psyche – layers which don’t reconnect anymore to us since millennia.  From this marvellous journey through the realm of spell, - an unperceivable almost abstract heritage – I, moved and upset,  get original  impulses, uncanny expressions, new visions, in the land  beyond myself. "  ( Georges Sécan)


Georges Sécan, French composer and painter ( Bucharest, 1913).  He studied Art of Painting at the Julian Academy in Paris and, for music, he was a pupil of G. Enesco’s ( violin and composition).    Together with his main activity as a painter,  - he will cultivate successfully, also later,  the passion for music. He published many works favourably welcomed not only by the public, but also by many great musicians of our time: among his most appreciated works, we mention Bizarre Dances, a Trio in D Major, a Brilliant Fantasy, this last one dedicated to Yehudi Menuhin.

(Encyclopaedia of Music, ed. Curcio)


( from the book “ Subform Painting” by G. Sécan, published by Garzanti )

Art-Life by G.Sécan



Art is projection of life. To speak of my painting, I have to speak of my life, my way of thinking.

It is often thought that a painter is a profligate, a libertine who delights in searching for the most dissolute amusements among debauchees in Bohemian circles.  I have never been part of such a group, and my life, starting from my adolescence, has been dedicated to ideals of virtue, to artistic and philosophic interests, rather than to material things. It is useless to recall here, as I did in “ Mes Confidences”, the times when I used to meet Brâncusi, Picasso, Braque and others who had not yet become the “ monstres sacrés” of our days, or the bizarre  “combines” of the art market.

I have never felt like following a style or a way of life which was not compatible with my own idealistic conviction. So I have not only remained almost always isolated from painters, their circles and trends, but I have also avoided any connections with dealers and important art gallery owners, despite their insistent requests, simply for the love of my own freedom and my own ideas. 

At 16, I think I can say it, I was already a painter: my paintings were liked, and I was considered one of the best at the Académie des Beaux-Arts Julian in Paris.

Without interrupting my studies at the Académie, I obtained work teaching art in a girls' convent - boarding school – and later, because I was reliable and my students achieved excellent results, I had other pupils to whom I gave private lessons.  I was alone, however, without friends or relations, incapable of organizing myself; and if, as sometimes happened, my lessons were paid several days later, or if I did not succeed in selling a painting, I would go without food for days.  Another cause of worry for me was always trying to appear tidy and respectable, with clean, neat clothes, especially when I lacked the minimum necessary for food.  But I did not give up, I succeeded in overcoming the difficulties.  I was a supreme optimist, and did not want to submit to the requirements of the gallery owners.  The only thing I had was my freedom ( which also meant isolation).  My thoughts detached me from a practical side of life, from reality, and the idea of being provident was foreign to me. 

When I sold my works the money only seemed mine if I spent it, especially to buy books, and I soon had no money left.  In addition to my great passion for art, I felt myself drawn to seek for something beyond myself.   If I painted outside, in front of an inspiring landscape, I abandoned myself to prolonged meditation, allowing my glance and my spirit to wander beyond the limits of the horizon.  I felt that art gave me the sense of a truer existence that overcame the artist, stimulating me to a more profound life, to a “ surplus” of the mind.   I loved to read books of ancient Greek philosophy and I was frequently assailed by metaphysical problems..

Often, waking in the middle of the night, I remained for a long time in the dark, trying to understand the mystery of Creation and, as I wrote then, “what this existence so firmly attached to me, this ‘I’ on which I depended blindly, hid under its stranger’s mantle “.  I found only one reply to my distressing problems: “Life is nothing, man is nothing, all is closely linked to Nothing. A supreme Nothing which, despite its  right to ‘be’ before anything whatever, was inconceivable, could not exist except attached to Everything”.  Thus, I thought that the law of Equity – Nothing-Everything – remains in force for all eternity.

These were thoughts that tormented me, notwithstanding my faith in God, while in the great and cruel city of Paris I was perhaps one of the poorest and most solitary student of the “ Beaux – Arts”.

Moreover, I had to live hidden from my family since they would have taken me back into the fold and prevented me from following my vocation  as a painter.  I had to try never to be noticed by the police or by anybody else since I was a minor who had left home without his parents’ consent, without documents.  I had always to make a good impression, hide my poverty.  I did not live like other young men, and dancing, amusements, girls, and taking part in the hair-raising parties of my fellow students seemed prohibited things to me in those days of study, philosophy and deprivations.

My thoughts were of little interest to my companions at the “ Beaux-Arts”, who busied themselves with the galleries and critics, and a calculating search for a successful style.  Further more, they already had their own habits, amusements, friendships, families and I was still “ the foreigner” even though I was French like them.

