On the Rhetoric of Painting

by Joshua Mason, Fieldwork Studios

JoshuaMason_EruptionAgainsttheSun

Eruption Against the Sun, Joshua Mason

As an emergent feature of the Sun’s energy economy, organic life is subject to entropic necessity. Life as a manifestation of necrogenic vitality is inherently entwined with death. Painting, as an intensification of life, is an artifact of the humic indwelling. It is earthbound, composed of the nigredo of Earth. As an artifact of time’s arrow, painting is founded on a millennia of extinctions.

Painting is a confrontation with death because it is an intensification of life. What I mean by that is perhaps that the painter is one who evokes images out of the chaos of the world, and this process is an intensification of being as it confronts directly the materiality of the world. This confrontation with materials is a confrontation with catastrophe, even Becoming itself. Death is a vector of exteriorization or that loosening into the abyss. The life/death is in every mark, every instant impact of the material, as there persists the cyclical trajectory: life, death, rebirth, life, death, rebirth…

…And so it is with everything else: energies are never created or destroyed, only transformed from one to another.

The symbolic dimension of life/death ungrounds us: life, as an emergent feature of the solar economy, does not exist on a solid foundation. Everything is in a process of transformation. This process-oriented reality is unsettling for our identity. Reified and static wholes collapse in the realization that all matter is in a state of constant change.

This constant change is indicative of sheer potency, as nature-naturing or nature doing what nature does. Nature-naturing never ceases enumerations, contrasts, combinations spatially, linearly or chromatically. This ought to inform the materiality of practice.

The Moderns preached constraints of a particular medium, and later, the redefinition in terms of specific productions of meaning. This has to do with the construction of general cultural categories and typologies of art, which are both necessary and important, but little to do with the conditions – natural, instinctual, preexistent. There is the energy of nature-naturing, as sheer potency. From this position, which is a vanishing point because it is preordinal, the entire horizon of material embodiment and the enunciative field are encompassed. Although it is not possible to represent this vanishing point, it is possible to observe its self-possessed effects. There is no relevance to constraint for the sake of constraint in the medium, as if the demand for objective purposes could also encase a transcendental truth. Conditions can never be constrained, consolidated, determined as if they were stable.

What shifts through this orientation is the concern of art’s position. The particulars of art and exhibition, as materiality and enunciative field, are constituted and dispersed out of processes of ‘nature doing what nature does.’ No works of art are birthed out of a void, but are in keeping with the law of Conservation of Energy. Potency is a constant force that permeates the field; it generates all of the varying contingencies (objects, actions, ideas, texts, strategies, interpretations, etc.) The associated categories of life, art, text, commitment, are reconsidered under the potent condition that emanates their organization.

And while the Earth has often been a subject to painting, painting is subject to the Earth.

Deposition is a particular emphasis on the geologic qualities of painting. It is an encounter with the factuality of painting. But it is also a matter for aesthetic reflection. Painting’s factuality thus exists in correspondence with the imagination in its ability to evoke images. Forces engender forms and cross over into compositions and compositions cross over into forces outside of painterly agency, as a constant tension. The identity is always on the verge of sinking under the sediment.

The mere fact of the paint is never the entire aim, however, just as technique is never really the only concern, because content persists: painting is an involved process. The geologic process is unique in regards to other, more refined possibilities, because it consists of the potential towards self-differentiation. Involvement with this kind of painting tends to dissipate the abstract will (identity) into mineralization, asserting a corporeality and a kind of embodiment that appears immanent. The aim of aesthetic reflection is to therefore see oneself within this self-differentiation, as being encompassed by it, and ultimately, as a consequence of its condition.

In regards to painting’s self-referentiality, it is essentially a confrontation with its own death, or more specifically, with that chasm between painting’s ontology and the vanishing point.

Can I come to see myself as constituted by the world of contingency, as in a state of constant change? In what hidden or unrepresentable ways does this process of nature express the site where factuality meets the logos? This geology, as condition of possibility for the humic indwelling, determines the incarnation of ‘the flesh’ The flesh is the texture of worlds. The matter at hand is therefore what matters, or the mattering of matter: an alchemical process turning dross into gold, as an inflection by the ghost of beauty incarnate in the flesh.

…density, duration, animation, dissipation – ‘the creation of the world of art is the creation of the world,’ said Kandinsky.

Reposted with minor edits from Not So Solid Earth: Mineralizing the Imagination

 

 

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