Tuesday, January 05, 2010


A recognizably figurative work—not Frankenthaler’s “Westwind”—might be imagined to have begun by the artist’s sketching forms, maybe pencil or charcoal whisps emerging from white space.

But with abstraction, the color areas emerge such that any pattern on the canvas (as set of color areas, at least—counterpoints and complements, etc.) implies the imaginable brush stroking that gives “form” in the first place to each area. There’s no substructure, apparently, as the color structure of the space apparently has emerged from the imaginable brushing, rather than the brushing fleshing out
a figured background. The color areas directly implicate the brushing outward toward the viewer (as virtual painter), whereas brushing/color given to preceding form results in implicature inward, beyond the surface toward representation apparently beyond the surface (surface as window). Not only does abstraction enactively frame (maybe indicting, as well as thematizing) the surface, but its brushing highlights the act of brushing unlike brushing that would flesh out recognizable figuration (though brushwork may be interesting there, too).

Anyway, one might have no idea how the color areas emerged relative to each other: whatever extent a given color area led to another area (and what does “led to” mean—what is the painterly process of seeing a color area emerge relative to itself, the space “now” as space merely so far?). Did a previous color area (or several) disappear under another that remained, due to what later emerged elsewhere in the space?

Then, there’s an issue of projectable form: Does “Westwind” have a window in the upper right quadrant? Is there, through the window, a cartoon person’s face in profile with a cap? No (larger view here), but enough distance allows the effect. Is the entire upper half a window out into greenery beyond a shadowed tree trunk? Is the lower blue space an inner mood—melancholy?—overlain by an enduring flash of elation? (Relative to the dyad happy—sad, it’s a happy painting.)

It’s credible that a gestalt (such as one’s “there”) emerged from the act of painting, rather than from the painter’s preconception of emergent organization of color space. There may have been several possible endpoints or closures on the act (across several sessions?) of painting, such that the work we see is, to some extent (even largely), the work that ceased, rather than definitively finished. There may have been closure without authentic ending. (This is standard fare in novels, like life.)

I wonder if any pointillist began with no idea of the final scene, but had it emerge from appeals of color, like the abstractionist.

No, that would be contrary to the retrospectively-precursory motive of pointillism that led to abstraction in the first place.

But surely the scene emerges for a voyeur of the pointillist painting-in-process, and probably even so for the painter, as postures and subjects and weights and relative placements might emerge from a sketchless dawning of areas of shape—maybe a little of one small area of the total space for one day’s work, another area for another day (with the first one hardly yet emergent); then, back to that already-emerging part another day. (Here’s something well-known. How amazing that we bring value or meaning to arrays, based on a history of feeling for relations....)

Maybe for the pointillist, there are, say, 5 subject areas emerging in the space, and the fourth (arbitrarily numbered in retrospect) emerged after the first; but the third might have emerged after the fourth. The voyeur of one sequence of emergences might have anticipated a different end gestalt than would the voyeur of another sequence.

No matter how well-defined in advance is a journey, a narrative, a discourse, a curriculum, it might emerge for the participant—the witness, the voyeur?—several different ways.

Or what it is that seems to be emerging (the path, the gravity or telos, The Point) might depend on the sequence of points along the way. Or the way is transposed or transformed by emergent points. Or the way is dependent on the participant.

In any case, something usually emerges part by part, constituting itself as wholly some thing, only in time, act by act in the activity of there being an artist’s valid claim for work in progress that there is, indeed, a point to it all—and, in the end, it is so said, there was all along.