 In order to achieve a life which was truer to myself, more authentic, to subtract myself from stupid officialdom, the grip of false and servile conventions, and the dealers who promoted only their own “ stables” of painters, I decided, in view of possibly abandoning Paris for long voyages, to perfect as far as I could my painter’s craft.  I may now say that, thanks to this decision, I soon succeeded in making a name for myself as a painter without the help of any gallery or any dealer.  Rather, little by little, deceived and deluded by an avaricious gallery owner, I developed a kind of rancour for all of them, including the honest ones, and subsequently I have never agreed to alter my ideals for then, to sacrifice my dreams, to allow the cold and mechanical practicality of astute market organisations to make any impositions on my visions as an artist.

This had an infinity of consequences in my life.  But from the artistic and human point of view, this determination was precious to me.  I have found propulsive forces in myself, in my passion for art.

And this is why I have never allowed gallery owners or dealers to handle my work.

Already isolated by my ideas from my colleagues and from the galleries, solitude began for me with all its bitterness, even before I started out into the world.  And, curious destiny, it has lasted an entire life, without family, home, affection, always and everywhere like a foreigner.

And my fate of being a solitary and a stranger continued thus for all a lifetime: from Paris to the many, many other cities where destiny took me. However, being passionately interested in philosophy, I also learnt to detach myself from myself, first with ataraxy – a serene state of mind, protected from perturbation – and then, with that kind of Zen which I derived from it, to paint, and to isolate myself in some way from any noisy atmosphere in which I might find myself and from the onset of preoccupations.

Circumstances led me, after Paris, to spend a great part of my life in the Orient. My shy and mild character, inclined to tolerance, yielded still further to its tendency to respect and love of my neighbour, and to generosity which unfortunately has also brought be much grief.

It is difficult for those who have never lived in the East to understand how, especially with an artist’s sensibility, if one is not pessimistic or irascible or too egocentric, in those places one feels oneself naturally attracted towards the virtues and values of goodness, towards the beneficence of thought, and that remarkably precious something that is true altruism. Perhaps one is able metaphysically to receive more elevated and spiritual messages from a hotter sun and a bluer sky that the usual skies of Europe. In those gardens which are always green, with that sun which exalts life, there was something intoxicating in the air stimulating one to do good.

In the years when I was a painter artist at King Farouk’s Court, I was in great demand by the most important families as a portrait painter, and success and money enabled me to live well. I became involved in many charitable institutions, and among other things I was an active member of the Committee of the Heliopolis-Cairo Orphanage. When one has not assimilated the ways of thinking and feeling which prevail almost everywhere in the East, how absurd certain situations seem which are the result precisely of their fatalism, of spirit of submission and an excess of oriental indulgence! A lot of problems occurred to me just because I had been influenced by the environment. I became fond, from among other children, of a little girl who was not yet three, taciturn, always ill and who walked with difficulty whose mother, although of Italian origin, worked during the war in the bars and other places frequented by the Allies. Her daughter lived in such an unsuitable environment for a child that I decided to do something about it.

Later, as time passed, I came to recognise, that what I had done for the child and her mother had never created the least sign of gratitude in them but, on the contrary they both caused me grief and shame.  I only found consolation and refuge in art and in solitary meditation. This existence of mine  in pensions and hotels finally came to an end when I married in 1972. For the first time I found the sense of comfort given by having a home and family which, after a difficult life, have granted me a happiness until then unknown.

However, it is true that for me solitude was a source of meditation and concentration. Even more than my life itself, it was my thoughts which gradually led me to subform painting. Having finished my studies at the Académie des Beaux-Arts Julian, I spent a year in Munich to perfect them and then returned to Paris. There, thanks to the generous Rothschilds and to Waldemar George, the most authoritative art critic of the time, my works soon became sought after.

Whilst painting a landscape I avoided technique and skills in order to allow myself to be penetrated and inebriated at length by the sense of mystery and the boundless sky, trying to paint only in reaction to intercepted sensations, in the studio I abandoned myself to abstract painting, I left myself be guided by fancy, impulses, feelings of the moment, not without searching in myself, anxious to intercept and record on the canvas some sensorial perception, key to our human condition, the enigma of existence.

It was from my painter uncle that I learnt to look better into myself. In a corner of his studio he kept a poster  on which was written “Try to be yourself”, a saying of which he often reminded me. It impelled him to be more attentive to the impulses of his soul than to technical skills. Thus this precept so dear to my uncle spurred me on, little by little, to seek for the real meaning of being.

What led me, however,  to more complete introspection was reading Epictetus’s famous manual. These maxims for living which were held in such esteem by Marcus Aurelius, Pascal and Napoleon, made my existence less precarious spent, as it was, almost entirely between one country and another, with that feeling of a person isolated, of a “stranger” (“tubab” as I was called in Senegal, or else “European” in India, or “Kharedji”, “ostaz” or “huaga” in other countries).

It was the Manual, modified in accordance to my artist’s sensibility in order to avoid the stoics’ egocentricity, which led me to that imperturbable state of mind, the ataraxy, which proved so influential in my moral artistic formation.

