THE TEXT PAINTINGS, 1998 |
These arose from surrealist experimental drawings on newspapers in 91-92, some of which are exhibited here. Also influential was the ideas of Derrida, taking his statement ‘there is nothing outside of the text’ quite literally. The problem was how to relate text and image, and by experiment and intuition, I was able to establish various connections.
There are 3 relationships between text and image. Firstly, there is a formal connection. Formerly, I have used the technique of glazing with oil paints to create an illusionistic space. But using text functions in a similar way as you can ‘look through’ the text, like a veil of space. Any repeated pattern of multiplicity of points will work in this way, as long as a suitable balance is created between pattern and image.
The second connection arose out of my preoccupation with the philosophical problem of private language, especially in relation to art. My observations have lead me to conclude that the problem with modernism is that because it encouraged subjectivism, every artist developed his own subjective language, and really, was only talking to himself. This problem of language, I resolved by using what already is a commonly shared language of words and sentences. This gives us a powerful tool for the expression of verbal narrative, something which both classical and modernist artists struggled with. Sometimes, the text has been chosen for the explicit purpose of drawing a significant relation between image and content of text, to highlight metaphysical aspects of existence. E.g. (works 12, 13, 16, 17). Other times, a more liberal approach ahs been adopted by employing a surrealist approach using ‘chance’ so the selection of text is arbitrary. This approach often results in surprise results and we become ‘active’ ourselves in creating a relation between text and image so that the observer constructs his own narrative from the text present, and the accompanying image. This open-ended approach allows the spectator to draw relations between the text and image, which are determined by the psyche of the spectator, and so the relation that is made, tells us something about ourselves. This always happens of course even when I have chosen an image for the text, but there is less freedom here for the subjective caprices and vagaries of the spectator.
The 3rd connection between text and image represents a self-conscious articulation of certain postmodern ideas, in particular the philosophy of language and deconstruction of ideas of Jacques Derrida. These are deconstructions because the text is removed from its context (Derrida- ‘.....it is henceforth prescribed that you clip out an example, and dismember the text’); furthermore, the etext is brought into a new relation by the superimposition of an image. This I have referred to above.
However, unlike Derrida who is committed to annihilating any essence of literary meaning, y idea of superimposing an image on chosen text is a way of clarifying its essence. That is by piling sensation upon sensation, and concept upon concept, we arrive at some statistical focal point of meaning. My aim is the clarification of essence by the combination of different sensory and cognitive modalities. We might raise the question that if these works of Plato were text paintings carefully chosen, would they be less likely to be mis-translated through history? My aim is not the dissemination of language, but its capacity to encircle and enrich meaning. Ultimately I see the future formulation of artworks that we could term coenesthesic that is they would be constituted out of all the bodily sensations that constituted consciousness.
An interesting display of the ‘beauty of chance’ can be found in the painting ‘Double Dutch’. This painting was conceived as 3 metaphors expressing the 3 epochs: Modernism by the biomorphic figure with the ladder on the left; Classicism by the Raphael figure on the ground; and Postmodernism by the tablet of text.
The text was transferred onto the canvas from a newspaper. It is in reverse, and in Dutch, conveying the Derridean idea that there is nothing outside the text, and worse, that what the text represents is meaningless (the wrong way round). When I later looked at the text and tried reading it, I found that it referred to the Rijksmuseum and dealt with the number of people who visited the museum. Was this ‘chance’ or was it unconsciously selected?
The discovery of 3d images in a bottle is nothing short of miraculous. It is a revelatory experience precisely because its means seem, on the face of it, unlikely. It is a surprise, it confounds our expectation, something out of nothing, complexity out of simplicity. It is amazing how long nature has kept this fact secret.
A bottle is more than a bottle; with the simple addition of water it becomes a lens; a magnifying glass; a generator of stereoscopic images; a motion parallax detector; container of liquid; a container of images; a deformer of images; a Pandora’s box; a medium through which the 3rd dimension can be perceived; it engenders life; breeds algae; a magical transformer; a creator of illusions; a magician; an act of god; a place where mind meets body; a cause and effect; a mirror; a reflection of the past; a metaphysical object – Plato’s receptacle. (Exhibits 42, 44, 45, 45, 47, 48, 49, 51).
Roy Amiss, 1998