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Painting in An Era of Critical Theory Author(s): Dan Nadaner Reviewed work(s): Source: Studies in Art Education, Vol. 39, No. 2 (Winter, 1998), pp. 168-182 Published by: National Art Education Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1320467 . Accessed: 15/02/2013 11:04
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Copyright1998 by the NationalArt Education Association

Studies Art Education in A Journalof Issuesand Research 1998, 39(2), 168-182

PaintingIn An Eraof CriticalTheoryl


Dan Nadaner
California State University, Fresno2 What are the valuesof paintingfor the contemporary visualartscurriculum? One of the central tenets of criticaltheoryholds that the value of art in conveyingsubjectivity been superseded has In the by the newer task of interrogating natureof representation. an art world dominatedby criticaltheoryand by new formsthat speakto that theory,the contributionof paintingto society and to educationis not as firmlyestablished it was in the firsthalf of the century.In this paper as I reviewthe challengefrom criticaltheory to painting and constructan alternative relationship between the two fields. I attempt to reaffirmthe relationship betweenpaintingand experience, and to articulate waysin which conceptsin criticaltheoryareinformedand extendedby the practice of painting.A constructiveanalysisof the relationship betweencriticaltheory and painting of visualartsprogram. permitsa positivereconception the roleof paintingin a contemporary

1This paper was written while the author was a Visiting Scholar in the School of Education, Stanford University, with the support of a sabbatical leave from California State University, Fresno. 2Inquiries about this paper should be addressed to the author at Department of Art & Design, California State University-Fresno, Fresno, CA 937400065. 3It is understandable that the use of the term "critical theory" to refer to this grouping-typified by the works of Lacan, Lyotard, Derrida, Baudrillard, Irigaray, and Jameson-may seem unfair to scholars who would rather apply the term to other literature in critical thinking and educational theory. Nevertheless, the term is used widely.

Critical theory has rapidly become a center of attention and energy in the visual arts. By critical theory I mean the grouping of semiotic, structuralist, psychoanalytic, and postmodern theory that has taken a leading role in the direction of art criticism and contemporary art history.3 The writings of many critical theorists-e.g., Irigaray (1985), Jameson (1984), Lacan (1977), and Lyotard (1979)-have contributed to an awareness of the social context of artistic production, a focus on relations of power in works of art, and a mistrust of claims of authenticity and subjectivity in the modernist tradition. Since 1970 there has been a close relationship between developments in critical theory and the emergence of "new forms" in visual art, such as language-based and conceptual installations, that speak directly to that theory (Gottlieb, 1976; Harrison & Wood, 1993; Rorimer, 1989). Painting is discussed most often as an artifact of modernism, and therefore an object of dismissal rather than a medium of promise for speaking to contemporary issues (Baker, 1996; Crimp, 1981; Kuspit, 1996; Lawson, 1984; Rubinstein, 1997). If painting is not "dead," it is not very healthy within the critical climate of recent years. Yet little rigorous analysis has actually been applied to the relationship between critical theory and painting. As new forms demand attention and funding, it is easy for painting to get lost in the excitement. At a time when changes are being considered in many visual art programs, it seems imperative that implications for change be reasoned and not assumed. I will argue in this paper that there is a positive relationship between critical theory and the practice of painting. I will make this argument in three stages. First, I will review and critique the challenge from critical theory to painting. Second, I will set forth several concepts that are constructive points of contact between painting and critical theory. Third, I will use these concepts to create an alternative view of painting in an era of critical theory. I will suggest that painting continues to relate to experience and to education in specific and significant ways.

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Paintingin an Eraof CriticalTheory