I believe that interior research does not only serve to deepen our faculty of thinking, but enriches the soul with new perceptive faculties and gives us an extreme degree of receptivity.

From childhood, as I often heard said, I liked to look for a long time at the starry sky, and my first desires were to posses the moon, the stars and the trees. Perhaps this is why at one time trees were rarely  absent from my landscapes, not so much as a link between earth and sky, but as a psychic liberation, or as a gesture of rebellion.

As I have already said, I have always looked for a reason in the mystery of the Creation. The Bible and mythologies say that “…first there was chaos”, identifying chaos, space, with Nothing. For me, space was not in fact Nothing, but rather, in its so simple and authentic essence it was one of the most extraordinary structures of the Universe: it served as a container for anything whatsoever.

In my adolescent mind, I convinced myself that all things in nature conformed to a kind of dialectical Equilibrium, to a sort of “Equity”, and that our most exact sciences with their infallibility, so often demonstrated and  re-demonstrated, had developed in accordance with this rule. I realized that Everything inclined towards Nothing, that it became entwined with Nothing. The Yes with the No, the definite with indefinite, the before with the after. An affirmation always existed as a function of its own negation, as happens with every life, for each specific thing. And if the Universe mirrors its Creator,- I ingenuously thought – also He, avoiding usurpations, ought to be composed of two equal forces, in dialectical opposition: “the Creator-non-Creator”, the Lord of Yes and the Lord of No.

Thus, in this union of opposites in which everything is annulled, I asked myself would it not be more natural if there were only the absolute Nothing in the world in all its supreme purity? But how could that which is non-existence itself be made to exist? A Zero-space would be necessary, which could not contain the least thing either in  itself or near to it, and a Zero-time so that it might endure in eternity not bound to the present or the future.

But such a Zero-space and Zero-time are inconceivable. The absolute Nothing , having neither Space in which to put itself nor Time in which to endure, cannot exist by itself. And if it cannot exist in its uniqueness, it exists in multiplicity, bound to the Everything in the Nothing-Everything.

In the spirit of the dialectic Equilibrium which governs the Universe, each affirmation is confirmed by its negation. On the other hand, is not the Nothing-Everything confused with the Nothing? During my adolescence these thoughts lived in me like grotesque characters from a novel. I even tried, with laborious reasoning, to empty the world of all Creation; however, when nothing was left, there remained Space, the marvellous container impossible to reject, impossible to eliminate by any stretch whatsoever of the imagination. And I was astonished to perceive in the impenetrable Nothingness, which should have had supreme priority over all Creation, a divine symbol, a fascinating purification of the world in the absolute.

Its impossibility to exist by itself seemed to weigh on the Cosmos like a kind of “original sin”, in a continuous expiation, in the alternative existence-non-existence. In all things one realized the sense of annihilation, even in the supreme moments of spirituality, love, contemplative ecstasy… Almost as if it were Nothingness which imposed itself on all the Cosmos, on all this universal Tower of Babel, built on contrasts as the only thing better-defined: as dialectical Equilibrium, like a kind of metaphysical Consciousness. It is upon this Spirit of Equilibrium – I thought – that everything is constructed and is destroyed in Nature.

The Everything in Nothingness, one thing within the other, from the spasm of hunger to the quivers of love or death, all things seemed to be dominated by the longing to fill a void, by the desire of one half of the world to devour the other half in order to live, so as to exist.

The Universe is eternal, without beginning, but given -  as the fundamental rule – that the first element which anything requires in order to exist, even Nothingness, would have found a Space in which to put itself, there is in nature itself the irresistible need for one thing to interpenetrate another: the need, that is, for Movement, the eternal law of creation and of life. On the other hand, to put or to remove, to be born or to die, must all be one for the impartial Equilibrium which can only mingle, ad infinitum, the one within the other, in order to arrange things.

A continual flight, protest against any definite thing. This formula of One-thing-into-another, so puerile as a principle, does not clash with the other fundamental laws of nature.  All these laws tend to be as close as possible to the insignificant, to the Nothingness. 

Everything tends to escape, to evade reality.  This is also seen in the continual transformation of things. A wood destroyed by fire, swallowed by earthquakes, by other cataclysms, by thousands of years, becomes coal and petroleum, it burns, evaporates and so on, following the eternal principle of “not being that which it is”.  Also time reflects Nothingness with its present which has hardly appeared when it becomes the past, and with its elusive future.

“ Is it possible”, I asked myself, “ that the same grotesque sort of existence for Nothingness happens to such an extraordinary Creation as it does to each created thing?”

