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May 17, 2006

Research Notes: The concept of recirculation

The concept of recirculation (repetition/rehearsal and difference) is the key to unfolding Kant, Bergson, Nietzsche, Deleuze, Guattari and T.E. Lawrence.

From an entry on Seven Pillars of Wisdom

The nomads were thus capable of becoming an abstract machine, self–motivated, self–positing, independent but at the same time forming a genuinely connected response to every and any possible experience. The nomad, for example, finds the continuation of the journey as a way of life itself. The journey is the purpose of the journey. The narrower objective being to merely keep circulating within a space that encourages the continuation of the journey, making sedimentation impossible.

And another

This was then a new movement, breaking out of the timeless circulation of peoples and their livestock into and across the desert – a sudden and unprecedented mass carrying with it bodies from the diverse geophysical and social distributions of people into places.

On the will to power

Genetic – quality – affirmative/negative – feedback loops – continuous multiplicity – virtuality

On art and collapse

Art is missing, but why do we need it? My conjecture is this (following, I think, Deleuze and Guattari): 1. That events are organized; this is to say, their repetition and differentiation is controlled by filters of selection. 2. That some of these filters privelige speed and scope of judgement over care and novelty. These filters render the fine detail of events redundant (in the cybernetic sense), so as to cover more ground more quickly. Concepts are such filters. 3. However there is always a side–effect of speed: a loss of feeling (subtle detail). 4. On the contrary, there are filters that amplify detail by taking a set of events and promoting their re–occurrence, emphasing different aspects of the events with each repetition. Artists create such filters. The effect of art is deceleration, or perhaps carefully controlled speed. Art may then prevent the dissociation from the world that is inherent in conceptual activity.

On painting

reduce the world and its vast circuits to a small repetitive loop. In the case of Cezanne, the loop circulates and re–circulates between Mont Saint Victoire, the palette and its oils (themselves reduced to a few greens and blues), the hand, the brush or knife, and the canvas. In this way the artwork is built up over time through a kind of mangrove effect not disimilar to that described by Andy Clark.
Everything is invested – "the artist is already in the canvas" (Deleuze, Logic of Sensation). Then make each run of the circuit entirely dependent upon the last, each time applying a filter modulated by the results of the previous passage (Cezanne, Van Gogh, Bacon and others replace an optical filter with a haptic filter). The circuit carves out an escape route within the imprisonment of actuality. The loops are repetitions, movements between points, but across different virtualities or the infinite and irreducible but necessary slices of reality. This opening up of new degrees of movement is the experiment of the diagram.

On art as monument

The suggestion is that the monument encapsulates a rhythm of deterritorialization and reterritorialization, of pleats of matter rising and falling relative to each other, forming tonalities, a whole music of matter that penetrates substance and carries it away into the plane. The monument is then not a static edifice, it is a continual circulation of matter, captured at some point in history, relative to a virtuality which otherwise disappears. It captures a slice of reality, holds it, and then releases it again in the future, in our aesthetic encounter.
Deleuze and Guattari go further: artworks are monuments. All artworks? What does, for example, Cezanne's painting of Mont Saint Victoire commemorate? In paint it captures a circulation of matter ever connected with the mountain. The rhythm of brush strokes is, as Cezanne claimed, the rhythm of the mountain, of nature as he lived it. His method always struggled to capture the tension, the pattern of connections of those rhythms, to make them permanent in a monument.

Next I must relate this to 'the refrain'; the 'journey' of the nomad and its singular rhythm; dematerialization and virtualization; the clock and the rape scene in Seven Pillars; the movement of the camel; and the clockwork running of the engine in Jupiter's Travels.

November 21, 2005

Aerial by Kate Bush, a Deleuzian review by k–punk

Follow-up to Music Review: Aerial by Kate Bush from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Always interesting blogger k-punk has posted a review of Aerial, the new Kate Bush double CD. His message is the same as mine: this is a really fascinating and complex record, coming from a writer with a special perspective on life, creativity and the world.

I like this description:

Deleuzian MOR: a numinous, luminous twitterscape of women-animal becomings, a hymn to light, and lightness.

