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Omphaloskepsis Blog

Painting Forces

Feb 19, 2010


Jeff Koons balloon dog. Nash writes about Koons:  Critics are sharply divided in their views of Koons. Some view his work as pioneering and of major art-historical importance. Others dismiss his work as kitsch: crass and based on cynical self-merchandising. He causes real animosity and passionate arguments.
Some people also compare him to Andy Warhol, as his works, with their seductive surfaces and flawless execution, transform everyday objects and fantasies into high art.

I’ve been slowly reading through Deleuze, “the logic of sensation” I love what he says about painting forces. It resonates with me profoundly. When I read something like this, I don’t think, “oh yea, now I get it.” I think, “I’m so glad someone else gets it too!” LOL I can’t believe I had this tenet as my core ideology on art when I was 9! I just think, it must be really obvious if I got it at 9, but then, things at 9 are much simpler, more black and white, right or wrong. One of my colleagues is raging against Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons. He had a very interesting thing to say, and I think I would ask it of any artist going through art school. He wanted to know if their art knew them. He felt they were so removed from the actual making of the work that, although they may know their work, their work no longer knows them. The more agitated he becomes about this, the more ignorant realize I am. I don’t know any more than the headlines about their work. I don’t know their philosophies, I haven’t seen their work in person...well, I have see one of Hirst’s pieces at the MFA. But, his excitation makes me ponder the meaning of the work more fully. Is he correct? (great NY Times article this week by Roberta Smith, “Post Minimal to the Max.”

 Jeff Koons seems to get “it” when he writes in the season V of Art in the 21st Century essay, “I think what people want from art is gesture. And when I say gesture, I don’t mean just a physical gesture but a form of gesture that everybody want to live life to its fullest and to feel life within their blood system. What does it mean, to be alive? What’s my potential? That’s what you look for from art, whether you’re looking at dance or listening to music or looking at a visual artist’s work. You want to gesture: you want the person to be in the moment to show you how far you can go, and the freedom of what that means. So the job of the artist is to  make a gesture and really show people what their potential is. It’s not about the object, and it’s not about the image; it’s about the viewer. That’s where the art happens. The objects are absolutely valueless. But what happens inside the viewer–that’s where the value is.”

And while there is really too much to quote from Deleuze, here is some of what I love. In Chapter 8 he writes, “ In art...it is... a matter... of capturing forces. For this reason no art is figurative. Paul Klee’s famous formula– ‘Not to render the visible, but to render visible’ – means nothing else. The task of painting is defined as the attempt to render visible forces that are not themselves visible.” He then talks about the difference between force and sensation. “painting must render invisible forces visible. ...how can time be painted, how can time be heard? And elementary forces such as pressure, inertia, weight, attraction, gravitation, germination – how can they be rendered?”

I love that he talks about all this. Isn’t this everything that gets poured into an excellent figure drawing? Isn’t it all about the forces? Hasn’t it always been? I stood in the class for the first two weeks and urged my students to simply see. I gave in and got Bob Dacey’s primer on anatomy and taught figure drawing as anatomy instead. Imagine what a tremendous class it would’ve been if I had this language set then. I knew these things innately but hadn’t the words to communicate them.

There’s more: “one art instead seems to take part in the ‘givens’ of another art: for example, how to paint sound, or even the scream? (and conversely, how to make colors audible?)”

How great is that? Isn’t that what I’m doing in the Non-Ordinary Reality Series? Isn’t the scream ultimately the thing to paint/render? I have renderings of it in my sketchbooks going back to freshman high school. Bacon succeeded when he stopped trying to paint it coming from the mouth, it comes from the body. But I digress. I really want to comment on painting sound, and I’m not talking synethesia. There’s fabulous new brain science out that shows that we do hear colors and see smells. The areas of our brains that neuroscience previously told us are dedicated to seeing, or hearing, or smelling, are in fact, not. We see with our eyes, ears and well, all our senses. We can paint sound. How cool is that? What does that possibility open up? When is a sound painting more or less successful? How do you optimize the painting of sound?


Category: Painting

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