Found

IMG_1130  IMG_1154 IMG_1143 IMG_1157

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lost Paintings

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 18.07.41

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

June

IMG_1018a2

I suppose that in incorporating elements of the ruination particles from under the bridge I have accepted some elements of the liveliness of the stuff that goes on in that space, almost ingested them and they’re being absorbed into my own more lively work as a kind of magical rite.

 

Through engaging with Andre Masson’s early automatist paintings and surveying the other aspects of his work I’ve gained a sense of more aggressive and expression of vitality and death drive. A loss of my self a kind of otherness I have absorbed aspects of the material qualities of what I’ve been looking at in terms of ruination.

 

Water seems to have been a large agent in ruination and is a large force in my paintings, since I use acrylic.

 

I usually have many paintings on the go at the same time, or else I start to think to much about what I am doing and the working process becomes somewhat hampered by rational thought processes.

 

Overall in both Ernst’s and Masson’s work there seems to be an unevenness of application of marks and overall look of the work. This would fit in with the nature of the self in surrealism as open and changing and multiple. Something which I feel when I’m painting because it can expose different assemblages I’m involved in over a period of time. I read about Masson’s chest injuries in world war one and then coincidentally ended up with a serious chest infection. Incorporating the finger and brush drags with the use of a scaper as well seems to have assisted me to collapse elements of Andre Masson’s and Max Ernst’s practice in a synthesis. I’d previously avoided overly expressive marks in my painting because of the postmodern dogma that insists that this was not possible for various reasons.

 

Having had bronchitis recently seems to have loosened up things somewhat as I have less conscious control and felt weak which led to less control of the marks and composition. So, it seems like these were produced in tandem with the bacteria which had infected me.

 

IMG_1140

 

Also the work I’d carried out in the sketchbooks seems to have had a large effect on the roughness within my paintings and desire for a lack of polish. I used lots of self-levelling gel, which is fluid and dries matt, mixed with white ultramarine and burnt umber and sometimes black. Some ruination particles were included in this mix. The works are beginning to have much more of the look of the found images which made in 2013 because I have loosened up and stopped caring so much because of the amount of drawing which I carried out in those sketchbooks.

 

I find that uploading images to my website helps to focus which images I think are successful and then I start to name them through a process of association.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

May: Andre Masson

 

“The field of battle . . . literally threw me into the humus humain”[1]

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 17.37.48

André Masson Figure, Oil and sand on canvas, 1926-7

 

On first reading the quote above it seemed to me that the French surrealist artist, André Masson, was describing his psychopathology; describing how he had ‘fallen to pieces’, crumbled psychologically after experiencing a night where he was left exposed to the elements, hallucinating whilst lying in a crater on a First World War battlefield.[2] I also interpreted this as a comment on his desire at the time to join the corpse of a German soldier, lying next to him, in death[3] and therefore as being symptomatic of his wish to return to an inanimate mineral-state like the soil around him.

 

“ The indescribable night of the battlefield, streaked in every direction by bright red and green rockets, striped by the wake and the flashes of all the projectiles and rockets all this fairytale-like enchantment was orchestrated by the explosions of shells which literally encircled me and sprinkled me with earth and shrapnel. To see all that, face upward, one’s body immobilised on s stretcher, instead of head down as in the fighting where on burrows like a dog in the shell craters, constituted a rare and unwonted situation. The first nerve-shattering fright gives way to resignation and then, as delirium slips over you, it becomes a celebration performed for one about to die.” [4]

 

Over time the phrase ‘humus humain’ kept coming back into my thoughts. The ‘humus’ (soil) seemed to blend with the protective sprinklings of earth on his body in the crater on the ridge of the Chemin des Dames (in the second, longer quote) and with the sprinkled sand in the painting above. It became apparent then that the ‘humus humain’ could also imply a bleeding of the boundaries between human and non-human, the body and the organic and inorganic particles around it. Masson’s paintings will be considered in the light of the theories of André Breton, the leader of the surrealist movement and then in terms of the theories of the academic ‘vibrant materialist’ Jane Bennett. It seems fertile then to pursue the collapse of subject[5] and object[6] in Masson’s work since it could explain some of my experiences of the various agencies involved in the flux of different objects found in the ruination on Crescent Road, and in my paintings showing affinity with these encounters.

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 17.38.03

Andre Masson, Battle of the Fishes, Oil, sand, pencil, charcoal and Gesso on canvas, 1926

 

During the mid-to-late-1920s Masson lived in Sanary, a picturesque harbour town in the South of France. It was here that he became enchanted with the ribbed lines in the sand that he found on the beach; lines which led him to invent the technique of automatic sand paintings[7] in which he would ‘rain’ sand down onto glue that he had dropped onto the canvas. The particles of the seawater or the air moving over the surface of the beach ‘drew’ in the sand. The sight of these lines seemed to have reactivated his previous experiences on the bare landscape of the Chemin des Dames during World War One. In the crater he had ‘merged’ with the ‘wounded’ landscape on a ridge made up of loess[8] and chalky rocks.[9] In the contemporary photograph below it is still possible to see the way in which the topography of the land became a strange inland sea of soil and rock due to the wave formations caused by heavy shelling. Although, it is apparent that this scene is now returned to something less brutal being covered by a reassuring layer of grass.[10]

 

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 17.38.14

Jeffrey Gursky, Untitled (Fort on the Chemin de Dames Ridge), No Date Given http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2014/08/ww1-underground/gusky-photography#/02-chemin-des-dames-fort-670.jpg

 

As a loner, Masson was an artist who lived on the edge of the Surrealist circle.[11] Confusingly he seemed to also inhabit the circle’s centre (in relation to the development of visual automatist practice and his invention of sand painting).

 

André Breton and the Unconscious in Automatism

For Breton’s and the surrealists the unconscious was seen to be a positive force: it was the seat of the irrational, and was valuable for its state of flux. This same flux would explain the way that internal and external experience merged for Masson and so lends itself to a similar merging of the human and the non-human: the soil becomes a figure; the soldiers and tanks become fish; the beach becomes a battlefield. For Breton, and the others in his circle, ruins were seen as a form of unconscious space.[12] (REF NEEDED) Therefore Masson’s use of the unconscious in automatist painting could be said to contain a kind of shifting ‘mental debris’ rather like the shifting material debris found in the ruined ground on the ridge and in the particles of the sea and sand on the beach. At the moment I am unclear as to the nature of the analogical creative processes present in Breton’s theories. Analogy, or the comparing of two things, is often present in unconscious thought: does this suggest that the human, in Masson’s case the artist, is the ultimate agency that ascribes significance to the assemblages, in terms of both perception and in terms of the imaginative creative act?[13] (REF NEEDED). Since the unconscious is housed in the mind found in the brain and connected to the nervous system, it is apparent that the nerves are involved in information passing in and out of the individual. Being inherited from our animal ancestors the nerves can be seen as pre-human (or even non-human).[14] For Breton the unconscious would have been said to underlie most of Masson’s automatist agency. The connections of this agency to the nervous system therefore has ramifications for notions of human agency, intentionality and free-will.