The ChallengeFrom CriticalTheory of One of the centralarguments criticaltheoryholds that art is not a "figuration"(Jameson's term,quotedin Owens, 1982, p. 21) that is transparent to either the world or our experienceof it. FollowingLacan(1977), paintinghas lost its role both as a window to the world and as a window are on experience. Both sides of the signifier/signified relationship viewed Communicationthroughpaint (the signifier)is problemas problematic. atic becausethe paint masks the word. Languageis the form in which and thought occurs. Significationbased on languageis arbitrary socially And the notion of an idencontextedratherthan authenticand universal. tifiable "experience" signified)is problematic,becausethat "experi(the ence" is also constructedby languageas it used within a specific social positioning (Harrison& Wood, 1993, p. 232). Therefore,one cannot claimthat artis relatedto experience. This view refutesthe modernisttraditionof seeing increasingly deeper levels of human experience in art, and especially in the relationships of among visual forms.An arrangement forms by Kandinskybecomesa constructionof signification within a particular social contextand worldview ratherthan, as Kandinsky had hoped, a languagefor conveyingthe of vibrations the soul. When the premise of art-as-arbitrary substitutedfor art-as-experiis about the contemporary ence, the stageis set for a varietyof speculations function and directionof painting.Without confidencein the authenticity of the subjective,and believingthat the plasticpossibilitiesof expression are encrustedwith dense layersof historicalstructuring,the argument for paintingas a uniqueform of human expression loses its foundation. Speculations about the futurestatusof paintingfollow. Some of the the criticalleapsregarding natureof paintinghave includedan insistence on languageas the focal point of painting,and the demandthat painting takeas its subjectthe investigation the natureof representation. repof If resentational formsmasksocialconstructions, then the artistdeconstructs representationso as to disclose underlying content. Exemplarsof this school include Rosler'sinquiries into multiple forms of representation and also the works of Kosuth, Haacke, Burgin, and Syrop (Rorimer, nature 1989, p. 152), that use languageto call attention to the arbitrary of art as signifier,and that position art within a socioeconomiccontext. Rorimer(1989, p. 153) sees these artistsas "[succeeding] the transforin mation of previousconceptsof art."Singermansees these self-referential critiquesas "mourning"the overblown claims of art as representation, and the critic as serving as a "watchdog...protecting the canon by (1989, p. 116). Harrisonand Wood celebrate patrollingthe periphery" art (e.g., the earlywork of the Art and Language conceptual group)for its use of hypotheticalsituations and events, and complex verbal texts, to

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inquire into underlying conditions of perception, representation,and


social positioning.

These criticalleaps put painting in a conflictedstate. The ideals that make painterswant to paint-e.g., the notion that paintingmust belong to its time-also make it difficultfor a painterto avoid the theoriesthat arguefor the exhaustionof paintingor the vitalityof other forms.In the or text presenceof Lacanian Derridaisttexts, no contemporary on painting carriesequal influence. Almost all of the great studio discoursesHawthorne (1960, first published 1938), Henri (1923), Hofmann (1948), Kandinsky (1947), Klee (1953), and Nicolaides (1941)emerged in the first half of the century. Kandinsky'sConcerningThe SpiritualIn Art (1947) gave to the teaching of painting a concept of that schoolsof thought in painting. expressiveness transcended particular At mid-century Hans Hofmannbroughtto paintinga similarly delineated of expressionthrough non-objectivemeans that had special conception relevance contemporary to in developments abstract painting.For decades ideas from teacherslike Hawthorne-about finding beauty in the ordinary,makinga lot of a little, avoidingthe literary, going for studiesrather than finish, paintingmore than drawing,and emphasizing largeshapeshave remainedthe model of studio discourse.Today, in the presenceof theoriesof interpretation that do not value painting, studio discourseis suffusedwith an uneasethat it lacksits own contemporary strengths. Contemporary paintersare likely to find themselvespositionedsomewhere between the poles of criticaldiscourse,studio discourse,and personal ideas and intuitions. At times there seems to be little contact betweenthese poles. Often the disjuncture betweendiscourses not only is impliedbut demanded.
Questioning the Questions

In order to achieve a better understandingof the relationshipbetween critical theory and painting, the central concepts of each field, as they relateto other fields, requireexamination.This examinationis especially needed because the influx of critical theory has been rapid and often wholesalein form. Pollitt has commentedwryly on the often superficial handlingof criticaltheorywithin academia: ...Often the postmodernists don't reallyunderstandone another's and make their way throughthe text by moving from one writing familiarname or notion to the next like a frog jumping across a murky pond, by way of lily pads. Lacan...performativity...Judith Butler...scandal...(en)gendering (w)holeness.. .Lunch!(1996, p. 9) Those painters and critics who have digested Lacan, Derrida, and tend to assumethat implications majorchangesin the artsare for Lyotard indicated.By contrast,the searchfor points of contactwith the artshas

