Alberto Giacometti, lived most of his sculptor life in a Paris apartment/studio, without hot water or a bathroom. Brother Diego was his foundry assistant. He chain-smoked 4 packs per day, and wore the same grey, herring bone suit, 24 hours a day. He would buy a new one – same color, same style – once a year. He went to restaurants for his meals, bistros and clubs for drinks and conversation, and brothels now and then. He was very upset when prostitution was made illegal. He worked in his studio all night, and slept most of the day. He married late, reluctantly, and enjoyed mistresses. He had no children.
To Giacometti, life was magical. He saw wonder in everything. He believed in the intense significance of his feelings, and in the possibilities of the mysterious. He savored primary sensation. Attracted to the surrealists, he at first painted and sculpted as they wanted, from the psychological, and the philosophical and the political. But it really didn’t take him anywhere he wanted to go. Existential angst, he realized, was not political, or philosophical, or anything new in human history. And it wasn’t artistic. He moved on from the surrealists. Andre Breton, their commandant, wanted a discussion. Giacometti said “No, that won’t be necessary”.
He discovered an obsession “to represent what I see”. Not what his eyes see, but what his mind sees.
For years he tried and failed. Constantly studying people on the street, and in conversations, he was drawn to the misfits and histrionic types, people who played out their being, up front, unaffected. He would pose his models for hours and days on end. All night he would attempt sculpture, only to destroy it in the morning, unsatisfied.
His friends and family lost confidence. He seemed more and more a lost eccentric.
At times, having looked so long and so hard, he would feel an entranced loss of the thoughts and identifications of what he was seeing. The work would take control, expressive shapes and proportions would emerge.
“he found to his amazement, and to his consternation, that the sculpture grew smaller and smaller. The smaller it grew, the more troubled it became, yet he could not keep if from shrinking. The sculpture itself seemed to determine in advance its appropriate size, would accept no alternative and compelled the sculptor to comply.”
Training builds creative and perceptive skill. Practice areas of the brain become . . . swollen.
“The posterior hippocampus, the area of the brain known to be important for memory, is bigger in London cab drivers than in most people.”
Attending a play in a Parisian theatre, looking at the stage and then at the audience around him, he had this awareness that he was seeing differently, in some new way, “not like a camera“, but dimensionally, in time and space, . . . with a strange sense of becoming.
His work became art, – bare essentialist human form, posture intention, movement purpose, stance emotion, aura of being
. . . what you see with your mind.