 

Masson through Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Materiality

 

Various new materialist thinkers would suggest that the shifting groupings of debris described above, and the disorderly flux of unconscious processes are sites of emergent rather than intentional meaning.[15] That is to say, that the ruined landscapes, the unconscious and the automatic method and resulting paintings are connected because the particles in the different assemblages all have common material origins.[16] This would mean that they would view the non-human as being as important as the human in terms of agency. However it seems that the author Jane Bennett differs from the new materialists, since she would argue that Masson was more receptive to an awareness of flux (or ‘becoming’) and of material agency because he was held in a passive state whilst lying on the ground in the crater. This material state of becoming can be likened to a similarly fluid quality in Breton’s reading of the unconscious.

 

In her book Vibrant Matter, Bennett describes her encounter with an assemblage of “glove, pollen, rat, cap, stick”[17] that she encountered in the street and she claims that:

 

“I caught a glimpse of an energetic vitality inside each of these things, things that I generally conceived as inert. In this assemblage, objects appeared as things, that is, as vivid entities not entirely reducible to the contexts in which (human) subjects set them, never entirely exhausted by their semiotics.”[18]

 

For Bennett this event led to her coining the term ‘thing-power’ to describe the way in which humans are ‘called’ into certain assemblages because of what she terms ‘sympathy’. For her ‘sympathy’ requires that we should be in the correct receptive state, perhaps one that is passive, rather like the state that preceded Masson’s automatic paintings and his experience in the crater.[19] It seems that ‘sympathy’ is important in relation to Masson’s paintings. He was wounded, the German soldier had been fatally wounded, the landscape of the Chemin des Dames was ‘wounded’ and it seems as if these wounds were still very ‘present’ for him in 1926. So ‘present’ that either they ‘sought out’ other wounds, or they were ‘sought out’ by other ‘wounds’, even in the picturesque coastal landscape of the Mediterranean. However it is not as simple as a ‘sympathy’ of wounds. Since Masson also seemed to be seeking for the opposite; he sought to depict a fiercely vital force; sought for entities that were forcefully ‘seeking’ to maintain their vitality as in the Battle of the Fishes and Figure.[20] For Bennett this is force is described as the ‘liveliness’ of matter’ [21] but she differentiates between the intentionality of the human and the agency of the non-human.

 

How much agency did Masson have whilst the painting was produced? He regularly used to go without sleep and food for days and he worked for very long periods without breaks. This practice would have led to the ruination of reason- presumably due to an activation of the flight or fight response; in other words the ‘pre-human’ of the nervous system would bypass the ‘human’ of the higher cognitive processes. This ‘return’ to the pre-human can be seen to have led to a “becoming-animal” in his description of acting like a fog in the War, or even a “becoming soil”. Ultimately it seems that becoming a human-soil assemblage (‘humus humain’) could be seen to imply something that is both deathly and lively/active and passive and it is interesting to note that, despite Bennett’s suggestion that ‘thing-power’ has qualities that are outside of the semiotic, etymologically the root hum- leads to the ancient Greek and later Latin humus for Soil and to the word human- implying the ancient conception that humans come from the soil. Given these meanings, ‘humus humain’ could imply that rather than simply desiring to die Masson in a state of being reborn through an assembly with the soil, or through an experiential realisation of the importance of states of becoming.

My Practice

 

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 17.38.45 Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 17.38.52

L:Chris Hamer, Untitled (flood) , Acrylic on Canvas, May 2015

R: Chris Hamer, Untitled (flood) , Acrylic on Canvas, August 2015

 

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 17.39.05

Chris Hamer, Profile, Archival Print, 2012

 

By engaging with Masson’s work, through the theories of Breton and Bennett, I have considered various themes which can now be used to more fully explore human and non-human agency in relation to my own studio-based research. How much agency do I really possess when I am painting? Jane Bennett’s use of the notions of ‘assemblage’ and ‘becoming’ 

By engaging with Masson’s work, through the theories of Breton and Bennett, I have considered various themes which can now be used to more fully explore human and non-human agency in relation to my own studio-based research. How much agency do I really possess when I am painting? Jane Bennett’s use of the notions of ‘assemblage’ and ‘becoming’[22] could help explain my experience of the different agencies in the space under the bridge and in my paintings ‘of’ them. (NEED AN EXPLANATION OF THESE TERMS) The reduction in the dominance of my agency is demonstrated by my experience of my previous and current studio practice. When I first started painting with acrylic paint on canvas in 2008 I experienced a sense of frustration about my lack of control: this contrasted with the propensity of the paint to do its ‘own thing’. I struggled to ‘take charge’ of the materials that make a painting in order to make them succeed. As I gained more experience of painting in this medium it became apparent that it had to play more of an active part in the process, it partly dictated the parameters within which my actions took place. This ongoing relationship, or assemblage, with the paint can then be seen as an shifting exchange of the agency of the material of the paint, of me and of the assemblages in the other environments I encounter.

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 18.37.11

Chris Hamer, Flood, Photocopied Page from Sketchbook, April 2016

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 18.37.29

Chris Hamer, Flood, Photocopied Page from Sketchbook, April 2016

However there is a contradiction in my working processes: I have also produced drawings and photographs that are glued into sketchbooks (see example above), in order to assist in the creation of automatic my paintings. I have carried this out because I experienced a huge amount of anxiety in the competing oppositional nature of the spontaneous freedom which accompanies automatic painting and the needs for verbal explanation in academic research. It seemed as if the paintings were leading to processes that were ‘out of control’ and that academic convention required purposeful reflection. So I felt that I needed an intermediary space which would allow for the translation of the paintings into language- initially the imagery was integrated with writing. I also felt the need to escape the ‘trap’ of responding to ruination in the pre-existing ways that I was already familiar with. In retrospect I also felt that it was necessary to genuinely engage with disorder in the chaotic lack of structure in the swirling non-linear nature of the sketchbooks. Although this disorder would still imply a level of passivity on my part and a reduction of my role in creating an ordered, authored response I have found it a helpful means to ‘divine’ possible ways in which to develop my automatic paintings further. Because of the more pure automatic nature of my drawing practice forms emerge in a non-linear manner: they are not tethered by the constraints of the propensities of the material of the paint and allow for direct access to Breton’s unconscious.

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 17.39.39

Author’s Photograph, Window of the Dice Lounge, Levenshulme, 2015

My working methods can be criticised because, on many occasions, I have broken free of the artificial boundaries imposed by the rational nature of academic research; I have looked outside of the space of Crescent Road. In retrospect it seems that Bennett’s theories can be used to explain why I find this so necessary: once I entered into the material assemblages under the bridge I found that other homologous assemblages ‘drew me into’ them. This can all sound rather puerile or ‘crazy’. A child, or a madman, might say that ‘the things made me do it’; ‘they made me break the rules’. To me this ‘crazy’, puerile quality seems necessary; necessary for my engagement with the ‘vibrant’ non-human agencies of paint and of ruination. If I use Breton’s unconscious to account for these transgressions the unpredictable agency of the irrational also comes into play.