Of course we don't need to suppose that she actually reads Deleuze (although I wouldn't rule it out). More importantly, she seems to have a deep insight into how artistic creativity works (and sometimes doesn't). Obviously that comes from being a compulsive and quite ambitious composer of soundscapes and words. But Aerial goes further, showing a reflective and very clever mind extending that understanding out from music and narrative to light, colour and the inhuman (animal). It's the relationship between these aesthetic planes that gives A Sky of Honey, which k-punk describes as "her most painterly record", its power and fascination. This is aesthetics as carried out reflectively by an artist. And she knows it – her interviews, including the recent Mark Radcliffe interview, contain indications of this.

And what does this mean for Deleuzians? If you actually listen to what artists have to say about how they work and the material of their work, you will hear Deleuzianisms. That's not because they are necessarily Deleuzian, but rather, as in this case, that Deleuze and Guattari really understood art and aesthetic creativity.

Deleuzian Kate? Perhaps Bushian Deleuze.

k-punk's review is also worth reading for the artworks with which he illustrates it

November 08, 2005

Music Review: Aerial by Kate Bush

Kate Bush
5 out of 5 stars

This is a magnificent work. One reaches the end of the CD, all seven fascinating, complex, rich, colourful songs, and then you remember that it includes a second even more stunning set of nine songs on the second CD.

Like many people, I have spent twenty years listening to Kate's 1985 work Hounds of Love, especially the Ninth Wave suite of songs that make up its second side. And even now I occasionally find new subtleties. That was and still is a real adventure in sound and words. It was the best of Kate's work, perhaps because it takes an arrangement that always works to great effect (Kate, piano, and an ensemble of some of the best classical, folk and jazz musicians), and punctuates it with uncanny unexpected sounds and narratives that are completely new and unheard. Beauty and recognition right alongside and seeping almost indiscernibly into dark humour, horror, terror, loss, madness, and quite often a becoming-animal with which she has happily bewildered an unsuspecting pop world (finally Front Row have acknowledged that this isn't pop). Listen, for example, to the utterly bestial human-donkey braying at the end of Get Out of My House from 1982.

There is, as I think Kate has indicated, a continuity between Aerial and Hounds of Love. This time she gets a bit more time and space to play with (12 years, 2 discs, and a really nice CD case and booklet). All of the above mentioned characteristics are there. Joanni, for example, in which Joan of Arc is reincarnated from myth to real complex sonorous woman. Listen to the strange obstinate vocal towards the end.

I'm not going to give a summary or critique of all of the songs. More importantly, a suggestion of how to listen to this music. For a start, recognize that it's very expansive, much more so than her last two albums, and certainly more so than any other current songwriter. So don't expect to get the whole story in one go, or perhaps even in twenty years. But you will still get instant gratification. There are sounds and ideas in here that will hit you instantly, and stay with you for a very long time. Listen lots, and listen carefully. And do read the lyrics. They are quite obviously the product of a writer, not someone hooking words onto sounds. And then watch out for and consider the surprising ways in which the words and music negotiate with each other: the innovation, the real magic is in the often difficult relationship between narrative and sound, almost (but only ever almost) to the point at which it falls down.

I wrote some time ago about painting and chaos - the haptic physicality of the hand and the brush, the diagram that is the brush stroke marking out a concentration of light, world, body, eye, mind etc. And then also how, as Deleuze argues in Logic of Sensation, music takes off from painting - colour becoming disembodied in sound and penetrating surfaces (and identities), finding a line of flight, going further than light, which is subject to shadows and the phases of day and night, but at the same time (especially in nature, birdsong) dependent on and anticipating light. Sound carries through the darkness, and as in the Ninth Wave, is a defence against and means of reterritorializing darkness: a refrain as D&G would say.

The second CD, A Sky of Honey, does exactly that. It is a passage from day through sunset, a nocturn, and back to morning. From the chaos, colour and chance of a painter. Through colour's dissipation into sunset, and its preservation in the night sky, and then back again with sound (the song of birds) anticipating the return of the morning light (see an earlier entry on the refain and birdsong via Olivier Messiaen).