In those years of fanciful meditations, I imagined space made up of an infinity of small dots which continually rummaged in themselves in search of the smallest possible one.  They were like spirals which clung together increasingly more frenziedly, more dizzily, converging towards an ever smaller space.  Close to the untouchable Nothingness they exploded and returned in the opposite direction towards a larger space where they were immediately absorbed by the other, stronger convergent spirals.  The spirals, clashing and converging among themselves, undifferentiating the various degrees of density and strength of space, in the end wove matter. I thought that they had always existed in space and that new solar systems like our own, continued to be formed.

These were not arguments which intended to undermine religious opinions – faith is a sentiment of the soul which one possesses with an authentic echo of oneself.

Certain peoples have a religious vision of Nothingness.  For an Indian, for example, as the poet Tagore told me in 1936, Nothingness is almost a sacred word. It is impossible to explain these things to a Westerner.  The present does refute time, as in certain Indian temples, and the soul tends to raise itself within the Infinite, in the yearning for the Inexistence.

Even considering the East nearest to us, it is not easy to describe the sense of metaphysical emptiness which is created around the voice of the “ muezzin” as soon as he invokes “ Allah u Akbar” ( God is great), calling the faithful from the summit of the mosque to their humble prayers.  And with such few notes, with so much harmonious musicality:


 How many times, before painting a landscape from life, I have been overwhelmed by this emotion which gives the infinity of the heavens.  I would focus on a distant point and then, using my imagination, I would move my glance towards a still more distant point – and so on – until I finally lost myself in the ecstasy of a new sensation, transcendent.

And since I knew that, from light to colours, from sounds to ultrasounds, every thing in nature was organized on the intensity of waves, it seemed I was tuned to a metaphysical wave  length in Nothingness, in the Infinite. It seemed to me that I had escaped myself, and I intuited that there is the magical reflection of the before and after life in us.  And that Nothingness is precisely the ideal to which each life unconsciously aspires. Also in order to think profoundly of God, to express my humility in prayer, I had to make a certain void in myself, annul every egoistic instinct, to start out from emptiness, from Nothingness.  I seemed to be like a bird which had to flap its wet wings before flying. Only by making a void in myself, could I approach the mysterious divine Spirit more closely, the unknown force which appeared masked by Nothingness.   

Christian martyrs, anchorites, Indian santons and Zen followers have found the best moments of their thought and faith in the absolute search of the beyond of existence, in the sublimation of emptiness.  Of that void which commence with deep respiration of the mind and has always something new, fresh as in the phenomena of nature, something which lightens the banal pressure of life.  Perhaps by intercepting a fluid lost from this mysterious Nothingness made physical, man goes beyond himself, he approaches the ideal of  attuning himself with the sublime in a supreme God who annihilates  the absurdity of the Nothingness-Everything.

I learnt from Epictetus’s Manual, which is a sort of moral summary of Stoic philosophy, to practice ataraxy. In Paris, as I have already said, at the time when I attended the Académie des Beaux-Arts Julian, I alternated my studies with lessons which I gave to various pupils at their homes.  In those years many parents preferred not to send their daughters to the Académies and so,  in often having to move about, sometimes from one end of Paris to the other, during these long trips I would practice ataraxy.  I reached the point of immersing myself in a serene state of mind, safe from any external disturbance; I only allowed myself to be influenced by things determined by me (state of mind, opinions), and I ignored everything else which did not depend on me, since it was outside myself.  I conditioned myself by way of two stages:

1 – Control of the state of mind in an imaginary circle of isolation and defense;

2 – Control, within a larger circle, of that which could infiltrate the area already controlled.

Subsequently, intensifying the concentration after these two stages which produced ataraxy in me, and going beyond the second circle, I reached the point of confounding this state of mind with Nirvana, with Nothingness. But here it was already “transpresence”, a sort of void as it is referred to in the East, which I was to discover better some years later.  The vaster area of perception around the mind, the more the latter is elevated. This control is like a growing pressure which digs deeply into our being.  All of this, however, depends on an ever-intensifying concentration.

With these three stages of concentration, I gradually guided myself to Subform painting.

My practice was very different from the ataraxy of the ancients Stoics (which also led to insensibility and egotism).  I had only to be subjected to a control of myself, selecting my sensations.  I thought with greater lucidity, I was less a slave to things and I was proud of profound by feeling the meaning of the Delphic precept: “ know yourself”.  In 1932, however, I received an unexpected and violent shock which made me understand, in a concrete way, our degrading reality: the Absurd.  This was the death of one of my pupils.  One Saturday afternoon, while I was going to her house for our lesson, I noticed – and what horror the realization gave me later – that I was humming the hackneyed theme of Chopin’s ‘Funeral March’.  I rang the doorbell and a person I had never seen before opened it.  Everything seemed strange; even the entrance was plunged into darkness, while only a few days before, at the previous lesson, the girl herself had let me in, as she usually did. 