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 17.39.54

Chris Hamer, Untitled (Bridge), Acrylic on canvas, March 2016

After reading about aspects of Masson’s practice and Bennett’s theories I have been to more fully able to verbalise my experiences of these passive, receptive states, where it seems that I encourage or even allow the paint to do ‘its thing’. I have recently introduced silt, dust, brick, stone and glass particles of various sizes (collected from under the bridge) to the material particles of acrylic paint and acrylic mediums. (see this in thinner washes in the painting above and in the more impasto qualities in the painting below). This means that, in some ways I have partially returned to a state of unfamiliarity with the medium: the homogeneous quality of the paint visibly breaks up into particles and dries with unexpected modulated tones which, at the moment. I have little ability to predict or control the outcome or to verbalise an intention other than the intention to disrupt my ability to control outcomes.

 

 

could help explain my experience of the different agencies in the space under the bridge and in my paintings ‘of’ them. (NEED AN EXPLANATION OF THESE TERMS) The reduction in the dominance of my agency is demonstrated by my experience of my previous and current studio practice. When I first started painting with acrylic paint on canvas in 2008 I experienced a sense of frustration about my lack of control: this contrasted with the propensity of the paint to do its ‘own thing’. I struggled to ‘take charge’ of the materials that make a painting in order to make them succeed. As I gained more experience of painting in this medium it became apparent that it had to play more of an active part in the process, it partly dictated the parameters within which my actions took place. This ongoing relationship, or assemblage, with the paint can then be seen as an shifting exchange of the agency of the material of the paint, of me and of the assemblages in the other environments I encounter.

By engaging with Masson’s work, through the theories of Breton and Bennett, I have considered various themes which can now be used to more fully explore human and non-human agency in relation to my own studio-based research. How much agency do I really possess when I am painting? Jane Bennett’s use of the notions of ‘assemblage’ and ‘becoming’[22] could help explain my experience of the different agencies in the space under the bridge and in my paintings ‘of’ them. (NEED AN EXPLANATION OF THESE TERMS) The reduction in the dominance of my agency is demonstrated by my experience of my previous and current studio practice. When I first started painting with acrylic paint on canvas in 2008 I experienced a sense of frustration about my lack of control: this contrasted with the propensity of the paint to do its ‘own thing’. I struggled to ‘take charge’ of the materials that make a painting in order to make them succeed. As I gained more experience of painting in this medium it became apparent that it had to play more of an active part in the process, it partly dictated the parameters within which my actions took place. This ongoing relationship, or assemblage, with the paint can then be seen as an shifting exchange of the agency of the material of the paint, of me and of the assemblages in the other environments I encounter.

However there is a contradiction in my working processes: I have also produced drawings and photographs that are glued into sketchbooks (see example above), in order to assist in the creation of automatic my paintings. I have carried this out because I experienced a huge amount of anxiety in the competing oppositional nature of the spontaneous freedom which accompanies automatic painting and the needs for verbal explanation in academic research. It seemed as if the paintings were leading to processes that were ‘out of control’ and that academic convention required purposeful reflection. So I felt that I needed an intermediary space which would allow for the translation of the paintings into language- initially the imagery was integrated with writing. I also felt the need to escape the ‘trap’ of responding to ruination in the pre-existing ways that I was already familiar with. In retrospect I also felt that it was necessary to genuinely engage with disorder in the chaotic lack of structure in the swirling non-linear nature of the sketchbooks. Although this disorder would still imply a level of passivity on my part and a reduction of my role in creating an ordered, authored response I have found it a helpful means to ‘divine’ possible ways in which to develop my automatic paintings further. Because of the more pure automatic nature of my drawing practice forms emerge in a non-linear manner: they are not tethered by the constraints of the propensities of the material of the paint and allow for direct access to Breton’s unconscious.

 

My working methods can be criticised because, on many occasions, I have broken free of the artificial boundaries imposed by the rational nature of academic research; I have looked outside of the space of Crescent Road. In retrospect it seems that Bennett’s theories can be used to explain why I find this so necessary: once I entered into the material assemblages under the bridge I found that other homologous assemblages ‘drew me into’ them. This can all sound rather puerile or ‘crazy’. A child, or a madman, might say that ‘the things made me do it’; ‘they made me break the rules’. To me this ‘crazy’, puerile quality seems necessary; necessary for my engagement with the ‘vibrant’ non-human agencies of paint and of ruination. If I use Breton’s unconscious to account for these transgressions the unpredictable, irrational agency of the irrational also comes into play.

After reading about aspects of Masson’s practice and Bennett’s theories I have been to more fully able to verbalise my experiences of these passive, receptive states, where it seems that I encourage or even allow the paint to do ‘its thing’. I have recently introduced silt, dust, brick, stone and glass particles of various sizes (collected from under the bridge) to the material particles of acrylic paint and acrylic mediums. (see this in thinner washes in the painting above and in the more impasto qualities in the painting below). This means that, in some ways I have partially returned to a state of unfamiliarity with the medium: the homogenous quality of the paint visibly breaks up into particles and dries with unexpected modulated tones which, at the moment. I have little ability to predict or control the outcome or to verbalise an intention other than the intention to disrupt my ability to control outcomes.

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 17.40.08

Chris Hamer, Untitled, Acrylic on canvas, June 2016

I respect the claims of psychoanalytic theory but, like Breton, I am not interested in pursuing originary meanings and, like Bennett, I do not wish to psychopathologise the vibrant material processes at work in my own perception, and in my own painting practice.[23] I do, however, feel an affinity for Masson’s attempting to empty himself of rational, overdetermined thought prior to painting sessions, because I regularly experience similar states. This means that one of the primary intentions I have before a longer session is to enter into a passive-yet-active, receptive state at some point during the activity of painting; so that I am open to the collapse of the boundaries between my human intention and the non-human agency of the materials. This means me ‘taking on board’ aspects of the ‘dumb’ nature of other non-human components of the studio, and of the internal and external spaces that I am exploring. In the paintings above it seems pertinent to note that there is often a repetitive quality in the structures formed from the lines, this could come from my need for a blankness rather than from what the academic David Lomas notes Freud would refer to as a repetition compulsion stemming from trauma in the automatist process.[24] Previously I had difficulty in writing about these processes because, as Bennett acknowledges, the English language does not lend itself to the decentering or collapsing of the distinction between subject and object[25]Whilst painting I become more ‘animal’ in my use of automatism and in my becoming more attuned to inorganic matter. These states are hard to describe or ‘explain’ because of the translation from the non-semiotic, non-human material processes (in both me and in the studio) into language.[26]

 

I find the new materialist notion that the exchange of particles is responsible for some of the processes[27] (REF NEEDED) at work in both my studio practice and in Masson’s paintings rather hard to accept. The claim seems outlandish; however, aspects of my painting (see above) can be explained by this concept: my body did not come into contact with the particles of the floodwater, but I did exchange particles with Herta’s arm when I laid a hand on it in the funeral home. I did touch the dustbin next to Herta’s home when I moved it in order to photograph it (see above). The common connection, the focal point between the different assemblages is me, my right hand, particularly my right index finger. This is the one that I used to draw and remove particles from the veil of chalky paint overlaid over an almost black ground on the painting above. New materialism can take the homology of particles one step further by describing the connections between any particles, even when not touching, through quantum entanglement[28] – particles located in different spaces or even times can effectively become the same particle existing in the same space and time. This means that even if it is just ‘me’ painting I can become involved in a whole lot of assemblages and a network of different rhizomes from anywhere or anytime in the universe. This could be an explanation for the connection being fostered by a quantum exchange of particles with the floodwater despite never having come into physical contact with it. Alternatively in a more ‘common sense’ way particles could have been exchanged by the action of wind at the time- removing the need for the ‘mystical’ aspect of the collapse of time and space.

