Unreal Nature

April 20, 2015

Not Yet Entropic Fragments

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… the filter it places between perceptual objectivity and critical subjectivity, one may find the distance created has opened up vertigo-inducing vistas that routine inattention or fear normally hide from sight.

Final post from Gerhard Richter: Doubt and Belief in Painting by Robert Storr (2003):

… From the beginning, then, Richter’s strategy has been one of what he calls “evasive action.” Using ready-made imagery to avoid ready-made artistic identities, he has invited association with movements and tendencies while at the same time distanced himself from them by rephrasing the tropes he has appropriated and insisting on the plurality of his affinities.

Richter’s statements and paintings assert the arbitrariness of pictures as representations of their ostensible subjects as well as our capacity for using images to conjure things that transcend our quotidian experience. Pure seeing is therefore an unreliable index of things as they are, although heightened scrutiny can, on occasion, partially reveal obscured dimensions of reality. But, at the same time, the same compulsion to render reality out of the materials at hand may offer insights about realms that escape our ordinary understanding. Sense data are, by this measure, always illusory; but the senses, in their speculative production of images, do allow us to project intuitions onto reality. We cannot be sure of anything we look at with the naked eye any more than we can be sure that the edited version of a thing reconstituted by art captures its essence; but we an learn about the limitations of our knowledge by repeated attempts at grasping the ungraspable. This holds true equally for commonplace objects within our reach as for remote phenomena — for the faces of those closest to us and the facts of history or the stars.

… it is impossible to account for Richter’s achievement if we take the critical conceit of “the death of the author” literally. Richter is the author of his images, and those images are informed by the time and circumstances in which they were made. They are not integers in a conceptual equation, but pictures of objective and subjective worlds that defy definitive depiction.

Richter is acutely aware of the insurmountable discrepancy between what can be seen and what can be shown, what can be imagined and what can be represented: “Of course I constantly despair at my own incapacity, at the impossibility of ever accomplishing anything, of painting a valid, true picture or even of knowing what such a thing ought to look like. But then I always have the hope that, if I persevere, it might one day happen. And the hope is nurtured every time something appears, a scattered, partial, initial hint of something which reminds me of what I long for, or which conveys a hint of it — although often enough I have been fooled by a momentary glimpse that then vanishes, leaving behind only the usual thing. I have no motif, only motivation.”

Richter’s identity is manifest throughout his work, not so much as a character in his own story (though there is a story worth telling) or as an individual seeking self-expression (though he conveys and elicits complex emotions) but as a force field whose powerful, shifting, and precariously balanced centrifugal and centripetal forces have proven capable of holding together the dispersing but not yet entropic fragments of modern experience and consciousness. The psychology of his art in all its extremes and contradictions is “impersonal” only in the sense that it is not limited to his private preoccupations but expands to encompass those of anyone who accepts that his or her reality — if he or she pays attention to all that it contains — is as plural, as unsettling, and as wondrous as Richter’s.

… the basic loss of bearings toward which all his paintings point may barely show itself at all, except as a constant subliminal tremor that subtly warps vision and casts an estranging light on the mundane and the marvelous. Once accustomed to this effect, and to the filter it places between perceptual objectivity and critical subjectivity, one may find the distance created has opened up vertigo-inducing vistas that routine inattention or fear normally hide from sight.

My most recent previous post from Storr’s book is here.

-Julie

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