Emergence of the Artwork
as Pictorial Ereignis
by Stefan Arteni
“All knowing is doing”.
The present essay is not the place, nor has it the space, to do more than
try to sketch a brief outline of a possible inquiry into the survival and
pseudomorphic appropriation of Byzantine artistic practices from Theophanes
the Greek through El Greco to Serge Poliakoff.
Aside from everything else that tells against simply identifying art. with image or idea, any discussion which is to contribute understanding must first elucidate the intertwining of presentation and representation as the forestructure of interpretation - the reciprocal relation of both at the same time gives and brings about the work. The paradox of drawing a distinction serves as a bridge between what is painted and how it is painted.
Similarly, the analysis of the contingent act of painting gives first the correlation of organization and the varying possible topologies of structure - von Balthasar shows that contingency is the heart of the creative process. It is also essential to discover more about Polanyi’s notion of ‘tacit knowledge’.
This double paradigm shows the collapse of a primarily conceptual, idiosyncratic, and/or functional-image based view of art.
Perception lingers. Maturana and Varela suggest that perception consists in an ability to differentiate figure from ground in different media. According to Varela, visual perception occurs as a dynamic visual flow. Form is not the shape of a something, it is the difference between something and its environment. The distinction of medium and form is itself a form. Painting symbolizes these differences in the medium of visuality. In this context, symbolization means creating form. By painting and viewing the painting, it becomes possible to distinguish between graphic-pictorial combination and sense-meaning.
Form and emptiness mutually depend on each other. Emptiness is unmarked space. “Form arises as a…residue of the process of distinction, indication, and unfoldment”, notes Jack Engstrom. Master Fa-tsang remarks that form is contingent. For the observer who draws distictions, emptiness is revealed through form. Thus one may speak of the form of emptiness and the emptiness of form. “The mathematical analogy of emptiness is…the empty set”, writes Sean Robsville.
“The painting must always rest…on a construction basis…it should not have anything in common with…literature”, notes Serge Poliakoff. The organization and structure of a painting are inexplicably understudied subjects. Recent years have seen a few attempts at investigation, such as the appearance of an article by Carolle Gagnon-Marier on Serge Poliakoff And The Golden Number where Poliakoff’s connection with the Byzantine tradition is also discussed. Rather than conceptually, the Icon suggests that art is best understood in terms of the elements unique to the medium, such as configuration and color. The artist would map the forces that transect the unique artistic event.
|“The reconstructive approach enables the memory to abstract
a prototype, fill in missing features of a noisy or incomplete pattern…”
|It is also important to reexamine the concept of tradition
itself. This too has received little attention. Dell Hymes writes: “…intact
tradition is not so much a matter of preservation, as
it is a matter of re-creation, by successive persons and generations,
and in individual performances”. It may also consists of different
codes of self-observation related to different positions of observation,
built into a polycontextural conception, such as injecting classical
universals into one’s cultural context without sacrificing the respective
identities. The different ways in which artists encounter Byzantine art
helps to explain how they pursue this tradition. While familiarity
with Icons comes through firsthand experiences, the apparent formal
choice consists of pseudomorphic appropriation and stylistic
interpretative citation, thus integrating also reminiscences of Greek
classical art. The process contributes to the self-referentiality of the
work. It is also evident that meaning depletion and circularity,
the continuous ritual reiteration and the turning back of the artistic
signifier upon itself - or, to paraphrase Michael Sells, the
performative apophasis consisting in reference/non-reference -
exhibit the tendency to step outside the paradigm of referentiality.
|“Duration is construction, life is construction, reconstruction”.
|Theology uses the term charmolype – joyful sorrow. The
historical background may explain the meaning of the concept. Nothing ever
happened, or was accomplished. Procrastination, inertia, the sense of futility,
of moving in an endless dream of lost hopes, were perdurable. Form, as an
alternative order, allows a flight from history, the simultaneously evading
and referring to tradition. Monica Spiridon argues that the logic of the
threshold of Europe is connected with “de-synchronization with Europe’.
|“Every pictorial matter brings about its own form”.
|I have traced elsewhere the development of the concepts of
organization and structure, one key to understanding the sophistication of the
composition process, the complexity of which lies in their integration.
