Style is most important, whether it be a book, a piece of
music, a painting, or a piece of sculpture. But style is
recognized only in retrospect. If one has style in mind while
one is painting, one becomes stylistic. One produces a style
after the Gothic, or Renaissance, or African. The style becomes
superficial and becomes a manner, and we call that stylistic.
My style comes out of my whole life. The style is the result of
the state of mind of the artist, the subject matter one is
handling, the state of one’s health, and the clarity of one’s
mind: all that goes into the work. After it’s done, the style
can be recognized. Whatever comes out is a spontaneous and
mysterious thing. Style cannot be defined intellectually. It
can be seen only in retrospect.
For example, the Gothic style came out of the condition of
France and Germany in the 13th and 14th century. The 12th
century was Romanesque: after the Romanesque came the Gothic.
The Romanesque was a result of the Roman Empire, the Greek art
and all of that. Then the Gothic came because the people began
to express themselves more directly. It came out of The
climate, the stones they had to work with, and their religious
approach… their interpretation of Christianity. That whole
thing produced what we call the Gothic style, and the word
‘gothic’ means ‘barbarian’, uncivilized’. It was original
expression, getting away from the Greek and the Roman. But it
all came about in retrospect. The people who built the Gothic
cathedrals built them as well as they could under the condition
and the state of mind they were in, and out came what we call
the Gothic style.
So when someone does a painting, the same process takes place.
Everything one is comes out in that painting. If one’s able to
be spontaneous, then there is spontaneity in the style and there
is vigor in the brush strokes. If one is not able to be
spontaneous, because one is still immature and one is uncertain,
and one’s technique is not complete, then style doesn’t come
through, because one is still struggling with technique. If one
has mastered the technique and lived, and is still vigorous, and
paints with pleasure, then out comes what we call style.
Style is never an intellectual and willful effort. It is like
grace in the spiritual life. We try, we pray, we sit, we
meditate. By the grace of God in a mysterious way we become
enlightened. You don’t become enlightened by mere effort. You
don’t achieve enlightenment. Enlightenment comes after great
discipline and effort, but we don’t achieve. It is the same
with style in Art.