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to been slowerto emerge.Verylittle efforthas been addressed the fleshing out of criticaltheorywith referenceto the concreteexperienceof paintconceptsof critical ing, or to viewing paintingin termsof the generative theory. Like any theoreticalargument,the challengefrom critical theory to studio practiceneeds to be subjectedto critiqueitself. Chief among the assertionthat languageis at the points callingfor critiqueis the Lacanian heartof cognition and art. While the claim that languageis at the center has of representation become a popularassumptionin the contemporary in artworld, this claim is not fully supportedby research otherfields.The studyof cognitionand imagerycallsinto questionthe claim that the word the underlieshuman thought.The study of mentalimagerydemonstrates central role of the visual image in cognition (Arnheim, 1969; Kosslyn, that 1977; Paivio, 1971). There is evidencein psycholinguistics concepts out" onto a beforethey are "mapped are createdin the mind nonverbally form (Clark, 1977). Even psychologistsskepticalof "pictorial linguistic thinking" believe that images and words are epiphenomenaof mental processesthat are neitherverbalnor visual in form;very few believethat languageis at the coreof cognition (Finke,1989). Many semioticians,including Roland Barthes(1977), Umberto Eco (1976), Norman Bryson(1981), andJamesElkins(1995) havebeen troubled by the dependenceof semiotic theory on language.Elkins, in his study of the significationof marksand tracesin paintings,questionsthe assumption that visual form is reducible to language for its meaning. Elkins speaksof a figure as being primarilya "massof sticky oil." For Elkins, it is wrong to continue the semiotic practiceof jumping to "stories"(1995, p. 860) to extractmeaningfrom the work. The artistAimee Rankinspeaksfor those who would preferto value the pictorialimage in its own terms: ...I have problems with the way some artists have appropriated impressive-sounding argumentsto legitimate their own reductive The idea that a work of art would come equipped with practice. footnotes underlinesthe role this work assumes,often illustrating what functions as a master discourselike a book report in rebus form. (In Foster,1987, p. 97) In Elkins's view, critical theory must admit the "incoherenceand of strangeness" pictures.Criticaltheory must look at all elementsof the picture, not only its identifiable subject, but its less easily identifiable marks,traces,and orli (shimmering auras)as well. Elkins'swork summarizes an emerging direction that restoresto the picture the primacyof visual signification,and calls for a new emphasison understanding picturesin visualterms.

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I would argue, then, that there is ample reason to question the language-based critique of painting that comes from critical theory. By making an analogy between painting and language and then by conflating painting with language, critical theory has created a body of discourse that is both useful and overly convenient. It is useful because it has raised consciousness about the texts and subtexts of power relations that pervade the creation, dissemination, and viewing of art. But it is overly convenient because it is addressed only to places that are well lit (i.e., that connect easily to existing discourse in the literary realm). There is a wider field that needs illuminating. There are many "less lit" aspects of painting requiring discussion. There is, for example, the task of analyzing visual form as visual form, as Elkins suggests, rather than through analogy to text. It is much harder to find words to interpret the entire painted surface than it is to describe subjects that can be construed as signifiers, but it is also much more relevant to painting to consider the entire painted surface. Many painters eliminate recognizable subjects from their paintings specifically so as to preclude facile interpretation.4 4Diebenkornand Another less lit place is the relationship of visual form to human expeotherpeopletalked rience. The argument that the correspondence between signs and referabout "annihilating ents in human experience is arbitrarymakes good sense, but it is facile. It the image-ifyou get an imagetry to looks under the light. It relies too much on Saussure's (1966) concept of destroyit" (Tuchman, arbitrarysignification to serve as a blanket negation of all claims of repre1976, p. 13). sentation. Saussure (1966, p. 120) argued that signs (e.g., words and visual forms) function independently of the object world in creating meaning. But how does one account for the numerous and diverse indications that painting is motivated by experience in the world, and that painting expresses lived experience? Elizabeth Murray speaks to the authenticity of experience when she says that she finds "that anything I want to excise comes back" in her works (Graze & Halbreich, 1987, p. 127). It is as if her images had a life of their own. When Munch says that he painted from the "lines and colors... of the inner eye," and that he painted "what I recalled, without adding anything" (Steinberg, 1995, p. 15), he is not mouthing stereotypical phrases of self-expression, mere theoretical wish fulfillments. Or when Per Kirkeby speaks of his colors springing from a memory such as "a sinking ship or your wife leaving you" (Posner, 1991, p. 6) or when Murray speaks of a painting "reflecting a lunar oriental mood" (Graze & Halbreich, 1987, p. 28), there is a specificity to the language that transcends blanket theoretical negations of experience. Rudolf Arnheim has been a rare voice debating the role that critical theory has come to play within the art world. In Arnheim's (1992) view, the current critique of signification in art derives from the subjectivism of Hume and the nihilism of Nietzsche, neither of which he accepts as valid.