So in these theories it seems that it is not just the conscious ‘me’ that creates or has agency in relation to ‘my’ paintings. It seems as if both human and non-human agency ‘desires’ something from me as much as I desire something from it. But is this not, as Bennett herself acknowledges, still merely an illusory projection of my subconscious desire onto the objects of the world? Is Jane Bennett merely rephrasing aspects of psychoanalytic theory? It seems that to progress away from anthropomorphic projection and into a more genuinely materialistic thinking I may have to consider another theorist’s body of work that deals with homology rather than Bennett’s analogy. I’m not sure at the moment which of these views of agency I agree with. If new materialist homology is used as a guiding principle then the principle of analogy can still be included- since the mind is intertwined in the materiality of the brain then it is composed of particles. The implications are that this could be more than a case of anthropomorphising projection; if the individual parts of assemblages are connected materially then they can be said to genuinely ‘take part’ in the creation of the work.

 

The automatic, chance nature of the marks on the dustbin next to Herta’s house could be said to have lent themselves to analogical thought: to my projection onto them. To use Breton’s theory, I initally experienced these marks as resembling a drawing of a landscape that my unconscious had projected onto it. After a period of written reflection on the nature of my experiences over the last year I now consider that I have been in an assemblage with the bridge and with the various of the agencies of ruination around it. I now see that the marks on the bin are materially linked to the space under the bridge. To the surrealists this would be an example of the marvellous nature of the irrational, or of automatism leading to the chance marks as the bin scraped against a wall, or even as a kind of ‘magical’ precursor of my later experiences. This ‘predictive’ aspect of the marks could be explained by the non-linear nature of time and space found within quantum entanglement of new materialist theory.

 

To Bennett this would be an example of the collapse of subject and object, of a return to a kind of anthropomorphising vitalism. My human agency is present in either theory in constructing semiotic meaning from this assemblage of marks that I observed in a state of becoming over a period of years.

References

[1] Masson cited In Rubin and Lanchner 1976:31

[2] Presumably the hallucinations came from both the morphine that he had been given for the pain from the bullet that had penetrated his chest, or from some kind of trauma-induced psychosis which would have been referred to as war hysteria or shellshock at the time.

[3] Lomas 2010

[4] It is useful to note here that earlier paintings by Masson featured symbols and objects associated with magic and that his mother was a Gypsy who strongly believed in magic. The ability of human or non-human agents to control the world figures strongly in these systems of thought and seem to link to the “enchanted” quality of the “sprinkled sand and earth. Masson cited In Rubin and Lanchner 1976:30-31

[5] Masson as an individual who was a soldier and an ‘authorial’ artist.

[6] The corpse, both landscapes and the material processes in his studio.

[7] Ades:1994:10

[8] These windblown particles are of a similar colour to the sand on the beach and the sand in the painting and are composed of silt mixed with sand.

[9] It is possible that Masson’s conflation of the beach and the ridge of the Chemin des Dames could also have been triggered by the fish he could have watched in the shallow, clear coastal waters of the Mediterranean having a connection with the chalk deposits revealed in the shell craters. These chalk deposits were formed under reasonably deep marine conditions and it is possible that they could contain marine fossils that could explain the fossilised appearance of the outlines of the fishes in a waterless sea.

[10] Bennett 2010

[11] he would later be expelled from the movement by Breton

[12] REF NEEDED

[13] Although not progressing to an originary meaning as would be the case in a psychoanalysis of Masson’s painting since it could be seen as evidence of the rational mind accepting and understanding the significance of the original experience (see Lomas:2000)

[14] This is further complicated by the introduction of the Freudian notion of the death drive as described in Lomas 2000

[15] Jane Bennett is most likely not included in this and I need to uncover why she is not

[16] The implications for this commonality lead to the startling observations regarding Quantum entanglement as described in Van Der Tuin 2015

[17] Bennett 2010:4

[18] Bennett 2010:5

[19] Bennett 2010

[20]Ades1994 and Rubin and Lanchner 1976

[21] Bennett 2010

[22] Bennett 2011

[24] Lomas 2000

[25] Bennett 2010

[26] I have avoided too much engagement with the decentering of the subject in language as this could be a whole project in itself, and could distract me from the exploration of human and non-human in material painted form.

[27] Ref needed

[28] Van Der Tuin 2015

 

Bibliography

Ades, Dawn André Masson 1994 Academy Editions London

 

Bennett, Jane   Vibrant Matter 2010 Duke University Press London

Bennett, Jane Artistry and Agency in a World of Vibrant Matter  The New School 2011

www.you tube.com/watch?v=q607Ni23QjA

Lomas, David The Haunted Self: Surrealism Psychoanalysis Subjectivity 2000 Yale University Press London

Rubin William and Lanchner Carolyn 1976 André Masson Museum of Modern Art New York

Van der Tuin, Iris – Reading diffractive reading: were and when does diffraction happen? Part of the seminar Radical Methodologies for the Posthumanities   2015

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

April: Manifesto

Lewis Sykes suggested writing a manifesto in order to clarify my research. This has helped to focus my thoughts on those aspects of my work that seem important:

I am for dumb material creativity. I am for knowledge. I am for confusion and destruction. I am for change. I am for repetition. I am for refrain. I am for inconsistency. I am for matter. I am for paint. I am for life compressed into paintings and the purity of painting. I am for me, I am for it, I am for the trivial and the important. I am for concentration and distraction, for finding beauty in ugliness, and crudeness in beauty. I am for being led down unexpected routes. I am for becoming my surroundings, I am for separation. I am for the street, I am for the studio. I am for ruination, for disorder as a creative force. I am for entering assemblages that can achieve more than I can ever hope to achieve on my own.

 

Overall it has brought up a series of conflicts within my practice which seem to have resonance with much of  Andre Breton and the surrealists’ thoughts on creative practice.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

March: Automatism

Surrealist Automatism

I will investigate automatic drawing and painting practice primarily through readings of the chapter on André Breton in Denis Lejeune’s The Radical Use of Chance in 20th Century Art (1994), the various chapters on automatism in David Maclagan’s book Line Let Loose: Scribbling, Doodling and Automatic Drawing (2014) and by extending ideas derived from these two authors into other material were relevant. Later I will relate these discussions of automatist practice to my own paintings related to ruination in the area around my home studio.