I said there is deep complexity in this music. But I also said that you will get instant gratification. A Sky of Honey gives exactly that. It is thoroughly gorgeous – like Seville, of which it reminds me (watching painters in the gardens of the Real Alcazar, sitting in mellow cafes, being invaded by wild flamenco buskers). You will be overwhelmed with the beauty of the sounds and the words. I am.

Ask me again in twenty years, i'll still be listening then.

If you are interested in discussing this entry, then please contact me

February 01, 2005

The attendant figure, deterrritorialization, sensus communis

The figure, as a site of habitual sensation, simultaneously dissipates into a chaosmic and unknowable field, whilst defining itself through its engineering agency from that field, which in this return movement stands as a material structure, habitat or frame. The field, being dense with connections, is that space in which the slightest of movements has a massive and irreversible effect. Habit or the organ has no definite sense in the field, has no role in reproduction, hence the necessity to become a 'body without organs' when passing into the field – zero intensity, zero effect, zero feedback, guaranteeing that a return from the field to the figure in repetition, but renewed from the outside.

But how does one reach zero intensity? – how to pass through chaos and back, surviving in some recognisable form? – how do you make yourself such a body without organs? On fleeing from the habitat, from the aparatus of capture, they say that it is necessary to pick-up in an itinerent fashion "weapons" with which to encounter chaos. The weapon is, in fact, that which draws the diagram: some other thing deterritorializing at the same time against which marks can be cut: the painters brush and colours. As they say, 'you never deterritorialize alone'. The friend of the painter is the canvas, brush, colour, texture. And the attendant figure? As Deleuze says of Bacon, not an observer, a counter-point, but a figurative companion standing as a diagram in the deterritorialization through chaos and back. A sensus communis even.

October 04, 2004

Klee and the superiority of painting

Follow-up to Klee and the separation of painting and music from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Deleuze's claim that there is some kind of superiority of music over painting is perhaps a direct challenge to Klee's well known claim:

Polyphonic painting is superior to music in so far as the temporal element has more of a spatial quality. The sense of simultanaeity emerges in an enriched form. With his choice of an over-sized horizontal format, Delaunay endeavoured to accentuate the temporal dimension of the picture in the manner of a fugue. Painting and Music, Hajo Duchting, 1997, p.28

I suspect that Deleuze sees music as a more powerful, more free-ranging deterritorializing force, and hence calls it superior. For the very same reason, painting being more specific, itself closer to catastrophe, Klee sees it as superior.

Klee and Delaunay

From Duchting's Paul Klee:Painting and Music

Nature is imbued with a rhythm that in its multimplicity cannot be constrained. Art should imitate it in this, in order to purify itself to the same height of sublimity, to raise itself to visions of multiple harmonies, a harmony of colours seperating and coming together again in the same action. The synchronic action is the one, true subject of painting. p.24, taken from an essay by Delaunay translated by Klee

October 01, 2004

The chaos in Van Gogh

Follow-up to Klee and the separation of painting and music from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Notice how the painterly diagram, the method of brush-strokes, applied by Van Gogh is applied in the same way to both the figure and the background. The figure emerges from the materiality of the background, and threatens to dissolve back into it. Accentuating the matter of the painting is a deliberate attempt to make this more obvious.

Klee and the separation of painting and music

Follow-up to Van Gogh and painterly diagrams from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Note – this is academic work. If you know about Deleuze's aesthetics, Klee, Bacon etc, you are very welcome to comment.

Painting, as with Van Gogh, establishes a rhythmic pattern. Through an additive synthesis, painting intensifies the body, leads it into chaotic relations with the rest of the material world, provides it with a depth of simultaneous connections, nearing chaos.