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For Arnheim (1994), the mind actively structuresperceptionin visual for images,and the work of art acts as an equivalent theseimageswithin a observable medium. Therefore, there is a direct connection publicly in betweenrepresentation artand humanexperience. There aremany reasonsto questionthe criticalhegemonythat is maintainedwith respectto painting.The literature-based analysisof signification need not dominatethe viewing of painting.The field for constructing an alternative viewing of paintingis wide open. Nathan Oliveirahas in life can occur in a painting, spontaneouslyin the said "everything work" (in Protter, 1963, p. 272). Oliveira speaks to an evaluation of paintingthat is open and multiplein its vision, at the same time that his work is sensitiveto the contextsand contradictions that surroundthe art of painting (Nadaner,1984). Could paintingbe re-viewedin an alternative way that speaksto this multiplicityof vision?And could this kind of critical reviewingbe statedin terms that hold up to contemporary inquiry the of (i.e.,avoidrepeating simpleassertion significance, spirituality meaning, in the work that characterized many manifesto-like the statementsprevain lent in artdiscourse earlier the century?) AlternativeViewings:ConceptualGrounds What is needed is a re-evaluation the points of linkagebetweenpaintof ing and theory,as well as the directionof attentionto aspectsof painting that escapecurrenttheoreticalparadigms. example,Derrida's(1979) For notion of the floatingqualityof both signifierand signifiedhas application to the natureof painting. Not only has criticaltheory ignored the ways in which paintinginformsthe concept of the floatingsignifier,but one could arguethat the concept cannot be fully understood without referenceto painting.Paint,as a plasticmedium,is a mediumof all possibilities.A single brushstroke Monet can be decisiveor awkward; can be it by a figureor a blob of paint. A brushstroke De Kooning can float as a by classicHals, and grafsignifierbetweenthe brushstrokesof signpainting, of fiti, and it can float as signifiedbetweenthe references a rollercoaster, an emotional crisis turned inside out, and numerous other things. Painting is a floating world, and as such remainsa way of saying what cannotbe saidin waysthat cannotbe described. The Lacanianidea that significationoccurs metonymically(through has adjacentterms)ratherthan metaphorically proveda powerfulconcept for the interpretation pictures(1977, p. 169). Yet, the conversepropoof sition has not been valued;the propositionthat paintingis uniqueamong the artsin its capacityto presentsignificance throughambiguous juxtapoand When Joan Brown sitions,ambiguouspresences, elided relationships. outlines a sock in the midst of a denselyplowed field of paint she connects two things in a way that is irreducibleto a "story,"and yet that