“ I’m the painting teacher,” I said to the unknown man. Then I heard a strangled, mourning voice:

“She was buried yesterday… Typhus…”

Alone, in the street, with the obsessive Chopin still in my ears, I began to understand.  I was overcome by a deep torment and realized  - only then – that I had been truly fond of that girl who had been my pupil for almost a year.  The next day, in a small office at the entrance of the cemetery where I went to find her, I received a ticket with the number of the sector, the row and the tomb… I found her name on a small rectangle of earth which had just been dug over, and I left the first roses I had ever given to a girl.  In that deserted corner of the cemetery – to which I often returned – and in the peace of all those souls, something ineffable united me with them.   A profound change took place in me. My poor philosophy became concrete not in order to accept death – and even today I refuse this idea – but rather the Absurd, Nothingness.  In the deep silence which interpenetrated everything, my thoughts became more acute.  I even seemed to perceive the petals’ farewell which  detached themselves sorrowfully from the roses, while I once again saw sweetly within me that person and contemplated her luminous eyes, her hands by way of the earth and flowers which covered her.

It was the first time that I had found myself in front of this other face of human destiny and also afterwards, during my solitary life without relations or patrons of any sort, and without a country of my own, not only did I remain detached from death and cemeteries, but perhaps also from my own life.

I suddenly realised that reality was conditioned and that Nothingness was the true key to all things. Faced by those graves I asked myself whether Inexistence, Nothingness were the precious ideal to which each human being unconsciously aspires, and which we have lost in the vortex of life. Maybe we only join one another in death? I found it right that God should be the substance of Everything, as also of Nothingness and that our destiny be also His…

What can it mean – I asked myself – to be beautiful and to be good, ugly and bad, when everyone suffers and dies in the same miserable way? Or, perhaps, the epitaph which would be appropriate for each one of us is engraved on the forehead of the great Jupiter: Mort ou vif , Méchant ou bon, j’ai un seul nom: Contradiction…

I believe I wrote these lines, in fact, at the exit of the cemetery in one of those peaceful cafés which one existed – familiar homes of so many ‘solitaries’.

After this sad event I felt more than ever disgusted by the environment in which a painter had to make his way.

I decided to leave Paris. The Orient attracted me and I took the opportunity of going to Egypt where I painted important portraits. On arrival, some time later, I discovered in Khartoum “transpresence” which I derived from ataraxy. In order to isolate myself better in my work, intensifying the concentration, I reached the point of completely excluding what surrounded me, of reducing all things to Nothingness.  And when, after various efforts, I also succeeded in attuning myself to the emptiness which I made in myself, I began to paint.

Only in this way did I succeed in finishing my commitment to Abbas Pascià for a whole series of paintings which were to adorn his villa.  The tropical heat oppressed me and, moreover, I found myself in the pre-war East and with all its comfortable precepts of life, its fatalism and its famous “ Maàlesci” (everything’s fine).

In the quarter where I was living, from morning to night one only heard indigenous music; if at first it annoyed me, I was soon so taken by it that I set about studying it in earnest. These were ingenious chants which conveyed laziness and languor; I realized how well–founded were Aristotle's writings about the influence of music on character and how right was ancient Greek law which prohibited certain music.   The environment had a negative influence on me. I decided only to paint at night, using large portable lamps (“à kabrit”) common in the East.  And here I began to prepare my colours on a large table with the top transformed into a palette; also the canvases were placed horizontally.  When the accumulations of colours, the lamps and all my other necessities were arranged, I took a large flat brush with short bristles (so that I could also use its metal ring) and, ready to paint, I concentrated on isolating myself in the transpresence.  In that environment, unsuited to my painting, I had to make a great effort to obtain this spiritual independence, and it was by way of a certain reaction that I started my work, as soon as I reached transpresence.  Thus, before painting, not only was the resentment and the confusion by which I was surrounded cancelled from my mind, but once again manifested in me –in my passion for art- were new and strong impulses.  I acquired the habit of often working at night, always in this way, and the ease with which I could by now immerse myself in the transpresence, which gradually exploded more deeply, more than once gave me real interior satisfaction.

Later in India I came to know numerous devotees of Zen and the Mandala and I was surprised to find myself no less initiated than they were to the void, besides the religious interpretation.  Perhaps it was for this reason that U Thant ( who before becoming UNO Secretary General was also a Buddhist monk) with his enigmatic smile, called my way of achieving emptiness "Zen-Sécan”, finding it very personal.  This self-contemplation of mine before painting, coincided at certain points with philosophical disciplines which had spread from China to India and Japan, to hundreds of school and convents.

