University of Tasmania

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Design emergence: Beyond modernist orthodoxies in colour/form painting

posted on 2023-05-26, 00:19 authored by Kaukenas, O
Through this research project I explore the operations of formalist abstraction, its visual aesthetic and its potential for communicating content and meaning for the viewer. Using the device of colour/form painting on shaped MDF board, 1 investigate the functional dynamic that exists between myself as artist and the work which I produce. Working with a geometric form, which lrefer to as the base module, I engage in a process of design emergence which utilizes both my intuitive and cognitive faculties. This process involves a mass production of the base module, followed by the configuration of the resu lting components into a number of design assemblages. As I work with the formal aesthetics of each configuration and its respective surface patterning, the visual properties of the base module change and emerge as a new design format. Working within the parameters of colour/form painting, I make reference to basic modernist orthodoxies such as flatness, materiality, the cumulative grid and pictorial immediacy. ln querying how each of these applies to my work, 1 succeed in circumventing their modernist prescriptions and attempt to show how they can function successfully in a postmodern conception of formalist abstraction. Basic to this inquiry is an assessment of Clement Greenberg's formalist aesthetic, especially in relation to the form/content debate and the subjectivity of aesthetic judgement. My references to the artists working in this field draw from those who pioneered colour/form painting in the modernist tradition, such as Ellsworth Kelly and Bridget Riley; those who took formalism into its conceptual stage, such as Sol LeWitt and Mel Bochner; and those who have used formalist, conceptual and theatrical elements to produce postmodern works for contemporary audiences, such as Sarah Morris and Matthew Ritchie. The two key factors operating throughout the design as emblages are firstly, the theories related to de ign emergence and, secondly, the theatrical mediation of work which, as formalist abstraction, I propose still maintains some aspects of modernist immediacy. Tbe design assemblages, when viewed seque ntia lly, il lustrate the phenomenon of design emergence. The gallery space, in relation to the shaped modules and their patterned surfaces, a llows for a 'mediated immediacy' that connects Fried's notion of the theau·ical with the self-referential quality of the formalist aesthetic.


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