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speaksfor a consciousnessof its times. The scratcheson a Diebenkorn cityscape are only scratches, and yet they speak of another world of inquiryand inner life when comparedto a typicalrenderingof the same subject. idea (1971) that painting and poetry presentincommensuLyotard's rableevents is equallypowerfulin explainingthe way that picturesfuncof tion. Philip Guston's late-career presentations cartoon-like,machinelike, figure-likeformsdelineatedforcefullyon expressionist pink grounds And yet, they make no sense. They are incommensurable presentations. in speakprecisely a way that only paintingcan, presenting figuresthat are terms. outsideof discourse,in Lyotard's An alternative look at painting in relationto criticaltheory therefore disclosesseveralconcepts highly generativefor the valuing of painting. These include, as discussedabove, the floatingsignifier,metonymy,and Other conceptsin criticaltheorythat seem potent for incommensurabilty. the understanding of painting include the concepts of non-semiotic (Caws, 1989), eludingdefinition analysis(Elkins,1995), stressed passages and negation. (Linker,1984), transgression, Each of these concepts contributesconsiderably the understanding to of paintingas painting.By paintingas painting,I mean the sort of thing that Diebenkornspeaksof when he says that what interestshim most in paintingare the "eventson the canvas" (Ashton, 1985, p. 6). In the 20th centurymany paintersdo not so much translate pre-formulated thoughts into paint as they do searchfor ideas in the processof painting. These thoughts are integrallyconnected to lived experience.But they are not connectedthroughsignificationalone. Rather,the paintingis necessarily a worldof eventswhich relatesto experience complexways. in The relationshipbetween painting and concepts such as metonymy, floating signifiers, and the incommensuratemay be better understood through critical readingsof specific paintersand works. Through these betweenpainting and experiencecan readingsthe complex relationships be morefullyarticulated. Memoryand Metonymy When EdvardMunch exhibited his painting The Sick Girl, which signaled his turn away from naturalism,in Christianiain 1886, the work was not receivedwell. Munch defendedthe work by saying "I paint not what I see, but what I saw" (Steinberg,1995, p. 9). The Sick Girl was of completedonly afteryearsof reworking.It is a masterpiece searching and discovery.It is basedon memoriesof his sister'slast illness,when he was 13 yearsold, but the memoryis not a fixed template.The paintingis with the adult Munch'spain at her loss"(Steinberg,1995, p. "permeated 16). It is also permeatedwith the events on the canvasas they emerged And finally,in creating throughscratching, wiping out, and overpainting. 174
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a print of the same subject with a masterprintmakerin Paris, Munch with closedeyes in orderto chooseone groupof invitedchance,gesturing colors or another (Steinberg, 1995, p. 16). The work emerges from a search through life and through artistic means, taking real chances in both. the with TheSick Girldemonstrates contribution Munch'sexperience of of memorypaintingto the expression subjectivity. readinginto the By workingin the present,paintingfrom memoryinvites past but necessarily and Just juxtapositions the creationof metonymicrelationships. Munch's with his childhoodmemory,his childhood intersects adult consciousness memory intersectswith his adult explorationof marksand colors. The fixedcontoursfor changeand surprise. paintersacrifices work standsas furtherevidenceof the contribution ElizabethMurray's work uses of of memorypaintingto the expression subjectivity. Murray's to structurediverseelementsof memory.The work responds metonymy to the initialimpetusderivedfrommemory,but takesoff from thereas an She activesearchduringwhich ideasarediscovered. describesSearchin'as being about "a face crossing the moon; only later did I realize how Brancusi-like face was" (Graze& Halbreich, 1987, p. 28). For Can the YouHearMe? she saysthat she was thinkingabout Munch, about "making a sound... the green felt painful and screechy"(Graze& Halbreich, 1987, p. 72). In interviewsMurrayhas describedthe imagesin her work as being relatedto her family, her childhood, and thoughtsas diverseas the color yellow, cubism,a chair,and Vermeer's woman readinga letter. The specificityof her accountingis revealing preciselybecausethe works not mimetic representation. are They are painted constructions,built of heavily painted organic and linear shapes, that are arranged and with rearranged tremendous energy. Throughmemorypainting,painterscreatea kind of productiveconfusion in the thoughtsthey bringsto theirwork. This state of stayingconfused is one that is difficult or even a sign of failurefor the logocentric thinker, but it is not necessarilyunconducive to painting. One of the more constructive implications of Derrida is that productive thought occurs at that state of analysiswhere there is no closure, where ideas remainopen and evocative(1979). Speakingof her work More Than You At Know,Murraysays that she "wantedto paint a chairrealistically. the same time it's a big heart" (Graze & Halbreich, 1987, p. 68). Here Murrayexemplifiesthe kind of metonymic presentationthe plastic arts makepossible,the kind of presentation would be so difficultto make that in language. Surrealismexplored this world with great deliberateness; more recentlypainterssuch as Bacon,Rothernberg, Murrayhavecreand atedmetonymicimageswith increasing and obliqueness mystery.