They taught, and still teach, principals which are appropriate for the self-development of one’s spiritual and physical faculties, with a gradual accumulation in oneself of the maximum of psychic energies.  After long periods of training, one reaches ever-increasing concentrations of repressed energies which profoundly bear upon the elevation of thought in action and on its lightning rapidity.  For this reason, Zen is even taught in gymnasiums in order to give athletes a better awareness and mastery of their own forces.  For example, in archery (“Kyudo”), before shooting an accurate accumulation of psychic forces, to be freed together with the loosed arrow, is required.  This principle of suspending action in order to augment a liberated force convinced me more and more that everything was generated in the contrast between two opposed forces.  Everything was connected to the principal and creative spirit of the dialectical Equilibrium.  I realized that in Calcutta and Hong Kong the sort of Zen and Zazen taught with recourse to notions of emptiness in order to see better into oneself, was not far from my way of identifying “myself” through that which is “beyond myself”. Also,  through a sort of metaphysical lucidity, I saw myself transported from the tranquil state of mind of ataraxy to what I had called “the state of being beyond myself” or transpresence. This new dimension, which surpassed the depth of being, irradiated me in a space which was beyond myself.  Once I had entered into this metaphysical state, in the acquisition of consciousness of the soi-autre which makes the soi-meme so precarious – so common – I not only had at my disposition that psychic energy which accumulated in me, but also that which surrounded me.  And it was then that I perceived a surplus of life which became sublimated in the agreement between “me” and the “not-me”, transforming me – body and spirit – into a single impulse: my being and the palette became one and the same.

Still in India, in Calcutta, in 1941, one of the most extraordinary event in my career as a painter happened to me.  One evening I returned home late. Before going to bed, I noticed that my palette still had to be cleaned. I had prepared it in the afternoon, ready for work, thinking I would return early. Despite the fact that the day had been very tiring, I decided to paint.

I set about concentrating myself as usual but, as I was very tired, I did not succeed in keeping myself in the transpresence: I lost it as soon as I touched the colours.  It was impossible for me to make the two efforts simultaneously.  It was in this way that, by compelling myself to a more intense concentration, I completely lost the idea of myself.  I do not know how much time passed… 

Suddenly I felt a tremor. It was a window which was banging violently. And that brought me back to reality. It seemed to me that I had momentarily slept: although disturbed, I realized that instead I had painted and in a state of deep trance.

I looked with astonishment at my fingers covered with paint and at a large half-filled canvas. I did not know what to think.  The style of the painting was not mine at all!...  It was more alive, more dynamic than the painting I had done in Khartoum affected by the state of transpresence.  I burst out laughing and felt relieved.  “This time I have exceeded myself,” I said.  “ I have just returned from a life which is very different from mine”.  The half-painting was there, all vibrating with new forms and colours in the full light. But I felt a deceitful tiredness never experienced before.  In the morning, when I looked more carefully at the painting, I was enthusiastic.  The technique and the “fantasy” of the work were of a clarity and originality which were unknown to me.  I thought that the too prolonged transpresence the evening before had excluded me completely in order to make room in me for a basic–subconscious, primitive which, continuously repressed by our civilization, has not been mirrored in us for millennia.  I said jokingly to myself:” I have received a visit…. Perhaps one of my ancestors came to see the most recent creation of his progeny”.

I have always been attracted by anthropology. I have tried, more than once, to imagine the features and life of an hominid, of a man lost in the dawn of time, of an ancestor to whom I owed my life.

I do not know why, but I showed this new painting, still wet, to my barber and to other acquaintances in the neighbourhood.  They did not like abstract art although I felt they were sincere in their admiration of it.  It was almost as though it touched a secret spring in them – which is common to us all – the sub-subconscious.  I was certain that I had once again found an ancient and lost awareness, that of archaic man faced by his simple and primitive subconscious, more real that our own. I realized that my pictorial alphabet had been enriched by new signs, new forms and that that strange painting was a projection of my subconscious.

This was why I thought of calling it “ subform”.

For two or three weeks I waited for the evening to once again try to find the same creative impetus in my oblivion.  I persisted in attempting to relive each moment preceding that singular trance.  But I no longer remember anything of importance apart from the decision I had taken of immersing myself as far as possible in the transpresence.  I disappointedly realized that it  was impossible to find that kind of sub-subconscious painting again, and I thought that it was precisely my instinct of self–preservation, if not an unwitting prudence, which was keeping me away from that “no man’s land”.  Maybe I was afraid to go back into that state of trance, to the limits of being.  Thus many days passed during which I was unable to paint.  Since for some time I had already intended to go to new Delhi, I suddenly decided to leave. I was always interested and enthusiastic when I could say :” I’m leaving tomorrow!...”

It gave me an invigorating sense of freedom.  It was a recommencement, and when I felt the monotony of my solitude, to leave meant to immerse myself in a new life.  Although “tomorrow” in India also means “never”, like the ironic “bukra” of Egypt.

