When the French poet and journal writer Charles Juliet had to perform an interview on 25 October 1964 with the Dutch-French painter Bram van Velde, it looked like it wouldn't be much of a success. But after an initially awkward conversation, they turned out to understand each other so well that they didn't part company for another eleven hours. This is how Juliet describes this first rendez-vous in his book Rencontres avec Bram van Velde. Living, reading and writing were as essential to Juliet as painting and breathing were to Van Velde.
Upper and lower cover of binding
Lithographby Bram van Velde (on Japanese paper)
Translated and made into a film
Charles Juliet was born in Jujurieux (Ain), and later moved to Lyon. He attended a military school for eight years, and turned his back on medicine at the age of 23 to devote himself to literature. His novel L'année de l'éveil - about a 14-year-old student at a military academy - was awarded a prize in 1989 (by the readers of women's magazine Elle), and was even translated and made into a film. Juliet has published several interviews with artists. Besides Bram van Velde, he interviewed Pierre Soulages, Raoul Ubac and Samuel Beckett. He is also known for the publication of his diary. It was difficult at first to get his discussions with Bram van Velde published, but Fata Morgana welcomed both the author and the artist.
Rencontres (Meetings) was the first book the author wrote for publisher Fata Morgana, which was established in Montpellier at the time. The publishing business was headed by the eccentric Bruno Roy, who was assisted by proofreader Marijo Roy. Roy was a collector, a bibliophile, a university lecturer and a renowned publisher of fine books in small editions. The publishing firm was founded in 1966 and has produced over 850 publications to date. Some of these editions are now very rare, as a third of the stock was lost in a large fire suffered by the distributor. An anthology appeared for the publisher's tenth anniversary, and a bibliography was published for its thirtieth.
Juliet was the right person to elicit statements on art and life from reluctant speaker Van Velde. They offer an impressive collection of his doubts and opinions. But unfortunately, they betray nothing of Bram van Velde's working methods, which he never discussed with anyone. His statements are sometimes as abstract as his paintings and lithographs. In an article that was to become highly influential, Samuel Beckett wrote the following about Van Velde in 1945: 'It is impossible to create order in the elementary. You either show something or you don't'. Van Velde still remembered that article many years later: 'Beckett doesn't use the word 'colour' even once in the first text he wrote about me. That was important. It affected me' (31 December 1966). It was true; Beckett actually did mention colour in the part he dedicated to Bram's brother Geer van Velde.
Statements on art and life
Van Velde was clear about his own reticence:
A painter cannot work with words. His only escape is to be a visionary.
(9 November 1965).
According to Van Velde, life was full of horrors:
It's all horrible. But all one can do is laugh about it.
(31 October 1966)
There are more dead days than live ones.
(14 September 1967)
The artist must face suffering:
We may not soften anything.
(27 December 1969)
Nor must one recoil from suffering:
Everyone seems to build his own hiding place. We should all be without a hiding place.
(2/3 September 1974)
Painting remains fundamentally incomprehensible:
As soon as one has knowledge, one loses everything and cannot continue.
(2 April 1967)
He did not speak about inspiration:
Something attempts to come into existence. But I don't know what it is. I never depart from knowledge. Knowledge is impossible. Truth is not knowledge.
(11 August 1972)
The artist must sometimes be practical:
I paint gouaches when I lack the strength to start work on a painting.
(14 September 1967
The painter's personality isn't important:
The artist plays no part in it. He is absent.
(28 December 1967)
Painting is an eye, a blinded eye that continues to see, that sees what has blinded it,
Juliet recorded on 31 October 1966. And he added the following later:
Paintings are a guide to the blind man that I am.
(2/3 September 1974).
The result is what matters:
The canvas is an action, an adventure, an invention.
(27 December 1969)
It is always serious:
Too many artists stay in the area where it is still possible to play.
(1 November 1971)
The amount of personal exertion Van Velde sacrifices to his art can be deduced from his remark of 13 April 1968:
When I see a recent painting again, the suffering I observe in it is hardly bearable.
If Van Velde remained silent for too long, he would often suggest going out for a walk himself:
I like to walk. Walking is always a pleasure.
(3 April 1972)
Helpless fits of giggles
In spite of the serious nature of the conversation, Bram van Velde would sometime fall victim to helpless fits of giggles.Van Velde was to illustrate a number of Juliet's poems with lithographs. In 1980 Fata Morgana published the collection Fouilles in an edition of 500 copies. This copy is one of 60 numbered copies on Arches paper, with an original lithograph, besides which it is one of the 30 copies that carries an extra imprint of the lithograph on Japanese paper, on which the print is sharper, and the colour (black and shades of gray) is deeper.
|Description:||Fouilles : poèmes / par Charles Juliet ; [lithogr. orig. de Bram van Velde]. - Montpellier : Fata morgana, 1980. -  p. : ill. ; 23 cm|
|Printer:||Impr. de la Charité (Montpellier) (text)
Pierre Badey (Paris) (lithographs)
|This copy:||Number 25 of 60 on Arches|
|Note:||With an extra print of the lithograph on Japon nacré|
|Bibliography:||Fata morgana-173 ; In liefde verzameld-48|
|Shelfnumber:||Koopm A 763|
- Rodolphe Barry, Rencontres avec Charles Juliet. Genouilleux, La passe du vent, 2000
- Samuel Beckett, Le monde et le pantalon. Paris, Les Éditions de Minuit, 1989
- Bram van Velde 1895-1981. 's-Gravenhage, SDU uitgeverij, 1989
- Fata morgana 1966-1993.Saint-Clément-la-Rivière, Fata Morgana, 1993
- Charles Juliet, Journal. Paris, Hachette, 1978-1994
- Charles Juliet, Gesprekken met Bram van Velde. Amsterdam, Sauternes, 1993
- Charles Juliet, Rencontres avec Bram van Velde. Montpellier, Fata Morgana, 1984
- Roger Laporte, *Bram van Velde ou Cette petite chose qui fascine. *Montpellier, Fata morgana, 1980