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Materia Prima: The Rough Guide


Walch, M, Materia Prima: The Rough Guide, Tangible Means: Experiential Knowledge Through Materials (ESKIG 2015), 25-26 November, Design School Kolding, pp. 311-30. ISBN 978-87-90775-90-2 (2015) [Refereed Conference Paper]

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This paper describes a suite of ten paintings titled The Rough Guide and discusses them as an alternative form of cartography that maps subjectivity in flux. It is an autoethnographic account of the material performativity of paint and the interplay between base materiality, chemical interactions and my improvised embodied action. This echoes the ancient alchemical practice where transformation of substance became transformation of self: in alchemy the perfection of Man was aimed at unity with Divine nature. The Rough Guide suite forms the central component of a studio based PhD investigation titled Viscosity, Fluidity, Plasticity: Reworking Pictorial Conventions in Paint, which investigates painting’s materiality in both form and content.

The research project began with the physical medium and characteristics of paint and the proposition that its material properties enable the exploration of a transformation in material thinking. The body of paintings is the ‘tangible means’ of giving form to paint’s materiality as a model for fluid and plastic thought. Paint’s substantial properties therefore create models of an alternative subjectivity, as a visceral analogue performing the plasticity of mind and body. Its vocabulary is suited to a discussion of non-dualistic connections to the physicality of substances and thereby to the world around us. Jane Bennett’s (2014) notion of ‘vibrant matter’ proposes that materiality is a rubric where the relations between things are flattened and read horizontally; she proposes that this is a step toward a more ecological sensibility.

The Rough Guide painting creates pictorial spaces that re-present a change in perspective. I propose that horizons, grids and linear perspective no longer provide us with tools for navigating a globalised world where cultural borders are porous and new technologies have the capacity to expand, compress and invert spatio-temporal relations.

Synergies discovered between Jane Bennett’s (2014) theory of ‘vibrant matter’, Francois Jullien’s (2009) notion of ‘the foundational fount’, the alchemists’ ‘materia prima’, (Elkins 2000), George Bataille’s ‘base materialism’ (as cited in Noys, 1998) and readings of Bataille's informe by Yves-Alain Bois and Rosalind Krauss (1997), acknowledge the nonduality, potency and instability of inchoate form. These theories straddle categories of thought, as does Sartre's notion of viscosity. This supplements gaps in a Western art history that has been founded upon an ontology of stable concrete objects. The performativity of the painted medium becomes a theme and is used as a method to construct paintings that enact a relationship between destruction, repair and transformation. Base qualities are employed in the paintings. The vacillation between compelling and repelling, between lush lustre and ruinous fluidity generates movement and turbulence. Velocity rather than objects is being depicted, and the works are successful when they continue to visually transform.

Framing, fixing and suspending uncertainty on a surface – whether it is canvas, wall or screen – can construct a territory of flexible material relations, which may in turn transform the very material of ourselves.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Conference Paper
Keywords:fluidity of paint, viscosity of paint, plasticity of paint, surreal cartography
Research Division:Creative Arts and Writing
Research Group:Visual arts
Research Field:Fine arts
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Arts
Objective Field:The creative arts
UTAS Author:Walch, M (Dr Meg Walch)
ID Code:105095
Year Published:2015
Deposited By:School of Creative Arts and Media
Deposited On:2015-12-07
Last Modified:2017-11-07
Downloads:1 View Download Statistics

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