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Much to the disadvantage of painters the language required in the reading of a painting is intrinsic to seeing. Not to say everyone looks or reads the same, but that each is their own authority. The elitism postured on esoteric art is to ignore this fact and forget that truly great art is emancipatory to all humanity.
These works are not simply a cathartic expression, or a self aggrandizing romanticism. They are a conscious production of values and ideas in the often unconscious language of painting. These are neither experiments into the avant-garde nor the pompous posturing of concept over aesthetic experience. Art in its weakest form reflects only itself, while at its strongest reflects a philosophy.
The self absorbed existential angst must be turned on its head - the question is no longer “what gives life meaning?” but “what makes life meaningless?” This lack of meaning is a perpetual crack in the fabric of our reality, fracturing all our multifaceted perspectives, and defining spaces by the very absence in between them.
The void manifests in many forms -physically politically, socially etc, but a gap is only rendered perceivable by its positive frame- as a zero stands only for the very void it encircles. A work about a void is undeniably about its frame and the forces that, in their orbit, define a gap. This orbiting around a void is also known as a drive.
Drive is not a means to an end but an end in itself. The absence of meaning does not come with some great end, but is there all along. Thus the traumatic void of meaning is everywhere; it is the inescapable mortal fate, the brutality of nature, the savagery of systems of power. It is violence, death, and decay. It is monstrous, merciless, and mindless. It is the unfathomable gap, the impenetrable gaze. It is the space in between pages, pictures, and pixels, between outside and inside, between the stills of a film. It is the black hole of the iris, the aperture, the open wound. It is the ouroboros of capitalism eating its own tail and destroying its own environment.
Painting allows content to fold in on itself repeatedly in the oscillation between the marks of a brush and their symbolic texture. To dance between the perplexing and the revealing, between the known and unknown. Paint is just paint until a form, through its sheer will of being, becomes itself and tears away from layered pigment. Yet it fools no one
These works are meant to antagonize the viewer not only by bringing to attention these voids and the way we interact with them through the frames of different media, but by questioning the very implications of these frames.
PAINTING EATS ITS CHILDREN
Painting is a hard choice, and it must be one of rebellion. Painting must know it is an underdog, a minor with a few tricks up its sleeve, drowned by the mass. It is not dead but un-dead, a demon of agency that devours the cracking corpses of history and feeds on the artificial hearts of the living. Painting is a monster that becomes stronger with each assassination attempt, ripping apart photography, cinema, television, and now the internet . It has no problem digesting their synthetic shreds because the enzymes are familiar, its intestines recognize their structure, and consumes their mutations. Like Kronos it has been banished by its electric offspring to the unseen depths, and there the titan of time remains. It roars but can only rumble the earth, can only echo its vibrations. It is not only an imprisoned prism, but a prismatic prison that has taken the shape of temples, museums, galleries, and auction houses, each more alienating than the last. All mausoleums for the living dead -The father of all vision, it is now the unseen other, curving our mental space, condemned to reflect all time.
The picture may has lost its mystery in its own constant deluge upon man 2.0. - we are spoiled by wonder and science, we see in more ways than ever- from micro to macro cosmos, across space and time to the point where history streams before our blue gleamed iris’. Our eyes are everywhere, our perspective is infinite, and our insensitivity is staggering. It is now clear that a single focus is irrelevant, and self obsessed in the context of humanity. The age of the individual should be abandoned, for introspection has lead to the elevation of the trite, the ugly, and the selfish promotion of self reference. Look out at ourselves, look in at the universe. This reversal is in order.
We must look back at history, but we must use it only as a lens to see the future, and not get caught up in its experiments. We deconstructed painting and split its atoms to try and understand its whole. We took painting’s (eventually all art’s) vast arsenal of abilities and isolated them ad nauseum until it was shattered into formal experiments that screamed brand new as they just sanitized and quarantined the methods of the old. The investigation into plainness proved its point- not that art and painting can be anything, but that it can be nothing.
The very distinctions of conceptualism and formalism and even abstraction are misnomers that claim originality, yet despite conceptualism arrogance it did not introduce the concept to art - it simply isolated it into oblivion. Now art is as easy and meaningless as a cheap idea, manifesting only by its own self reference. It is the art of the selfish and cowardly.
Thus the artist is presented a weighted choice- see the technical comforts of minimalism formalism, and conceptualism and the search for pure abstraction as the only remaining answer to the so called problem of mass media(consequently admitting the death of painting),pretending the only relevant or “new” space for painting to hold as deeply isolated, not only from other media but life itself, OR the artist can take arms against a sea of troubles, can admit that we live and see things as never before, and as responsible image makers we must throw the glow of our humanity into the cold sea of spectacle. We can choose not shy away from content nor to hide behind its self importance. Painting must remind the world of how it sees itself. It should question the frames of our contemporary experience.
The formula is simple. Find the beautiful in the ugly. Be the deep breather in a city of smog, and exhale out of ennui. Not so much a transformation as an acceptance - The trick is to exploit the immorality of beauty- for the nature of beauty is that of a complicated and powerful tool and, as we know, tools may forge dark constructs. We have always known the power of beauty, and sometimes we forget that there is nothing behind this spectacle, and we place our emperor or god behind the veil. Yet who isn’t fooled by a cathedral? We know its principles yet we remain powerless to its charm. This is ideology.
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MacKenzie, Augustus Cooper, "TRASH - CONTRADICTIONS IN OIL" (2013). Senior Projects Spring 2013. 353.