University Of Tasmania
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The suspension of pictorial equilibrium : materialising mutability in the medium of paint

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posted on 2023-05-27, 10:25 authored by Walch, MJ
Paint's fluid, plastic and viscous properties were used to renegotiate aspects of the painterly tradition in this studio-based research project. In the paintings that comprise the visual thesis, pictorial elements that are non-dualistic, non-linear and mutable give form to flux. Contemporary conditions of motility ‚- or 'liquid modernity', as articulated by Zygmunt Bauman ‚- are given expression through a reconsideration of precedents in Mannerism, Surrealism and Pop Art that were re-enacted in studio experiments to extend a lineage of eccentricity informed by Nobuo Tsuji's examination of select Edo period painters. The works were executed in enamel, acrylic and oil on composite aluminium panels. Over three suites of paintings, a performative approach was taken. The studio experiments engaged with a range of artists' work, and with a body of contemporary literature about performativity and the agency of maker and material. In the paintings, this is manifest in the coalescence and dispersal of form. Improvisations with liquid paint reference works by Inka Essenhigh, Dale Frank, Jackson Pollock and No√´l Skrzypczak. The physical transformation of form and spatio-temporal relations in the paintings was framed by Catherine Malabou's theory of plasticity. In the first and second suites of works, the lateral movement of fluid enamel paint on a non-absorbent horizontal substrate generated turbulent matrices. Through layering and abrading the surfaces, compressed, buckled pictorial spaces resulted. Improvised gestures were tensioned against various modes of stylistic intervention and mannerist revision. A synthesis of opposing tendencies was accomplished; figuration and abstraction merge, fluidity gives way to viscosity. The pictorial suspension of structure is a manifestation of Georges Bataille's ideas about the informe as not the opposite but the alteration of form. The mark of success for the paintings is their ability to sustain a lack of pictorial equilibrium. Ontological instability is depicted through the paintings' resistance to being read as fixed, and through the unfixed viewing position they seek to dictate. The ultimate ambition is that, in the gallery situation, they effect an arrhythmic attraction and repulsion, making the viewer the very subject of distortion and suspension.


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