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Marksand The FloatingSignifier As a seriesof marks,paintingembodiesthe concept of floatingsignifier. in The markings manyof Monet'sworksarepaintedto havea life of their at own. In Church Varengeville: MorningEffect(1881) and TrackSignals Outside Saint-LazareStation (1877), Monet shows us more than an is of "impression" an ocean or trainstation.What is revealed producedin a moment but does not referto any particular moment. The marksof the artistrelateto the experienceof the artistas it has developedover time in of and is manifested the performance paintingthatwe see. Norman Bryson's distinction between gaze and glance informs the floatingfunction of the mark.Bryson(1983) arguesthat Westernpainting fixes the gaze of the viewerwheresocial conventionsintend. In order to fix this gazeof pleasureBrysonarguesthat Westernpaintinghas traditionallyconcealedthe markas mark,so as to concealthe statusof the sign as sign. When painting is conceivedalternatively glance, the mark is as valuedfor itselfratherthan subjugated within a seamless illusion. the surfaceof the painting. Elkins (1995) Bryson'sanalysisopens up follows Brysonby looking at the marksof the paintedsurfaceand calling for a non-semioticanalysisof the mark.Cy Twombly evidencessome of the contrarypossibilities of the mark. Barthes sees Twombly as nonaggressive, negatingtradition,and playful. But play, for Barthes,is not and just the stereotypeof free and beautifullyricism;it is also awkward For clumsy,sparseand insubstantial. Barthes,Twombly'smarksare produced without wanting to be produced,and without becoming a prized productionfor the artist.As such they stand as a negation of the "fine hand" that is at the very center of traditionalnotions of painting. For the Barthes,Twombly deconstructs aestheticsof paintingat its very core, which is not only the concealmentof the markbut the natureof the mark itself. The humility of Twombly'swork is its achievement.His markis not beautiful;it deconstructs beauty.It is a kind of common experience,set in oppositionto the Westerntraditionthat presentspaintingas a uniquely significant experience.

Twombly'sexample,although it is singularin its sparse,deconstructionist aspects,helps to directattentionto similaraspectsin the paintings of Rembrandt, Daumier, Matisse, Joan Mitchell, and Diebenkorn. Oliveirahas used the markto documenthis inquiryinto the uncertainty and limitationsof the act of painting(Nadaner,1984). In the paintingas markthereis the conveyingof experience motion, floatingfreely,close in to experience farfrom aestheticdictum. and

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Change and The Incommensurate As Elkins (1995, p. 841) points out, marks made in clusters become surfaces, losing their identity as marks, until the surfaces in turn become marks themselves. For many artists painting involves numerous layers of surfaces. Rembrandt, with his lengthy reworkings and secret, almost alchemical methods (van de Wetering, 1991, p. 31), can be taken as a progenitor of painting as change.5 For the painter Gillian Ayres, the buildup of the paint "is merely the residue of my attempt to resolve a painting over a period of time" (Jamie, 1983, p. 43). Matisse (quoted in Flam, 1973, p. 73) said that "a large part of the beauty of a picture arises from the struggle which an artist wages with his limited medium." Per Kirkeby is a contemporary painter with an energetic engagement with change. Kirkeby paints in a way that invites impulsive gesture and then refutes it, works up compositions and destroys them, transforms composition with emotion and then exchanges emotion for the evidence of the paint itself. What remains is not a simple effort of either nature or emotion, but of his complex and conflicted experience as contemporary person. The effect of these works, as Schjeldahl describes them, is their best characterization: [The viewer experiences] a slower, inchoate, darker contemplation, a state of mind hypersensitive and a bit stupid... The effect is somber, even sullen, but with patience there is stirring in its depths, the beginning of a grateful joy. (quoted in Posner, 1991, p. 10) Kirkeby is as accomplished a painter of the incommensurate as any working today. His work evidences the possibilities of painting to deal with the incompatible, to go beyond an insistence on the singularity of expression. A simplistic view of the incommensurate would hold otherwise. A simple critical leap might call for a more digital form, the kind of word/photograph/paint juxtapositions or interruptions that are ubiquitous in the contemporary art world. Works like these function mainly to repeat an analytical discourse such as Lyotard makes, rather than to present in artistic form the inexplicable figurations that are the subject of Lyotard's analysis. Kirkeby, on the other hand, persevereswith the figural, in paint. The reward is an extension of insight and the extension of painting as medium. References to earlier painters are implicit in this achievement. Turner's paintings are sustained as valid and still informative forays into overpainting and change, as are Matisse's, Pollock's, and De Kooning's. The decisions not made by Kirkeby, the refusals of total coherence, the resignation of emotion before the mark, are negations and self-referential commentaries that carry weight because they are made within the realm of painting, because they follow these other painters but exhibit difference as well.

5In a sensethe pentimento was manifesta-

tionof theartist's
freedomand power overhis own creations.This is illustratedby Houbraken's statementthat Rembrandt selfwas willed and that he took his rightof sole decisionto such lengthsthat "heis said to havetannedover with (overpainted brownpigment)a in beautifulCleopatra orderto give full effectto a singlepearl" (vande Wetering, 1991, p. 31).