The painting is a possible world organized into marks, planes - for example, contour and local color - and so forth. Emergence is the process whereby by means of a small number of simple rules - such as first organizing the surface into abstract areas with the help of the Golden Section and then constructing local-area networks within these areas - one creates new unpredictable and surprising structures. The organization is realized through structure. The artist seeks to exploit the combinatorial potential of the pictorial space - within the framework outlined in this essay, pictorial means painterly, and the term space in ‘pictorial space’ is used as a metaphor; pictorial space is an abstract space, the space of pictorial forming. Form-ing is selectively contingent.
|“This frightful being on the go without a precise goal…”
|An event may, or may not, have happened. In complexity theory
- complex does not mean complicated - the outcome is often
unpredictable. According to Cyril Stanley Smith, artists have a greater
sense of the relationship of parts to whole and of self-similarity. Robert
Rosen defines a formal system as syntax, symbols (in the Peircean
sense), and rules of symbol manipulation. It is a matter of
mereotopological (parthood and connectedness) contingency:
speaking about areas (the two-dimensional regions or continua),
the transformations allowed before the space is changed; speaking
about the image, the tranformations of an image conceived as a
diagram that may gain or lose parts and yet preserve its identity.
The flexibility of structure is the basis for the complexity of parts,
wholes, boundaries, interpositions and overlappings, nested regions,
contact, separation, and transition (passage). But what of inner
boundaries combined with passages, a device used by El Greco?
In this case of intrinsic vagueness, there is a degree of arbitrariness
about any particular choice resulting in trapping regions as inner
boundaries – a sort of inner vectorial graph - and creating indeterminate
outer boundaries. Such an influence is visible also in Villon’s and
in other Western artists’ work, a fact showing that to remain in the
background, which is the case for the procedural memory of Byzantine
practices, is not synonymous with unimportance. Procedural memory
is also known as tacit or implicit knowledge.
Figurative synthesis is responsible for the genesis of a determinate representation. ‘Schematism’ specifies the conditions for recognition as well as the topological invariant within the abstract building.
|“Dynamic models…capture important aspects of creativity, such
as change and embeddedness…”
|The playful assemblage, de-assemblage, and re-assemblage of
areas within which occur multiple intertwining formal visual pictorial narratives,
iconography, and symbolism, often working at cross-purposes, help
to lay bare the passage towards a resolution of conflicting objectives
and the satisfaction of those contending parties – presentation and
representation. Form - pictoriality and pictorial facticity - becomes
the carrier of meaning.
|“An image maintains memory of motivated connection between the signified
and signifier, but this motivation is never reduced to a single one…”
|Deleuze formulates the image as a “mobile assemblage”.
This allows for shifting conglomerations of elements – each image is contingent
and evolving. Any figurative elements - re-cognizable configurational
elements – are grouped in clusters within the variable layout of the
abstract areas that fit together like pieces of a puzzle. By means of
color-scheme, placement, and linking, natural spatial and dynamic
categories are destabilized. Emerging patterns convert image data
into pictorial equivalents - fiat entities, that is, created entities -
and construct a pattern of configured non-emptiness and voids, an
intense simultaneity. The work records recurrent culture-specific
modalities which were in operation - signs interfacing with other signs,
color, tactile modality, and the imprint of gestures - cross-coupled with
the material domain.
Jelena Grigorjeva remarks: “visual semiotics..is explained as a theory of reading visual texts…the very procedure of reading the world rooted in earlier traditions of hermeneutic exegesis”. Eric Gans suggests that “paradox…cannot be conceived without the sign. But neither can the sign be conceived without paradox”: to see what is not, but yet appears, to see the oscillation of presentation and representation, to see likeness in unlikeness, to see what cannot be worded, one must move beyond the text metaphor. Sonnesson indicates that the model of cultural semiotics elaborated by Posner suggests that semiotisation attains its maximum degree at the Centre as opposed to the Periphery.
|“Every symbol has an inherent apophatic dimension”.
|Han-liang Chang speaks of homo loquens and homo symbolicum.
Kris A. Murray indicates that Geertz describes symbols - by which he does
not mean symbols as defined in semiotics - as recursive-like ‘models
of - models for’. One can never achieve an actual visual reference
to any nonsubstantial entity and can never bring the unlimited into the
delimiting - one uses secondary polyvalent, multi-nuances symbols whose
primary meaning is not discarded. “Art as form is the locus where
the absolute becomes knowable. This locus, however, does not coincide with
the absolute”, writes Antoon Braeckman.
© Stefan Arteni 2004
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