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FLIGHT INTO WHITENESS: BRAM VAN VELDE

IN 1923, BRAM VAN VELDE made a painting entitled Neige (Snow), or, sometimes, Paysage de neige (Snowy landscape). He was 28 years old. Something quite frightening happens on this canvas, like a definitive leave-taking—a goodbye in that terrible dimension of “forever.” Three men are walking in the white that takes up most of the surface. Two of them have turned around to stare at the viewer, as if for the last time. The third is walking toward a cramped village in the distance, at the bottom of a valley. Maybe the young man who painted this image didn’t really understand it yet, for he would continue to use the figure for fifteen years more. But one is tempted to read into Neige the premonitory representation of a double abandonment. First, abandonment of self, because if the painter of the impossible later acknowledged by Samuel Beckett was to emerge, it was necessary that Van Velde die,

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