 

The following discussion primarily focuses on automatic drawing and painting but, since Breton believed that “Surrealism was born in poetry” and that it was the “rationale that united all art forms”[1], ideas gleaned from commentary on automatic writing will be transposed onto examples of the visual arts. Lejeune describes the surrealist group’s use of automatic techniques, games and objective chance which were carried out through what they considered to be a direct connection to the unconscious.[2]

 

Automatism, Agency and Authenticity

Breton himself defined automatism in the first surrealist manifesto of 1924:

 

Surrealism, n. Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express- verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other way, the true fuctioning of thought. The dictation of thought, in the absence of any control exerted by reason, and outside all moral and aesthetic considerations.”[3]

 

Lejeune decribes how, for those about to practice automatism, there is a need to first “wait and keep watch”[4], in other words they entered a passive state, yet were simultaneously mentally and physically ready to spring into action in the instant that inspiration struck. Maclagan explains that, “Automatism refers in general to a complex sequence of behaviour carried out in the almost complete absence of conscious awareness …”[5] How can this absence of reason be viewed in a positive light? The answer seems to lie in the strong link that Breton sensed between surrealist automatism and authenticity as stressed by Lejeune, who says that this allowed one to express one’s true self. Surrealism sprang from Dada and inherited the earlier movement’s nihilistic responses to early 20th century society and culture, and from its provocatively nonsensical and anti-authoritarian responses to the First World War; this helps to explain the continued aspiration to promote an absence of “moral and aesthetic considerations” in the latter movement’s theory and practice. It seems to me that the lack of judgement regarding the moral values of good and bad within a visual or written work were partly seen as a means of opening up new possibilities in the field of drawing and painting, and, in doing so, resulted in a purposeful shift away from bourgeois taste and behaviour which for him represented the inauthentic socially-constructed self. Breton linked “honesty, naïveté, truth, freedom, authenticity and the notion of the primitive” with pure psychic automatism, and called for a link to the childhood need for a sense of wonder, of returning to a state of being unintegrated”.[6] Breton’s views link to Freud’s descriptions of the ‘primitive’ states contained in ‘modern’ humans, who still have the capacity for seeing “magic in things”.[7]Automatism is described as a process that returns the artist/author back to the lower levels of the psyche “to a unique, original faculty to which easy access has been lost. He noted that, “those Western primitives considered to be outside culture”, “primitive peoples [in general] and children” as subjects who had resisted “the dissociation of a unique, original faculty” that Western culture promoted.[8]

 

 

Breton strove “ to know what my differentiation from other people consists of, if not how it came about.” [9] Why should Breton have had such a strong need to understand the quality of his individuality? His questioning of his own uniqueness, of what made him different from others, seems strange when he was so often concerned with the supposedly non-virtuoso, group-nature of so much of the creative production. These group activities seems to have strong affinity with the Western conception of the ‘primitive’ tribe at that time, where the blurring of individual minds would have lead to a sense of the levelling of agency within the tribe and between the human and the non-human worlds. This contradiction between the individual ‘genius’ of the author or artist and the similar levelling nature of surrealist group activities is a prime example of the collapsing of contradictory states within Breton’s thinking. So I suppose then that it could be said that it was possible to be both a virtuoso artist/ author and a naïve one at the same time. The nature of collective action was so important for Breton that in the second surrealist manifesto he ended up insisting on it; leading to a division within the surrealist movement and to the expulsion of such artists as André Masson. However, as Browder notes:

 

How . . . [one is] to judge the expression of a movement that disclaims “artistic” pretensions, rejects all conventional aesthetic standards, and even denies the responsibility of the artist for his works? . . . Among the texts obtained by automatism, the Surrealists themselves judges some more successful than others, thereby admitting the fact of individual talent.[10]

 

So for Breton and the rest of the group were the unconscious minds that some inherited simply better than those of others? Were they more genuinely open and receptive to the unconscious (through their capacity for switching off the conscious mind) or were they more talented (by their acquisition of skill through a disciplined, conscious practice over a period of time)? A means of avoiding this contradiction is suggested by Macglagan who describes a “grey area somewhere between the deliberate and the accidental”[11], so that Breton’s automatism could be expanded to include some level of conscious direction through critical reflection and awareness of existing imagery- therefore implying some level of free will rather than a fulfilment ‘mere instinct’. Further to this the nature of individuality was brought into question. In his novel, Nadja (1928), Breton discusses “the existence of a complex ‘other’”.[12] It seems that this ‘other’ could have been said to be present in the unconscious of the individual, or through a fusion with the unconscious of other people, with objects, through the use of objective chance, or even the ‘mysterious forces’ of the material universe through encounters with the Marvellous. This ‘othering’ means that, for Breton, “personal identity [is] essentially porous, in constant transformation and [is contradictory] of an individual self, at least not in terms put forward by Aristotelian logic and elaborated by the enlightenment.”[13] In other words Breton fundamentally disagreed with a view of the self as unified and consistent and one where its highest faculty is a sense of ordered consciousness capable of rational agency. It seems that for him, the agency of the individual self is less important than the collective agency of the group, even if the collective is contained within the different parts of the self. This ‘othering’ of the self seems to set the more ‘primitive’ self of the unconscious against the separate ‘civilised’, conscious one. However there is an assumption that everyone in a ‘civilised’ society with a conscious mind has moral and aesthetic values that are in line with bourgeois taste. Even in the 1920s it would be unlikely that this was the case, and in the culture of late capitalist early twenty-first century society it seems likely to be seldom true.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maclagan explains that interest in the ‘non-conscious’ peaked in the 20th century and has been critiqued since the post-modernist era. The critique of unconscious automatic painting could be said to result from intellectual reactions to the unconscious forces harnessed by the Third Reich in Germany during the Second World War. REF “In addition the conceptual basis for [the] connection with unconscious form creation, along with other features of psychoanalysis, has become more debatable.”[14] HOW? However, he continues to describe that these are seen to “still form a significant part of our artistic repertoire.” And that because of this the “spontaneous [nature] of unconscious creativity… end[s] up being taken for granted”, to the point were it could be said to have become associated with cliché.”[15] Maglagan asks how we are to distinguish between “genuine or contrived spontaneity”[16] and suggests that the boundary between the intentional and the spontaneous (unconscious) collapses and lead to the difference between the two terms being “impossible to maintain for the artists themselves.”[17] Ades REF explains that Masson realised that there were two stages to automatism: firstly involving the unconscious in the form of pure automatism and secondly where there is more deliberation in the recognition of an “image”.[18] So automatic drawing and painting can be seen to be more complex than a mere ‘letting go”.