For some time painters have been concerned with the relationship between the rhythmic essence of painting and that of music. Deleuze, in a consideration of Cezanne and Bacon, attempts to clarify this relation:

Rhythm appears as music when it invests the auditory level, and as painting when it invests the visual level. Francis Bacon:Logic of Sensation, Continuum, 2004, p.44
Certainly music traverses our bodies in profound ways, putting an ear in the stomach, in the lungs, and so on. It knows all about waves and nervousness. But it involves our body, and bodies in general, in another element. It strips bodies of their inertia, of the materiality of their presence: it disembodies bodies. In a sense, music begins where painting ends, and this is what is meant by the superiority of music. It is lodged in lines of flight that pass through bodies, but which find their consistency elsewhere, whereas painting is lodged farther up, where the body escapes from itself. ibid p.54

Music then acts to disembody, make abstract, deterritorialize onto a distinct plane. As if pulling the spirit out of the body . The incessant seriality of music acts to concentrate and overwhelm the body in anticipation of perception.1

Paul Klee was concerned with this distinction. As both an accomplished violinist and a painter it would necessarily be an issue. Duchling seems to claim some connection between Klee and the ideas of Nietzsche and Bergson on rhythm in fine arts. Did Klee read Bergson? Anyhow, in the face of attempts by critics to say that Klee's painting was musical, used the same structure as music, Klee responded strongly by emphasising that both arts are rhythmic, but in entirely different ways. Deleuze also had an interest in Klee (will look into that more).

This is the starting point for Duchling's book on Paul Klee, Painting Music. I've just discovered this, and it seems to be fascinating.

In comparison to the Romantics, Klee sought the actual basis for the analogy in the most inner being of music – rhythm – which in his opinion not only marks the movement of time in music, but also in art. Paul Klee: Painting Music, Hajo Duchting, Pegasus, p.14


1Consider here Klee's rejection of Hausenstein's Kantian analysis of finality and purposiveness in Klee - Paul Klee: Painting Music, Hajo Duchting, Pegasus, p.12.

September 15, 2004

Bergson's intuition and reflection in learning

…negative freedom is the result of manufactured social prejudices where, through social institutions, such as education and language, we become enslaved by 'order-words' that identify for us ready-made problems which we are forced to solve. This is not 'life', and it is not the way life itself has 'creatively' evolved. Therefore, true freedom, which can only be a positive freedom, lies in the power to decide through hesitation and indeterminacy and to constitute problems themselves.

Ansell Pearson, Germinal Life, Routledge 1999, p.23

This 'experimental and ethical pedagogy' (ibid, p.14) employs the Bergsonian method of intuition, which involves a reflection on the difference manifest in creative thought. When one realises that a currently held concept simply could not have existed nor could have been analytically deduced at a previous time in a previous state, one gets a sense of time as pure difference, despatialized. That feeling is creative, and the philosophical method that draws people into this reflection is Bergson's intuition. Only once the reliance on ready-made problems is abandoned can creativity occur.

The word 'implication' has a special meaning in this. Imagine reality as a large sheet of fabric. The fabric is folded to present you with one aspect, which you may grasp at. The fold (French – pli) is an aspect. You struggle to hold onto that fold, and find that you can only do so by holding onto other folds that follow on to it. As you try to grasp other folds, to unfold the folds, to follow the im-pli-cations, your actions on the further folds cause the first fold to be pulled and distorted in your grip. Out of this feedback loop the specific problem of this set of folds emerges. At some point you are able to stabilise the folds in relation to each other, and have a solution.

When you grasp the fact that a new problem has emerged, that the positing of the problem is beyond your control, and that you must evolve in relation to the problem in a way that was previously both unthinkable and impossible, you have intuition in Bergson's sense. Intuition is a reflection on learning, a creative learning.

And that's why Deleuze makes such a big issue out of the role of fabric in baroque art (le Pli, Leibniz and the Baroque), the role of the curtain in the paintings of Bacon (Logic of Sensation), and the relationship between canvas, paint and brush-stroke.

August 29, 2004

The artistic diagram and its relation to the statistical diagram

Follow-up to Van Gogh and painterly diagrams from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Bar chart is an analogy of the world, a projection of relations of force onto another material. Photography is a chemical projection. The artisitic diagram is a projection through the lense of the artists hands into the material of canvas and paint.

Diagrams can sometimes mimic the world (photography), or seek to control it (mathematics). They can also have critical result (painting).

