Lately I’ve been jotting down a few ideas in my sketchbook pertaining to geologic painting. My focus is specifically on how to categorize it as a practice set apart from previous modes of painting. While categories are rather arbitrary they nevertheless are useful for laying out one’s own attitudes via painting; this is because aesthetic styles or modes of picturing convey direct and indirect presumptions, ideologies, and political affiliations, and simply put, one ought to carve out a space in order to see where they stand. While appearing at first glance to be “abstract,” the geologic in painting actually rests on the opposite pole from abstraction. The reason for such nitpicking, arbitrary at first glance, has to do with approach and method: it not only forms an attitude of how one sees matter, but how one sees the role of the artist in picturing. Though common assumptions convey representational or mimetic practices of picturing as belonging to the opposite of what has come to be known as abstraction, the more adequate description of what is on the other end ought to be summed up not as re-presentation of a scene, since the geologic has nothing to do with a scene, but rather the presentation of materials in a manner that suggests the earth forming itself. From this point of view, “abstraction” is a reduction of what goes on in nature in favor of an approach to matter that assumes it to be passive, inert material, which then must be formed by the active artist, where the painting becomes a platform for conveying what is the artist’s psyche: at bottom, this approach rests on a modernist ideology that views the object (i.e. nature) as a passive thing and the artist as an active agent. However, with geologic painting what is revealed is that the object is also possesses its own active agency. Thus the nitpicking brings out a radical difference in attitude towards the object. Out of this initial observation, the following is an attempt to search through the dialectic of picturing in order to lodge geologic painting in its proper context in counter-distinction from both representation and abstraction.
The geologic formations of painting displace the two modes of painting as window and as pictorial harmonies. The first, a simulacrum of the natural, as mirror and as staging of a scene: representation. The second, as simulacrum of anti-nature, as rupture of sign and meaning constituting picturing as a platform for the artist’s mind: abstraction. The way matter proceeds in the geologic is a direct mineralization of events (catastrophe) and surface. It is not a depiction of a nature, it is what nature does as naturing. It is not an illustration, geometric or surrealistic, of the painter’s psyche. It is a kind of painting that exists beyond the painter, as endless difference, as fractal emergence featured as sedimentary compositions.
The dialectic between art and life: sliding over each and the other like tectonic plates.
It would hardly be a form that could with any substantial weight convey a site of identity. The geologic is not an ideology; it does not exist as a value. Its politics is the eruption of identity, its pulverization, its burial. It is therefore useless as capital of a self. By going beyond the mirror, or staging of a scene, it displaces the appearance of a fixed gaze (which throughout the history of painting helped to form the position of subjectivity). Further, by going beyond abstraction, or platform for pictorial harmonies, it displaces the appearance of the bourgeois self in the form of the modern artist ‘expressing’ themselves. The geologic is an iconoclasm. Images are subject to erosion, disposition, entropy, catastrophe. Just as the imagination is subject to mineralization, quakes, fissures, erasure.
So what is the role of the artist, or where do I see the artist in this position? The artist is present as witness to the formations occurring, as a Hand and an Eye that entices and coaxes the latent agency of the object, and is not there as a controller of the forms, the latter of which emerges on their own accord.
Art is what emerges on the surface as a form not turned inward, or towards itself (i.e. its own medium), but rather turned outside itself, having finally found the truth of its medium.