Zürich: December 4, 2009 to February 13, 2010
A fictive genealogy of painting sketched out by Wollheim calls attention to a potential that can be imputed as something common to the activity and outcomes of all painting. The first mark signifies the establishment of the autonomy of this action. Each further mark demands reflection and intention, a reference to what was previously defined.
"The story of Ur-painting begins like this: An agent – he is yet no artist – holding a charged instrument places himself next to a support and deposits marks."
(Richard Wollheim – Painting as an Art)
New aspects of the activity come to the fore and become thematicized, the support, the edges, the surface. In most cases, contact is made with the support and movement and manipulation of the paint is effected with the brush, palette knife or another implement, sometimes with the hands, the fingers or through the pouring of paint. The presence of the artistic self is made manifest.
In social life, touch and near-touch are subject to many rules and taboos, as they provide a means for exchanging communications, expressing feelings, generating and feeling desire and thus involve the body’s participation. A physical and mental presence of the painter also becomes visible and palpable on the surface of the painting. The painting reveals how it was created or it reveals nothing but its surface. Ingres dismissed the visibility of the brushstroke as ‘abuse of execution’ and as ‘...a quality of false talents, of false artists’. Yet the very brushstroke of the artist, his own particular technique, has long been accorded considerable attention. An explicit repudiation of such attributes and values thus also bears particular significance and can be understood as epochal change.
Who is this artist self that reveals and conceals itself? It would be a fatal misunderstanding to postulate a self based on our historically established notion of individuality. By no means is such a self reflected or depicted. The strong artistic self owes its development and impact to artistic action and access to the cultural inventory and cultural topicality. Richard Shiff recently published an extensive essay that makes the technique of applying paint with a brush – the ‘stroke’ in English, ‘touche’ in French – a central point of observation. (R. Shiff – Lucky Cézanne - Cézanne Tychique) More than through any other means, Paul Cézanne availed himself of the application and character of his brushstroke to open up aesthetic and ethical spheres, inspire and expand vision and knowledge. Shiff draws a connection between Cézanne and the works of contemporary artists. The painting of Sylvia Plimack Mangold is dealt with in detail. Over the course of more than four decades, she has created a wholly independent, significant painterly oeuvre. Her preoccupation with the painted image, representation and the motif possesses an extraordinary intensity and consistency. Her work is characterized by a great breadth, a rare artistic and analytical awareness.James Bishop initially created large, deep, solemn paintings. The format, typically 195 x 195 cm, has a natural correlation to the physical height of the artist and an artistic connection to the handling of canvas and color application. A skin of paint, sometimes quiet and closed, sometimes more animated and open, divulges traces of the brush and a formal framework through a subtle transition from density to transparency in the color material. More and more, he has applied his painterly sensitivity and experience and his artistic desires to his dense, small paintings on paper. Initially more of an auxiliary endeavor, this increasingly dominant parallel action in his oeuvre is unparalleled in the painting of the last forty years.
Galerie Annemarie Verna