Chance, that fanciful sprite which may also play tricks on the disciplined severity of our cosmos, which arranges and upsets our affairs, had me leave only three months later because, and in the most unexpected way, I rediscovered subform painting.  I dedicated the day before my departure to quick, last minute purchases.  It was already evening and I still had to say good-bye to some acquaintances, including a picture framer.  I thought that he was the least important visit and that I would be able to get through with it quickly, as was the case, although in fact it turned out to be an extremely important visit. 

The picture framer lived in an old house in which, behind a main door, one had to go down a dark narrow staircase and along his workshop-cum-frame deposit which led to the basement. This finally opened onto a stone staircase which had walls covered with drawings.

All of this complicated itinerary for an almost useless visit ended up by exasperating me and I hurried to go up the steps three at a time, freeing my right hand as best I could from the packages with which I was laden.  My hand was lifted ready to knock as soon as I arrived at the floor on which he lived, the fourth or fifth, but at that moment I found it was inexplicably impeded and held immobile. For a second I had the sensation of I don’t know what, which was familiar and similar to another interrupted movement.  With my eyes fixed on that stiff arm I suddenly remembered a detail which the trance of that extraordinary evening had made me forget.  The extreme tiredness of that day had not allowed me, like other times, to maintain the state of transpresence parallel to the painting.  Exhausted, almost in spite of my useless efforts, and resigned by then to throwing away the paints, I had made a firm decision: to maintain the transpresence for a short time without allowing it to connect automatically with the impulse to pain. I also remembered the tense arm which could be restrained with difficulty in the effort of stopping myself from making whatever movement, notwithstanding the increasingly insistent pressure of the void.

Now, in front of the picture framer’s door, which was still closed, I felt in me something like an enlightenment; I seemed to become connected with the infallible mechanism which led to the sub-subconscious.  I firmly believed in the force of the contrast which was the creator of necessity, the universal basis of everything, of our existence and of our civilisation.

Optimist by nature – as unfortunately I still am, and too much so – I had the certainty that I had discovered how to achieve a new painting.  I went slowly down the stairs.  Everything seemed to be transformed.  Even the basement which led to the exit seemed to be more typical than ugly.  That evening I felt more immersed than ever in the magical atmosphere of Calcutta, city of miracles.  I went to sit in the first café which I happened to find.  In that noisy little native meeting-place, in front of the radio which gave out the latest news at full volume, I decided to postpone my departure.

Painting was everything to me.  In that war period the Indian atmosphere was more that ever hostile to Europeans.  It was a diffidence which saddened me.  I felt instinctively close to the Indians and was conscious of their rights and problems. 

It is in these solitary and repressed moments of life that the artist feels the most need to take refuge in what he loves, in what he feels most deeply.  He tends to surpass himself in the desire to transform, to create, to reflect himself in a new being, in a more integral presence, beyond the “walls” of time.

Returning home, I thought at lengths of how to prevent myself from being overwhelmed by the trance.  This time I was more afraid of the consequences which it could cause me.  On the other hand, I seemed to be going to find a new Land, unknown, and that made me stronger.  Having returned to my room, I did not feel like concluding the evening.  Everything seemed extraordinary to me.  I prepared the lamps, took out the powders, the oil, and what was necessary in order to mix my colours, remaining a little detached from everything I did; I even remained detached from myself, so alive in me was the intention of escaping from things, of watching myself from a distance… I was spurred on by the certainty of succeeding in once again finding that new form of painting with such a profound and luminous touch.  I had the presentiment of deciphering a whole secret world still alive in us, of being reborn through art into a new dimension – more authentic, essential, metaphysical.  Although at the same time something strange overcame me.  I was afraid.  A profound, insidious fear, the fear of being swept away by a physically and mentally risky experience.

In my often adventurous past I had overcome ugly moments courageously but that evening I am sure that I was really face to face with fear.

As usual, when the preparations were completed, with the brush ready in my hand and everything spread out in front of the palette, I began to concentrate.  Trying to repeat what I remembered of that far-off evening, I forced myself to resist to the utmost my by now engrained habit of starting to paint as soon as I had achieved the transpresence.  I had to force myself for a long time to detach myself from reality, while at the back of my mind, with my heart which I almost felt beating, I every now and again felt a recall to prudence…  I was in the vortex of two equally strained opposites.  The more the state of transpresence intensified, the more difficult it was for me to restrain the impulse of my arm to paint.  Thus, while on the one hand I proceeded, enveloped in the hermetic cloak of the transpresence, in the grip of an increasingly greater concentration, on the other I refused the almost automatic impulse to paint, that profoundly acquired function predetermined by the transpresence itself.  It was like the play of a spring which contracts and is then released, like the increasingly growing alternation between receptivity and reaction.

Little by little, I became depersonalized, in a semi-hypnotic state, in the abstraction of myself.  Suddenly I had the sensation that everything in me was blocked.  I felt a moment of suspense!