 

A primary way that the censor found within the conscious mind was bypassed was through speed of execution: so that the faster the work was produced the more it could be said to have approached a state of disorder and chaos in its haziness[19]; this was also based on the Dada precedent: “The challenge for the Surrealists was therefore to accommodate a technique based on apparent disorder and chaos (automatic writing) with a constructive philosophy: in other words to include chance within a positive artistic credo” REF whilst avoiding the end therapeutic result of psychoanalysis. Lejeune credits Breton’s knowledge of Freud’s theory of free association, with the avoidance of judgement or editing, and of allowing chance into the creative process within automatism. REF WHICH FREUD BOOK? So did Breton wish to use the chaos and disorder of the unconscious as a force for creative personal and societal change rather than as a means of ‘helping’ patients to fit into the existing overdetermined and authoritative one? Lejeune states that Breton deplored the way in which Freud’s rational order distorted the unconscious[20]

 

[1] p252 ades or foster

[2] Lejeune

[3] Andre Breton from the Second Surrealist Manifesto, cited in Ades Andre Masson, p12.

[4] Lejeune 93

[5] Maclagan p81

[6] Conley, Pierre Taminiaux2004:135

[7] Sigmund Freud totem and taboo in Conley, Pierre Taminiaux2004:135

[8] Conley, Pierre Taminiaux 2004 136

[9] Ades, Richardson, Krzyztof 2015:29

[10] Browder   1967:74

[11] Maclagan p15???

[12] Ades, Richardson, Krzyztof 2015:29

[13] Ades, Richardson, Krzyztof 2015:29

[14] Maclagan p15

[15] Maclagan p149

[16] Maclagan p149

[17] Maclagan p?

[18] ades masson 13-14

[19] Lejeune 88

[20] Lejeune: P98-99

 

 

Bibliography

 

Ades, Richardson, Krzyztof 2015:29

 

Browder Clifford André Breton, Arbiter of Surrealism   Geneva libraire droz 1967

 

Conley, Pierre Taminiaux 2004 136

 

Fotiade, Ramona ed. André Breton: The Power of Language 2000   Exeter:Elm Bank Publications

Lejeune, Denis The Radical Use of Chance in 20th Century Art 2012 New York: Rodopi

MacLagan, David Line Let Loose: Scribbling, Doodling and Automatic Drawing 2013 London:Reaktion Books

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

February: Revised RD1

Chris Hamer, MRes Revised RD1 Statement, February 2015

 

How can the depiction of ruination on an East Manchester street explore the boundaries between human and non-human agency?

 

 

At the core of this research is the role of human and non-human agency in the act of studio-based painting. This will be informed by my experiences of ruination on Crescent Road in Levenshulme, and by two contingent practices inspired by Dada and Surrealist theory that resonate with current new materialist theories of agency. It will result in a body of twelve paintings; six produced with reference to automatism and six produced using other chance strategies.

 

These practices will endeavour to explore the interaction of matter as articulated by Murdoch (in Edensor, 2005) who explains that, “ . . . ruins are heterogeneously co-produced by humans and non-humans” and by Bennett’s (2009) proposition of the world as “an interfolding network of humanity and non-humanity.” These networks, or assemblages, are present in the abundant sites of ruination surrounding my home studio, in my experiences of them, and in the act of depiction. I will focus on the space under and around the arch of the railway bridge on Crescent Road. In order to explore the processual emergence of the paintingsand thereby draw parallels with the in situ transformations outside of the studio- I will produce photographic records of ruination in action as a form of readymade, in order to test the link between the studio work and the in situ recordings.

 

Jane Bennett (2009) explains that “[T]his material vitality is me, it predates me, it exceeds me, it postdates me.” In order to explore this blurring of these ‘boundaries’ within my own practice, I will firstly produce paintings created by my fingers, hands, arms and brushes. This practice will be informed by the use automatism by the artists André Masson and Jean Arp, and by Edensor’s description of the powerful experience of the haptic at sites of ruination (forthcoming). In this practice, I will explore how the flux within material processes of ruination, as articulated by new materialist theories, has a precedent in the Surrealists’ use of automatic processes. I will investigate if there is a homology between particles in ruination, and subsequent production of pattern on the canvas, or is it rather, as André Breton (in Maclaglan, 2014) would have it, that this is a chance process informed, and interpreted by, the unconscious.

 

 

Secondly, I will produce a series of paintings in which chance (the non-human agency of material processes) is of prime importance. This series will refer to both surrealist theories of chance in Maclagan (2014) and Lejeune (2012), and to recent reappraisals of the role of non-human material processes in new materialist theories. For Liza McCosh (2012), authorship of painting is a “co-emergent activity” instead of a “mastering of the medium”. In investigating this claim, I will consider Marcel Duchamp’s use of dust and will add different material impurities gathered in the sites of ruination on Crescent Road (such as oil, traffic film, dried weeds, stone and brick dust etc.) in order to produce forms of paint that will behave in unpredictable ways. Denis Lejeune’s (2012) description of dada and surrealist theories of chance will assist in this exploration, and give further context to the use of chance in the work of Jean Arp and Marcel Duchamp. Objects and matter gathered in the sites will also be dropped onto the canvas with reference to Arp’s and Duchamp’s use of gravity as a key force that will question the extent to which my ‘first person’ agency is necessary.  

 

 

Aim

 

To seek to answer how the depiction of ruination can explore the boundaries between human and non-human agency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Objectives

 

  • This project will result in a body of work (produced throughout the 2 years) dealing with the questions above. This will be completed through:

 

  1. in situ photographic records of ruination on Crescent Road

 

  1. studio practice (where I will experiment with different acrylic painting mediums and different means of recording sensations experienced in chosen sites of ruination, such as photography and writing) along with regular updating of direct (primary) and informed (secondary) observations and reflections in journals, sketchbooks and blog in the form of:

 

  1. automatic drawing and painting

 

  1. chance/ material processes

 

  1. writing about these encounters with paint and ruination??

 

 

  • Library-based research will be carried out in order to inform the reflective responses to my practice, and the practice of painting itself, in order to:

 

  1. consider the relevance of automatism to the painting practice’s engagement with ruination.
  2. consider the relevance of chance procedures to the painting practice’s engagement with ruination.

 

  • evaluate of the role of human and non-human agencies in the historical use of automatic and chance procedures within Modernist painting practice and theory

 

  1. locate the research practice in a specific methodology

 

  • Produce a monthly piece of writing (1,000 words) heading towards the thesis

 

  • I will build in quarterly reflexive analysis to assess progress towards aims and objectives

 

  • A thesis of between 10,000-13,000 words, which will address the key issues raised above.

 

  • The project will culminate in an exhibition of a collection of 12 paintings edited from a larger body of work carried out throughout the two years, along with a statement that will situate the paintings in the field of research undertaken.

