Unreal Nature

June 3, 2016

No Finish

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:32 am

… Interpretations scar artworks.

Continuing through Philip Guston: The Studio, by Craig Burnett (2014):

… He dons a hood, he smokes, he paints himself. This is what the image tells the viewer. So what? No wonder so many critics were dismayed at the time. In 1965, in the context of discussing Kafka’s short story ‘Blumfield, an Elderly Bachelor’ (c. 1915), Harold Rosenberg suggested, ‘You want this strangeness to appear not only in the image but also in the way the painting is painted.’ Guston replied, ‘Oh, completely,’ continuing:

But, of course, the strangeness is precisely in how it’s painted. In other words, its formality is the thing that makes the strangeness. Otherwise, it would simply be fantasy or a dream. In Valéry’s phrase, it would vanish into meaning. It’s the form that not only brings the meaning into existence; it’s the form which keeps it perpetually renewing itself.

Reduce The Studio to a story and we let the painting ‘vanish into meaning.’ The story is locked up in an image that simply says: he smokes, he paints, he takes a break from nastiness. Or perhaps the story tells us that everyone is a benighted brute, or that any old bigot can be an artist. But that’s still not enough to make it a great painting. Interpretations scar artworks. Themes are infinitely recyclable.

[line break added] At some point, the way The Studio is painted — the irresolvable details, the sprezzatura handling of the paint, the tightly controlled composition — overwhelm any legible story. The form of the painting glosses cartoonish grotesquerie with paradox and mystery. If The Studio rewards a viewer who wants to ‘look at it forever,’ it is because the ‘picture as picture’ perpetually renews itself.

guston_theStudio1969
Philip Guston, The Studio, 1969

… “My only interest in painting is really, as I go on and on, just only this interest, on this metaphysical plane where the condition exists of no finish, no end, but infinite continuity. That is, the distribution of forms are in a condition which gives you the feeling that there was a structure unseen previous to what you see.”

My previous post from Burnett’s book is here.

-Julie

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