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The changingthat goes on in paintingis often more connectedto the flow of experiencethan to the residualimage on the canvas.Diebenkorn has said "It is a greatexperienceto violate my overallconceptionof what a picture has to be and find that in doing so, that it has changes me" (quotedin Cathcart,1978, p. 25). Paintcan alwaysbe paintedover.Lines can be changed.Forms can be moved. Unsuspectedpossibilitiescan be brought together.Paintingas change leavesus with furtherinsight into the subjectivity contemporary of life. Extensionand Possibility The fourth relationshipbetween painting and the painter'sexperience involvesthe painter's searchfor that which is outsideof his or her experience, extendinginto the realmof belief or the unknown. This approach to paintingis connectedto an overtinterestin the imagination.Through the imaginationthe paintercan extend the realmof searchbeyondwhatever bounds are acceptedas the contemporary norm. Thus Redon could extendsubjectmatterfrom the naturalto the supernatural his "blacks" (in prints)in reactionto the norm of 1850s naturalism. A more recentartist,SylviaLark,makesextensionsof differentkinds: she alludesto the icons of diversecultures,and she challengesthe dominant formalstructures painting.Lark's of work sets up an alternative formal structure floodingpictorialspaceinto a regionin front of the canby vas. For Larkpaint is to be touchedand yet it conveys,throughits atmosphericveil, a sense of what cannot be touched. These formalmeans are to appropriate their subject, which is ostensibly (in a painting such as a Tibetan prayerceremony.RichardWollheim has said of her Chanting) work: ...what impresses most about these paintingsis the returnjourme record.Amulets,archaicrocks,scrapsof veil and silk, pasney they sages of half-erased script, lie side by side with her father'sbric-abrac, with vestiges of the body, and now...with lumps of paint art explodingonto the palette...Lark's is, amongotherthings,an art of equivalences.It equates, by means visible to us, affectionsand (1990, n.p.) feelingswe would havethoughtirreconcilable. Lark'swork emergesfrom abstractexpressionism,as Kirkeby'sdoes. Like Kirkeby's,it extends the expressionisttradition in ways that leave behind a simple assumptionin the powerof paint to expressemotion. It worksto extendpaintingto placeswherethe irreconcilable be held in can
view.

It was Redon who most explicitlyconceptualized art of extensions. an his work "suggestive Redon spokeof creatingimagesso as to art," Calling evoke thought and inquiryby the viewer:"My drawingsinspireand do

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Paintingin an Eraof CriticalTheory

not offer explanations. They resolvenothing. They place us, just as music worldof the indeterminate" does, in the ambiguous (1961, p. 26). Redon's searchtook on a distinctivecharacterbecauseof his will to place"thelogic of the visibleat the serviceof the invisible"(1961, p. 29). The work of Giorgio Morandi fulfills the same mission, but in reverse: giving the logic of the invisibleto the visible.A group of bottles, bowls, cups, flowersand a tree or side of buildingsufficedfor severaldecadesof work. What he did with these subjectswas not, however,conservative. In the still lives of the 1940s and 1950s the paintingsare workedover for months until they are both solid and ephemeral.Vibrationssuffuse the worksin a way that recallsheat waves,but the wavesareemanatingfrom the objectsratherthan surrounding objects.FrancoSolmi saysthat the had become a land of the infinite, a time with no prePainting sent... Morandi'semblematicimagesseem to dwell both at the very core and at the extremebordersof inner transgression, tokensof an inchoatebut measuredrejectionof the systemof codes which have come to threatenthe innermostsubstanceof the highly individual style of the artist, the raw structureof his art, the apprehensive of magmain which the innatepartiality languagedissolves,and find of resolve,in the workof art,with its reserve poetry.(1988, p. 5) Morandi'swork, like Lark'sand Redon's, is a sustainedchallengeto what cannot be done-to rendervisible (in Klee'sterms)what cannot be seen, to body forth (in the painter Elmer Bischoff'sterms) a substance incorporeal enough to convey the life of feeling. Morandi'sachievement throwslight on one of the darkplacesthat theoryfailsto observe. PaintingAs Acceptanceand Resistance By looking under the light, critical theory of the last two decades has changed the landscapein which painting is createdand discussed.It is now a landscapethat is self-aware the text and subtextof power relaof tions pervadingall of the visual arts. It is also, by comparisonwith the firsthalf of the century,a flatterand less colorfullandscape. Text is priviover presentation. Claimsof selfleged overvision;discourseis privileged expression,authenticity,truth to the emotions, and spiritualdiscovery either are not permittedor not believed. It is a no-nonsenseplace, and along with the absenceof nonsense there is very little mysteryor invention as well. What I have attemptedto suggesthere is that by consideringpainting more fully as painting,not just as sign systemor as an archaicsystemof illusion, a more completeview of the landscapecan be restored.Painting can neveragainmake blanketclaimsof self-expression; to arguethat but paintingdependedon this claim was to miss the point in the first place.