 

 

 

Key thinkers:

I will use Denis Lejeune’s (2012) “The Radical Use of Chance in 20th Century Art” and David Maclaglan’s (2014) “Line Let Loose: Scribbling, Doodling and Automatic Drawing” in order to locate my use of chance and automatism in a historical and theoretical context. Tim Edensor’s (2005) “Industrial Ruins: Space, Aesthetics and Materiality” and his “Incipient Ruination: Materiality, Destructive Agencies and Repair” (forthcoming) both comment on human/non-human causes of ruination and will frame my responses to the area around my home studio. Jane Bennett’s (2010) “Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things” will offer current theories on the agency of matter: and its ramifications in terms of my painting practice, further reinforced by Liza McCosh’s “The Sublime Process and Mediation” (in Barret, E and Bolt, B eds. (2012) “Carnal Knowledge towards a ‘New Materialism’ through the Arts”) in relation to the co-emergent nature of agency in the practice of painting.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Towards an Open Work: Authorship, Ruins and Photography

IMG_5861a

Author’s Photograph, Window of the Dice Lounge, Levenshulme, 2015

In October 2015 I began to document the painted smearings on the internal surfaces of windows of the Dice Lounge, opposite the now abandoned Royal Bank of Scotland, on Stockport Road. Initially the regular gestures of the white Windowlene paint obscured the view into the premises. Over time the marks changed as condensation, from the plastering of the interiors, sporadically washed away some of the thinner parts of the paint; when it settled for long enough this action left speckles and, when it became more concentrated, left blank tracks on the glass. In order to compensate for these gaps the workers re-smeared the glass with replacement pink windowlene. Some of my photographs show a layer of reflections of the sky and of other buildings. These reflections look as if they have been incorporated into the striations of the paint and have created a set of hybrid, disordered images.

IMG_5927a

Author’s Photograph, Window of the Dice Lounge, Levenshulme, 2015

These pictures can be seen as records of visual ruination that admit the material qualities contained within acts of perception[i], photography and within authorship itself.

Earlier, in February 2015, I dropped my digital camera. I had no idea what the outcome of using this ruined camera might be since only the automatic function operated and I couldn’t even use the screen. This meant that I shot ‘blind’ and relied on guesswork due to uncertainty as to the consequences. At the time I felt that the end results were not particularly interesting, the lack of choices of exposure, and control of composition, meant that there seemed to be less room for a satisfying sensory, optically informed record of the chosen environments, and also for my presence as an author. It seems that less ability to choose resulted in a more disembodied quality emerging, one where the camera operated as an unthinking eye.

 

Why should this sense of authorship be so important to me? Now that I am using a replacement, fully-operational camera who, or what, is the author of these images of windows: the man who wiped on the Windowlene, the team who put on the plaster, or, the condensed evaporation from that plaster, the glass manufacturers, the manufacturers of my camera, or the laptop and the software on it?[ii] In a sense it seems that the photographs are found ‘paintings’ which I didn’t create, but rather that I selected. In another sense they are images that I have created, by means of considering such things as: viewpoint, format, exposure and depth of field. There’s a contradiction in my use of the camera, and according to Rexer (2009), prior to the existence of photography the optical investigations of seventeenth and eighteenth century scientists and ‘natural philosophers’ such as: Isaac Newton, Rene Descartes, Galileo Galilei and Benedict de Spinoza amongst others meant that for them the lens became, “a vehicle of rationalising knowledge of reality beyond the self and beyond the constructions of religion and politics.”[iii] Elkins (1996) extends this analogy,

 

“All the principal metaphors for thinking, knowledge, and truth itself have to do with seeing: notions such as illuminating, casting light on a problem, being enlightened, insightful, clever, distinct, or brilliant are only the symptoms of this relation which has become as deeply ingrained as thinking itself.”[iv]

 

So, in this sense, the camera allows me to experience matter at one remove, mediated through the camera and dealt with in an objective manner. The photographic images produced are illusions mimicking things in the ‘real’ world. They are simulations of other objects, and it strikes me that the distance created between the paintings on the windows, and their representations, could be said to lead to a degree of detachment- something I’m uncomfortable with because it implies a separation from my surroundings. The camera here assumes an attitude to the world rather like a single eye in a head fixed statically in space.

 

IMG_3172 copya

Author’s Photograph, Window of the Dice Lounge, Levenshulme, 2015

However, my use of the ‘ruined’ camera did make me reconsider the optical nature of the camera- I had to imagine what the final image would look like. The act of relying on prediction produced deeply flawed, badly exposed results and I equate this to the difference between an idealised image and one based on the senses. This altered my view on the nature of the ‘deadpan’, frontal shots and the squaring up to the object associated with objectivity, or ‘truth’. So that I would question how objective this medium is and how much does photography really does separate me from the world? I don’t feel detached, I feel very present when I take photographs. I am present bodily when using a camera in terms of: the way that I stand, the height and angle I hold the camera at, the feelings I experience when taking the shots and my personal likes and dislikes in front of the subject matter. I often experience an overwhelming expansion of boundaries in the interactions I have with the visual material I photograph. The photograph above reminds me that the same finger that pressed the button on my camera also produced some of the paintings I will discuss in following posts. I view the creation of an image as a process that is an exchange of external object and internal subject. How do I resolve this conflict? Can both ways of experiencing using a camera be true simultaneously? They are rather more objective than my paintings, since I have much less trouble in articulating verbal responses to them or is this really because of the assumptions I’ve made previously about what photography is? I have less issue attaching a narrative to a photograph than to one of my paintings, and I feel that I can take photographs and write on the same day (something that I find near impossible with painting and writing).

 

The photography critic Lyle Rexer (2009) explores the subjective nature of photography when he describes how the photographer Roger Newton uses lenses as diverse as oil, cow’s eyes and diamonds. Newton believes that, “As an imaging apparatus, the lens is at least as generative as it is imitative.[v] I have produced photographs of the view through the rippled glass of the windows of my front door. When focused on the individual ‘cells’ of the ripples act as distorting lenses that disrupt and compress the image that the camera would normally record. I am considering buying a sheet of this so that I can photograph some of the ruined structures in my area whilst incorporating a simulation of my poor eyesight, and as a degradation, or ruination, of the associations of objectivity that the sharply focused image has. This will mean that my photographs of the structures of ruination will become less prosaic and approach the subjective nature of my paintings more fully. Could this be described as a shift from something like a third person authorship to one approaching something more like a first-person approach?

 

Author's Photograph, Untitled (Myopic Garden), 2015

Author’s Photograph, Untitled (Myopic Garden), 2015

Do Gerhard Richter’s blurred photographs and photo-realist paintings enact something similar? His indistinct attitude to the truth of the image world could be said to actually stress the emotional, embodied aspects of the image (something contradicted by the neutrality of the greyness of many of the earlier paintings).[vi] Richter has repeatedly explored painting’s long, uneasy relationship with photography: while either medium may claim to reflect or express reality truthfully, they both suggest only a partial, incomplete or fragmented view of reality. Does his practice therefore produce failed attempts at a synthesis of objective and subjective representation, and of painterly authority?