Everything seemed magically to have changed, and all of a sudden I realized that I was already painting.  A superhuman emotion brought me to the canvas, to a mad palette and to a powerful hand which searched within the open veins of the colours.  It was not “ painting”, it was existing in a new and more authentic dimension – it was “ being”.  I was no longer painting, I was creating, substituting “doing” with “creating”.  I was no longer afraid.  In the explosion of those frenetic, flushing energies of painting, there was the accumulated anger of a thousand repressed ancestral fears.  I decided I would always paint in that way.  I was guided by a new dynamic, which had its genesis in far-off times.  This was reflected by sudden energies in  my process of painting which, however, always corresponded to the rationality of my well acquired craft of the painter which is, after all, closer to the subconscious than to the will.  Moreover, it seemed that each brush stroke was in itself a point of departure and of arrival, that it was born already complete, it was so determinant.  I realized that in the depths of our being we are less the man of today than the homo semper, a still green branch of the hominid.  It is in this way that the dynamics of my paintings are determined by this basic instinct which drives me to the canvas to project that throb of mysterious life which was once ours.  In my painting there is the significance of impulses and also of messages which are not of our common subconscious, but of a sub-subconscious, of that archaic one which affirmed itself in us for millions of years and which we then repressed.  When I paint subform pictures I feel completely lost in another world.  The liberation of the impulses of the profound instinct determines the presence in me of a superior force, direct and uncheckable, which is freed by painting.  It is such a concentrated metaphysical dynamism that it removes me from myself and from my way of doing things, and transmits unknown and unlooked-for forms and figures which, however, excite in me the affection which one feels once again on seeing long-forgotten familiar people and places.  Often creations are born on the canvases, perhaps reflections of realities lived long ago, which later prompt me to be completed or corrected with some brush strokes. Hence, the transcendency of the gesture which tends towards the essential, the decisive and absolute touch which reduces forms to the minimum, the impetus and passion which overwhelm me, become fundamental elements of the technique and spirit that the sub-subconscious imposes on me, taking possession of me.  My hand, my way of painting, my painting experience, and also sometimes the reflection of a haunting imagination or a recent impression, are also subjected within the frenzy of the action to an instinctive force and a metaphysical sense unknown to me. Immersed in a state of semi-trance, perhaps suspended on a delicate thread of awareness which keeps watch, which does not allow me to be completely carried away, I look beyond reason and the senses.  I draw upon impulses, new and vitalizing energies in that dimension which I could define as the “beyond” of myself.  It would be humiliating and useless to fill the canvas with the well-known reflections of the man of today, with his banal and unconscious impulses of repetition.  I leave my painter’s talent in the hands of a more natural being, more resolute and without complexes.

In the subform, “creating”painting is different from “doing”, also because the “doing” presupposes the intention of carrying out something which one has in mind, which one already knows, whereas “creating” is the “doing” without knowing what the result will be.   Life owes itself to a sense of creation which excludes the intention of doing: our living bodies of flesh were neither made nor constructed, but came from a metaphysical Spirit which induced matter to create life.  Also the artist almost always creates under the effect of a stimulus, of an emotion, a reaction.  Rossini found inspiration for his compositions after enjoying his table, and Schubert in a girl’s glance.  Balzac stimulated his imagination in dozen of cafés, and Michelangelo worked under the impetus of a frenetic aggressiveness, connected, perhaps, periodically, to his sub-subconscious.  Sometimes, while I paint, I have the sensation of vague and impatient shadows which are latent in me, and as soon as these take on form and character in the play of colours, I feel a singular exaltation.  This makes me believe that in my sub-subconscious there is still a magma, still alive, of repressed images.  Painting has become for me more than ever a psychic necessity which in the disposition of new forces makes me aware of a more authentic life.  In excluding myself with meditations prior to entering the state of transpresence, in the exaltation of Nothingness, I come close to that truer and purer reality which was once ours.  Certainly one will never be able to once again find that vitality which once existed, the authentic sense of existence, of the metaphysical, which only illuminates us at times.  There is, for example, something profound and fundamental which “starts” in my heart every time that my glance meets that of my daughter.  All the enquiring tenderness that little Laura puts into her eyes excludes and transcends man, distorted and deformed by a totally false and conventional life.  In those moments I realize that we are always more subjected by conscience-comfort, by the matter which we perfect and train to our service.  We objectify ourselves, we characterize ourselves in relation to the objects which we believe we possess but which, after all, possess us in the paralysing object-man monologue.  We do not realize that the triumph of matter is in direct relationship to our decadence and that by dint  of being determined becomes determinant, and indeed it already tries and condemns us…

These hands of ours, able and astute tools as Shakespeare called them, must in their incredible past have accumulated an immense store of knowledge and skill.  It was, perhaps, in order to free them that the hominid chose the erect position.  And who knows whether it is not our hands’ prehensility and instinctive memory which, indirectly, led our brain to receive ideas, to drive it to the game of thinking and of the will, that basic characteristic of man.