Speaking through paint: the theory and practice of studio research
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The title Speaking Through Paint draws its sense from the comment made by the painter Hans Hofmann concerning the importance of the painter to think in the medium: ‘Painters must speak through paint – not through words.’ Hofmann suggests that we shift our point of view, turning our attention away from thinking in words - to thinking in the medium. He insists that an idea cannot be communicated until it is ‘converted into material terms.’ In an analogous statement, the author Paul Carter stresses the importance of thinking in the material stating that ‘the matter is not passive … the quality of the material must lend itself to the transformation.’ This paper focuses on the materiality of paint, particularly on the links between the surface and the subject represented on it being related to each other. The painter marks the surface to elicit recognition, so that we see the surface and see ‘something’ in the surface. Richard Wollheim refers to this duality as a distinctive phenomenological feature that he calls ‘twofoldness’, meaning two aspects of a single experience – not two experiences. Throughout the paper, I shall indicate some of the ways in which the feature of ‘twofoldness’ is discussed as exemplified in Wollheim’s book Painting as an Art. According to Wollheim, the twofoldness of ‘seeing-in’ is a distinct kind of perception that is triggered off by the right kind of surface in order to experience a certain phenomenology that is distinctive about seeing-in. On the other hand, Ernst Gombrich denies the possibility of ‘twofoldness’, that is, the viewer’s ability to be aware of the subject as well as the painted surface. He argues that we cannot experience alternative readings at the same time. Therefore, in order to test the method, ‘twofoldness’ is applied to the study of work by the following three painters whose painting surfaces are right for seeing-in to occur. A discussion of the work by Mostyn Bramley-Moore, Claude Monet and Michelle Bainbridge shows some of the ways in which painters can, and do, exploit ‘twofoldness’. A characteristic of their work is that they do invoke, indeed they attract, attention to the marked surface, where seeing-in occurs. The painter who uses this method places demands on the viewer to acknowledge the surface and the subject. The consequences of the relationship between surface and subject such as, 'recognition', 'complications', 'depiction' – are explored in the remainder of the paper.
Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Doctor of Visual Arts (DVA)
Queensland College of Art
Item Access Status
Materiality of paint