 

 

IMG_9425aa

Author’s Photograph, Door of the Former Royal Bank of Scotland, Levenshulme, 2015

 

What is the difference between finished photographic and painted surfaces? Elkins (2011) thinks that,

“[In a] . . . sense photographs are all about touching. When I hand someone a photograph I am touching its surface. . . if the photo is onscreen, I may touch the glass to point out something, smearing it a little with the grease in my fingertip”[vii]

I agree with Elkins; when I am looking at the world, even when mediated by a screen, I feel that the material nature of the experience is evident. Greasy residues are left on the screen, as they are on the door of the former Royal Bank of Scotland (see above) and are traces of embodied presence. The camera, or screen, is a material object and as Marshall McLuhan (1964/2001) suggests they both act as extensions of my nervous systems, or prostheses in much the same way as my glasses, my brushes or my paintings[viii]. Although, for me, the final photographic prints and screen images are homogeneous, industrial surfaces, rather then the more varied, handmade surfaces of the paintings I have produced. For these reasons I consider my photographs to be studies, or sketches, rather than final outcomes of my art practice. Although, my final photographic prints and images on a screen are also partly aide memoires, since they are simulated surfaces rather then the actual surfaces of the paintings. I consider, for these reasons, that my photographs are studies or sketches, rather than final outcomes of my art practice but since I am exploring the concept of an ‘open work’, it seems apparent that the studies can function as a component of the final exhibition, alongside the more ‘final’ painted works[ix].

 

Footnotes

[i] The photograph of the reflected bank integrated into the wiped paint on the window bears a remarkable similarity to my memories of the way the world appeared to me when my pupils had been dilated with atropine.

[ii] The extension of my authorship into the network of co-authorship will be explored later in this thesis in relation to my own paintings.

[iii] Rexer, L. (2009) The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography, Aperture: New York  p189

[iv] Elkins J (1996)“The Object Stares Back: On the Nature of Seeing” London: Harcourt p219

[v] Roger Newton, 2006 Op Tics (Portland, Oreg: Nazraeli Press,) in Rexer, L. 2009 The Edge of  Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography, Aperture: New York p 189

[vi] find richter source

[vii] Elkins J (2011) What Photography Is Routledge:London

[viii] McLuhan, M (1964 2001) Understanding Media Routledge:London

[ix] Similar to the way that Sylvia Bächli’s 2009 exhibition in the Swiss Pavillion of the

Venice Biennale functioned (see later description of this).

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Notes on Failures of Vision

 

 

IMG_8400a

Author’s Photograph, Dirty Window Viewed from my Bedroom, Levenshulme, November 2015

 

 

Scotoma and PVD

I woke up on a Tuesday morning in February 2011 with a growing visual blank patch in my right eye[i]. The preceding night I’d also experienced flashes of light in the same eye prior to going to sleep and my wife and I became concerned that I might go blind on one side. By the time I saw the doctor later that day, at Manchester Eye Hospital, the scotoma (to use its medical name) had begun to recede. He dilated my pupils with Atropine and, after a prolonged examination, informed us that a migraine[ii] had caused the scotoma. The drug worked by relaxing the focusing muscles of my eye, and also led to me experiencing sensitivity to light and blurred vision- the edges of all objects, such as buildings, overlapped with those of others and my visual field was extremely out of focus. The Doctor informed us that the eye flashes, on the other hand, were caused by posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) and that around fifty percent of the population aged forty or above have this disorder, due to age related degeneration of the eye.

In a less dramatic fashion, eye floaters in my field of vision remind me on a daily basis that the images I perceive are embodied (and this includes my perception of paintings, photographs, films, texts and the world at large). The floaters tend to come into consciousness on bright days, or when looking at large fields of light tones- such as those of an overcast sky or an expanse of snow.  I used to be frustrated by the sudden appearance of these spots, threads, or fragments of ‘cobwebs’, which float within my eyes. They are generally dark but, very occasionally, can be clear. Either way, the floaters are never a ‘nothing’ in the way that the migrainous scotoma was. I perceive them as an active presence that obscures my ‘ideal’ vision, rather than as a series of omissions of vision.

 

Blurriness

R.L. Gregory (1998) explains that,

“It might be said that whenever we look from the central fovea towards the periphery we travel back in evolutionary time- from the most highly organised structure in nature to a primitive eye barely capable of detecting movements. . . .” [iii]

I’m myopic, so what about the fringes of my vision when I’m wearing glasses? How important is the difference between centre and periphery when I’m not wearing glasses and all of my visual field is blurred and indistinct? It is apparent to me that Gregory’s comment on the ‘primitive eye’ lends credence to my experience of my attachment to the world of blur, what Bryson (1990) describes as an emotionally warm quality due to the fuzziness of edges[iv]. I’m beginning to wonder what painting and drawing would be like if I didn’t wear my glasses. Would this conversely result in work, which, like the ruined camera, fulfils the conceptual aspects of my research on ruination through its use of disorder, or would it lead to ‘illustrative’, rule-bound work? It seems that, in some sense, I am already carrying out this out by using my finger to paint with. The prioritising of tactile sensations seems to have overridden my visual senses, at least during the production of paintings based on ruination of the space under the bridge on Crescent Road in Levenshulme[v], and hence access a more ‘primitive’ sense.

 

Vision and Ruination

The three different kinds of failures of my visual apparatus: scotoma, floaters and blur, due to short sight have links to ruination in their ability to draw attention to the shift to a material disorder leading to the collapse of the ideal. Migraine as visual neurological disorder causes not only visual but also muscular, vascular and other neurological forms of disorder. Like many of the forms of ruination observed in the area of East Manchester it can be caused by aspects of the variable local climate, particularly to the passage of low pressure systems. The photograph at the top of the page exemplifies the visual disorder I have observed in the form of dirty windows and distorted reflections and seem to me to be pictorial equivalents for my embodied experiences of optical and neurological ruination.

The academic Peter Schwenger (2006) use the work of  theorists such as Maurice Merleau Ponty, Jacques Lacan and Julia Kristeva to discuss thoughts on the nature of vision, painting and language to allow for full possession by the subject of the object.[vi]

 

Footnotes:

[i] I explained to my wife that this emptiness wasn’t black or white or grey nothingness but was, instead, an absence of anything; rather like looking at a clear lump of ice with nothing behind it. Except that didn’t quite explain it, because there’s too much materiality attached to the iceness of the ice. I later read James Elkins description of black lake ice “You see into it as if into a thick deep darkness: you do not see a black surface like the wall of a room at night, but a placewhere light becomes weak, where it loses energy , slowas, and diesin some viscous depth.” This has made me consider the nature of the absence: it is something internally generated as a response to external stressors, rather than from a direct external, light based source. It stresses the way in which vision is as much about the brain and mind processing information on a material and perceptual level, as it is about a direct encounter with the world.

Elkins, J. (2011) “What Photography is”. Routledge: London p.19

[ii] Hystvedt, S.  (2013) “Living, Thinking, Looking” Sceptre: London

[iii] Gregory R.L. (1998) “Eye and Brain: The Psychology of Seeing” 5th edn Oxford

University Press: Oxford p.55

[iv] Bryson, N. (1990) “Looking at the Overlooked: Four Essays on Still Life Painting”. Reaktion: London

[v] The notion of optical, haptic and tactile are described by

Deleuze, G. (1981/2005) Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Continuum: London pp. 108-9

[vi] Schwenger, P. (2006) The Tears of Things: Melancholy and Physical Objects.

University of Minnesota Press: London

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

July Paintings VI (Stains)

IMG_1444a

 

IMG_1447a

 

IMG_1448a

Posted in art practice as research, Co-Authorship, Colour, Death of the Author, Memory, Painting, Ruination, Uncertainty | Leave a comment