On ‘field work’

For quite some time now I have been writing in order to flesh-out some concepts that may be attached to my work in the arts. The saying “Don’t talk painter, paint” has continually chimed in my head as I’ve attempted to formulate some thoughts, and I am not yet sure if my texts have come across as a beneficial add-on to what I am trying to do in painting or if I should’ve just kept silent. In any case, I envision my texts on various subjects to be accompanying material.

Through a series of texts I have been attempting to express in discursive terms what has otherwise already been expressed through mark-making and the instant impact of materials.

To sum up my view, which I hope can be insinuated not only within the works themselves, but also as a thread running through each text, I would demarcate the following: [A] everything is moving; everything is a force existing in a transient and finite medium; [B] every force is composed of opposing forces; [C] the nature of this medium of forces, existing as it all does within time, is catastrophic.

A fourth point, which emerges out of a combination of the previous three: the artist proceeds from the position of catastrophe in order to attempt to convey the nature naturing.

I have proceeded to turn my attention to the landscape, and particularly to the liminal features of the shoreline, in order to convey these contentions. Living within a half of a mile from Lake Michigan, the shoreline has been a constant: there is no way to ignore it, and soon it becomes prevasive in your life. One cannot help but be influenced by its vast presence. It is a constant fixure that is always changing. Nothing is ever still: the waves are always coming, ebbing and flowing, advancing and receding. I have felt that turning towards the shoreline I have been able to not only get close to nature, but also point to the constant change occurring there as an example relevant to the aforementioned dialectic.

Whether or not I have been successful in conveying these contentions in my texts are another matter entirely – a matter quite different, I believe, than trying to convey them through the artistic practice of a medium. In the end, I am going to have to let painting be painting, and this is something altogether other to discourse.

Approaching painting and revolving around the contentions that I outlined above I am led to a conclusion as to the ultimate aim of painting: it is an attempt to fix the constant change of forces as a representation, but in doing so simultaneously insinuating this flow.

Painting may be a means to explore the drama between being and nothing. Thus painting is for me a device for coming to the awareness of the basic constitution between being and nothing, and specifically, to the ebb and flow of the transient array of forces: each mark, each instant impact of the paint is an affirmation of being up against that which consigns it to oblivion.

I have come to self-identify with those painters to whom baroque-ness was a primary condition. And through ‘baroque’ I mean something specific: I mean to signify the existing condition of the world as a substrate of decay – as an ever-changing medium like the primordial muck of a world not yet seized by classic arbitrations. The painters task is to live among the ruins of life. And yet – and here is where baroqueness becomes allegory in the regions of the idea – here is the proposition moving forward: it is out of the ruins of life that there emerges the beautiful illusion.

Thus it is out of the ever-shifting sands of Chronos that beings may appear, and where a particular kind of being may appear (painting). What appears through this particular kind of being may be beautiful. So the question that emerges in the mind of the painter is simple but deceiving: ‘what is beauty?’ It is my suspicion that if one could answer such a question then one would see that it has something to do with nature-naturing.

Beauty is a verb. Nature-naturing is what beauty does.

First, beauty is something that appears but maybe it is not merely an appearance. Whereas beauty, emerging into appearance out of the continuum of catastrophe, may be commonly given an object – ‘this x is beautiful – it is my contention that beauty is not an object.

This sense of beauty has nothing to do with classical arbitrations of what is deemed to be beautiful. When beauty becomes something represented it has recourse to dangerous territory, as if beauty is what the will wanted and was judged according to the arbitration of ready-made values. This is dangerous because some things are therefore other to beauty, and de-valued as such. But what the painter is trying to do is come across nature-naturing. Beauty is undetermined when taken on as a precise meaning – as if could be a prize gathered up by established values. What if  beauty is not an object? What if it was not necessarily an image in your mind? I’m sure beauty has a story and there is often identification with that, but behind this mercurial type of beauty there is something deeper stirring – like the currents of the lake just under its surface. The real of beauty does not come from the condition that plays the role, i.e. the presented image. Beauty may be constitutive of the continuum from which it arises: it is constantly changing. Thus beauty arises out of a particular relation of forces, a particular quality of forces, and in this vein every phenomenon expresses a quality of forces and the nuances of these qualities could be gauged as beautiful, but beauty is not something that can be fixed, as if it could be separated from the field of forces. It may be the condition for this arising. Beauty may be something that not only arises out of the movement of the world, but may be the quality of this movement. Beauty: what appears in semblance as a creative and giving-out of the differential, plural typology of becoming.

The flutter of the leaves on a tree, the violent impact of a wave as it crashes onto the concrete barriers holding back the hillside from the power of the water: each of these things comes off as beauty, where beauty is its condition in being. Each one of these objects is not beautiful in the sense of an object that possesses beauty. Beauty is not something that each object possesses as its own, as if on its own in isolation. Quite the opposite: it is the object that is possed by beauty.

So it is that the painter does ‘field work’ – they come across the phenomena of the world as relations of forces and seek to uncover the nuances and qualities that constitute these relations. The field is an expansive topos that is continually changing.

The proposition that everything is moving, as force existing in a transient and finite medium (time), gives way to the proposition that every moving thing is itself and not itself simultaneously, which is another way of saying that forces are always turned against themselves. Further, this is properly what the catastrophic is all about. When taking on board these propositions, the painter becomes one who practices the drawing-out of beings from the transient or constantly shifting sands of time. Residing as they do upon a continuum of ruins, they seek to fix – if only for a moment – the beautiful illusion in such a way so as to affirm the being out of the basic condition of the catastrophic.

Posted in Art.

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