August 18, 2004

Van Gogh and painterly diagrams

Van Gogh's technique was also to apply a diagram to the figure in order to divert it from purposiveness into an unlocking of sensation. You can see in this work just how, as Deleuze says, for the painter the hand becomes a second eye and the canvas becomes a second mind.

The painter sees the figure. Seeing in this case is just the repetition of singular affects on the complex assemblage of planes of the mind. The eyes and their movement overlay a rhythmic action on this repetition of affects. Secondarily, the painter diverts this rhythm (of movement and light) to the hands, which have corresponding ways of moving, characteristic means of applying paint (and other painterly movements). This is what Deleuze calls the diagram. Van Gogh developed new diagrams of his own, of his own hands, which you can see clearly in this painting. With the application of sensation through the diagram and through the material of the painting, the canvas is built up into zones, lines, contours, planes, thicknesses, colours etc. At this point the painting faces a great danger, as described by Cezanne, the danger of becoming chaotic, of the sensations on the canvas failing to form a balanced and self-sustaining resonance: chaos. Adding new sensations to the canvas inevitably pushes it towards chaos. The greatness of the painter, as you can see in Van Gogh, is the ability to push the canvas towards this catastrophe, only to rescue it and restore the balance and resonances.

In this way, as Kant would have agreed, the adventure of painting is an adventure of the kind experienced in thought itself, an engagement with catastrophe and a subsequent return.

June 25, 2004

Painting and Hysteria

Follow-up to Miro's Chaosmosis, Guattari's Art from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

I am still slowly working my way through Deleuze's book on Francis Bacon, the Logic of Sensation. It is quite superb. In fact I think the most effective (solo) book by Deleuze. If I had more time I would blog extensively about it. When I move to Kenilworth I will have more time, and hopefully might even finish reading it (and the 5 other books i'm in the middle of). Anyway, all i want to say for now is that it's a great primer for looking at any paintings, for example, this helps me to see why Miro is so special:

…there is a special relationship between painting and hysteria. It is very simple. Painting directly attempts to release the presences beneath representation, beyond representation. The colour system itself is a system of direct action on the nervous system. This is not a hysteria of the painter, but a hysteria of painting.

Miro's Chaosmosis, Guattari's Art

Last weekend Emma and I bought a Fundació Miró print of Pintura. This is to go in our bedroom at the new house in Kenilworth. Looking at it reminded me of something that I wrote just after visiting the Fundació, an interesting coincidence of reading a book on Miro and Guattari's Chaosmosis. I've rescued the text from my old MT blog and repeated it below…

Andre Breton on Miro's Constellations: "They belong together and differ from one another like the aromatic or cyclic series of elements in chemistry. If one considers them both in their development and as a whole, each of them assumes necessity and value like a constituent in a mathematical series. And finally, they give the word 'series' that special meaning by their uninterupted and exemplary sequence." Miro by Janis Mink, Taschen 2000.

Felix Guattari on the Production of Subjectivity: "In this conception of analysis, time is not something to be endured; it is activated, oriented, the object of qualitative change…A singualrity, a rupture of sense, a cut, a fragmentation, the detachment of a semiotic content – in a dadaist or surrealist manner – can originate mutant nuclei of subjectivation. Just as chemistry has to purify complex mixtures to extract atomic and homogeneous molecular matter, thus creating an infinite scale of chemical entities that have no prior existence, the same is true in the 'extraction' and 'seperation' of aesthetic subjectivities or partial objects…that make an immense complexification of subjectivity possibile – harmonies, polyphonies, counterpoints, rhythms and existential orchestrations, until know unheard and unknown." Chaosmosis (page 19)

Miro described how he would evolve the elements of his works from partial objects viewed while staring at the ceiling above his bed. He worked these partial objects into existential orchestrations relative to each other, generating a "necessity" (in the Kantian sense) to their being produced. Guattari takes the Bergsonian interpretation of Kant in seeing subjectivity as enduring or being subject to necessities (refrains or exemplary sequences). But like Miro he knows that these necessities are not given, they are produced through knowable mechanisms (time is activated) – and if they can be known, then they can be chosen, so he has the possibility of an ethico–aesthetic paradigm.