Painting as a Desirable Object
First and foremost it must be mentioned that I consider writing about art as a questionable activity for an artist. Despite expectations to do so, most artists are still lacking in the cultivation of this particular skill. At most, an artist can describe the way of making and the path one follows in order to arrive at a final object or concept, even though this term also implies a theoretical framework, thus distancing it from simply disclosing the artist’s intentions.
My thesis focuses on painting in a somewhat historical sense and how it gains its object character through the way figurative painting is perceived and understood. I use 17th and 18th century Dutch works as a primary source, while adhering to the idea that the image is more of a question on describing than an actual narrative, resulting in another way of viewing, other than the simple translation into words.
The fact that painting is eventually an ownable, desirable object can simply be argued from a material point of view – it is made out of canvas, or wooden panel, its surface covered in the pigments the artist uses to create an image – a framed object hanging on the wall. But painting’s object-like qualities go even deeper than this simplistic approach: it is not only the framed object, but within it are contained its socio-historical circumstances, its symbolisms, and of course all the combined myths and facts about its creator. Also hanging in that frame are the letters, comments, and reviews that it managed to inspire. Painting is not only the action of covering an empty surface in paint, which is what painters do on a daily basis, but also this entire constellation of factors and you can never have one without the other. This palpable mixture of the sensorial visual content and history make of it more of an object made out of an image, than just the image it deploys. We should also take into account Foucault’s contribution on the importance society has placed on the act of seeing, seeing determines what the man knows and can name but it is also society that determines how we look at something and which of its many layers we see when looking.
My interest in the medium of painting extends beyond simply making it, and passionately and affectionately questions it. I test it, play with it, and try to understand it as a culturally informed mode of art, rather than just sensuous deployment of matter (although I still hold this to be one of painting’s most touching charms). Therefore, I resort to both painting and installation to concomitantly glimpse at the forcefulness and the limitedness of the visual, to confront and tease the publics’ socially generated expectation that art should provide sensual and mind-boggling illusion or enchantment.