What Does Paint Do?

Alan Gouk - Laughing Torso

Alan Gouk Laughing Torso, 2010-11 oil on canvas, 71 x 112 cm

I’m really enjoying the essays of Robin Greenwood.  This one awakened something in my brain that I think has been asleep since art school!  Not sure if I agree with it all, but it’s exciting (to me) to contemplate these thoughts, as well as the rest of the essay and subsequent comments.

“What’s missing from this, what makes it a defective raison-d’être of painting, is the recognition that paint can carry more potency and meaning through its use as a designator and articulator of form and space than it can by any literal demonstration of its real-world properties. To suggest that the literal ‘materiality’ of paint – or indeed the process of applying it as a performance – is truer to painting than the fullest, richest fulfilment of its potential as an illusionistic medium is to belittle and falsify it. Such a philosophy of painting (for such it is) exhibits a failure to recognise that the meaning in abstract art is not what it is, but what it does. Herein is both enigma and illusion, since what abstract art precisely does cannot be easily described verbally (if at all, and there would be little point to it if it were otherwise), and all painting contains illusion; all good painting contains a convincing matrix of illusion. Every mark on a two-dimensional surface creates an illusionistic (re)presentation of space. With figurative painting, no problem; but how do we reconcile illusion with being abstract?”

Read the whole essay at Abstract/Critical.

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Only on condition of a radical widening of definition will it be possible for art and activities related to art to provide evidence that art is now the only evolutionary-revolutionary power…to dismantle in order to build a social organism as a work of art.

— Joseph Beuys
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Comments on My Paintings
  • This is a wonderful representation. My eyes are dawn to the “drip”. Inspiring stuff.
Gallery of Recent Paintings
Untitled 2015-024 - Oil on Canvas - 8 x 8 - © 2015 Marilyn Fenn Composition Number 9, 2013 - Acrylic on panel -  9 x 12 -  © 2013 Marilyn Fenn Untitled 2015-019 - Oil on Canvas - 8 x 8 - © 2015 Marilyn Fenn Untitled 2015-029 - Oil on Canvas - 10 x 10 - © 2015 Marilyn Fenn