From a public interview in English with Martin McQuillan at the University of St. Andrews in 1999:
McQuillan - .... I would like to ask... why Hélène Cixous thinks that perhaps writing is more important than painting?.... So, I would like to know... whether painting has more space for women to transform and transgress than writing does, or whether it is the other way around?
Cixous - Well, thank you. These are huge questions -- and beautiful questions.
You know when we started, I should have said one thing regarding "Cixous", which is something very difficult to say, because I think that while one should read, unfortunately one should in the original, but it is not given to us. We mostly read in translation. So what do we do with that? It is a huge question of translation. So, let me just linger on that for a few minutes.
I, myself, read in translation. I've learned to read Brazilian in order to read Clarice Lispector because I know that the secrets are in the skin and flesh of the original language. So, what happens when we are cursed (or blessed by) the fact that we encounter through different languages. Usually I try to come to terms with the situation by reminding myself that all languages are translations. The moment I write, I translate. I translate what I feel in this or that language, which I am going to destabilize. The encounters of my emotions in my though with the French language, for instance, is going to de-French and re-French French -- to free French. I think it's the same, well, it's not exactly the same, but it's in this direction that we read works in translation. But then of course the responsibility of the translator becomes huge, whcih is also one of the problems that, we, literary people meet all the time. All those who teach literature here know about the problem with translation. Of course the translator has to be a great poet and also a kind of mathematician of an equivalent order to displace the original to its next of kin, and maybe one might think of painting and writing in different terms of translation, except that, of course, I am fascinated by painting.
I also realize that I have a wider scope in reading than in looking at painting. That is, I read painting in a way that is much more selective. I don't know why it's something in me that is less open. I think I read painting when I am touched because I only read paintings that touch me and there are not so many.... Maybe it's because I am not sensitive enough -- I don't know -- it's a question of ear as for music. So, I do not resound as much for painting, as for writing, where I can say that each hue in the signifiers is a light for me.... I think that one of the mysteries of writing, of language, is really the fact that when we write at surface level (while we write or weave something on the surface) -- underneath the ground where the half of the body, where the dog is hidden [in the painting]), is where language goes on weaving kinds of effects of meaning, of music, and forth which we don't know of. The question is whether it is easier for women to transgress in painting: I don't know. Really, I don't know. I would say, yes: it is a temptation to say yes because I have met so many women painters who enjoy their paintings immensely, and who are wonderful artists. But then after the moment of creation they come upon the same obstacles as women will find in publishing etc., so, I don't know. It's probably a mirror. You don't create without transgressing. But I couldn't give advice that I myself could really believe regarding that.