Studies in Art Education

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Dan Nadaner

Paintingcarrieson a complex relationshipto experience,as memory, as mark,as change,and as extension. Paintingaccepts.It acceptsthe problemsinvolvedin the definitionof world. It acceptsa medium (paint) that experiencein the contemporary does not speak,that is physically difficultto workwith, as a meansof presentation.Paintingacceptsthe kinds of incommensurates, negations,and to transgressions which critical theory calls attention. Painting offers a the view, perhaps only view, of what thesethingslook like. insistsit cannot do. Paintingalso resists.It resistswhat cool rationality Faced with the impossibility of conveying experience, Murray or Twombly or Kirkeby or Lark search, summon from memory, mark, change,and extend their searchesuntil improbable things are held up to view. At the very least the unexpectedis presented; most, in the belief at of some viewers,the invisiblesof humanexperience conveyed.Because are these thingshappenin the paintingsthemselves, paintingremainsan irreoccasionof culture.At its best it has little in common with displaceable courseand cannotbe replaced didacticstatements, verbalor visual. by EducationalImplications If insight and understanding acceptedas valuescentralto education, are then the educational contributionof paintingis clear.Paintingplaysa significantrole in educationby contributing the understanding human to of experience,and by engagingstudentsin the activeexplorationof experience through means that are open, flexible,challenging,surprising,and powerful. In order to realizethe values of painting in education, art educators must engageactivelyin the practical and theoretical dimensionsof paintan with studiowork,history,theory, ing. To do this requires engagement and criticism.It is the role of the university, especiallyprograms and that trainteachers art, to providethe coursesthat permitthese several of kinds of engagement.If preservice teachersdo not study paintingin a sustained of way in the university,they will not be able to pass an understanding the mediumalongto theirstudentsin secondary education. In addition to gaining first-handexperiencewith painting, teachers need to addressphilosophicaland criticalissues.How do paintingscarry In meaningif not throughlanguage? light of the challengeto the significance of paintingpresentedby many textbased works,how does painting continueto functionwith vitalityin the currentera?I havearguedin this with experienceby essaythat painting maintainsa complex relationship of such as memory, allowingthe presentation elusiveaspectsof experience and change,irreconcilable experiences, extensionsto new realmsof experience.

To realizethese possibilities paintingin the studio requires trained of a and deliberateattitudeof openness.The teacher'scapacityto model and 180
Studies in Art Education

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Paintingin an Eraof CriticalTheory

and exploration opennessis essentialto the student'ssuccessin encourage on and pursuingdiscoveries acceptingthem when they presentthemselves the canvas.Teachersmust encouragestudentsto take riskswith their criteria as well as their brushesif students are to allow the unexpectedto emerge.The practiceof art criticismis a concretemeans for secondary teachersand studentsto develop a sensibilitythat is broad and open to of the possibilities painting. In 1985, I arguedthat art educationshould concernitselfwith the criimagery,and the tique of media images, the expansionof multicultural I still agreewith this posicreationof inventive,non-stereotyped images. tion today. However,I believe that the creativedimensionis sufferinga benign neglect and needs attention.There is a need to look criticallyat argumentsthat would abruptlynegate the creativepossibilitiesof studio work, or that arguethat visual form does not have the capacityto reprelike There is a need to relatecreative sent experience. practices paintingto inquiriesin criticaltheory.There is a need to engageactivelyin the creation of works that speakto contemporary experience.I believethat the of strengthening the creativedimensionis centralto the developmentof to an artthat is trulyresponsive multicultural society. To sustainthe vitalityof paintingrequires maintenance breadth of the and quality in secondaryand post-secondary studio programs,and the active engagementof teachersin both practiceand theory. What is at stakeis a centralcomponentof the humanitiesand its continuingcontribution to the qualityof life of futuregenerations. References
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