Painting through its poetical emotion – Episode #2

by | 21 Sep, 2018

The artistic and aesthetic impulse of each age is characterised by external historical-social factors that effectively influence the personal experiences of the artist. These are the basis of the curatorial project Painting through its poetical emotion which, articulated in a series of three solo exhibitions, investigates the visual art of Ireland.

Irish pictorial art, developed over the decades, has given rise to a substantial abstract artistic production. As compared to other countries which have enjoyed a past flourishing of pictorial tradition, as was the pictorial primacy in Italy from the Renaissance to the Avant-garde, Ireland is now rediscovering and perhaps renewing its gusto for painting and colour.

The Weltanschauung, or rather, the vision of the world that, in this specific case, appears in the paintings of Dublin-based artists, is the platform from which the exhibition project derives its starting point.

To introduce this statement related to the creative temporality of painting, it is essential to make some distinctions.

Painting is a spatial artform, and for this reason it has been contrasted with other forms of art considered “art of time”, such as literature and music which are directly linked to a concept of timeline.

This kind of distinction is valid if we consider the way in which we perceive painting and literature: the first one is experienced immediately in its every facet in one sight, whereas, the second one is only possible to understand in a temporal sequence. As Lessing noted in his Laooconte, the differences between the art of painting and literature is in the difference in inherent meanings: simultaneously and linearly.

Starting from this binomial we can examine how these art forms were interpreted during the Renaissance period and extend the linear tendency of literature to painting and, in particular, to abstract painting because it demonstrates, by its loss of figuration, the importance of other variables such as the perception of “time of painting” and “time of viewing/reading”.

The time of painting – process time spent during the physical act of painting – is the set of traces which show how the painter produces the work, various marks represent the presence of the artist, the time spent while painting. Within the work we recognise the abstract colour traces or markings as an expression of the artist’s individuality and subjectivity and the consequences of time spent or its history laid bare. We can call this productive time the “time of enunciation”. It represents the productive action of painting and not its subject, since in abstract painting it loses its value because it lacks a figurative content. The moment in which the artist produces his/her own work is very important because provokes a linguistic gesture, that in turn initiates a communicative action between the present time of creation and consecutive time of enunciation, incorporating the dialogue with audience.

The time of viewing/reading is, instead, a dialogue between work and spectator that is realized when the latter is in front of the work. The typical enunciative relation of the figurative painting decays in the case of abstract painting that sees the observer involved in a perpetual action of activation of the empathic relationship of the work through its own presence. This simultaneous presence in space both of the observer and of the painting ensures that the temporality of the painting and its “reading” is always current. The resulting effects are the result of the temporal and spatial coexistence of the abstract picture that crosses the emotional space of the spectator through his fluid and composite colors.

From these times we can recognise, therefore, a different “time” to perceive and understand painting not only simultaneously but like a linear sequence.

Analysing these two categories of time  the analogy between the painting and writing creative process, and particularly the cognitive process inside the mind of viewer/reader, will make possible. The observer’s experience therefore produces his own artistic vision that follows a personal flow of emotions and thoughts in front of the works of the artists on show.

Painting for Colm Mac Athlaoich is an experiment of technique and color, a journey into abstraction, a deep and personal experience, an unconscious automatism that takes life on the canvas. His painting is fluid, the ductus is full and free, moving on the surface without any obstacles. The creative subconscious of Mac Athlaoich escapes from between the authentic gesture of his brushstroke and the thin oil glazes that create a translucent painting whose surface is enriched with depth and shine. Everything is subjective, everything that belongs to the phenomenal world is questioned, only through Gestalt perception the perceived visual can lead to the figurative. Time of viewing is complicated as well as the time of painting, because the final tone of colour is the result of a process that uses a stratified sequence of different tints that give birth to “variations of light”[1] since, as Renaissance man Leon Battista Alberti pointed out, colors are manifestations of light.

Gillian Lawler, since her pictorial debut, has always shown interest and attention to architectural structures with bold volumes expressed through a tonal use of color to highlight these spatial figures that only through pictorial ability they can express all the artistic value of painting as “art of space”[2]. Lawler sculpts through the pictorial matter, using the soft and refined chromatisms, the space volumes of the geometric elements that populates her paintings. Although it may be anachronistic to speak of sculptural and spatial volumes, more easily attributable to sculpture and architecture, in Lawler’s case it is, however, an indispensable parallelism given to the subjects represented. Her empty spaces are a sort of connection between sky and earth, a transitory moment in the stream of life experience. Color is saturated to cover previous painted floating structures, which are now nothing else than the presence of a forgotten past in the everyday life.

Denis Kelly’s geometrical abstractions, reproduced on found plywood panels of shipping crates, they are objet trouvé and as such they accept the incidental mark or “accident” as a fortuitous element in his paintings. For this reason his creative process is long, made of a continuous back and forward process, to find the right balance between found mark, composition and color. More recently, his practice has expanded to include his graphic sign through transfer or relief printing. The xylographic printing method is synonymous with the concept of “fullness and emptiness”, producing on the canvas a sort of relief made by the effect of figure, simultaneously at the back and front. Kelly translation of his paintings into print renews the medium but not his artistic language. His motifs often suggest a “cross over” outside the frame to “enter into reality” as part of an installation. This architectural aspect of Kelly’s work incorporates the surrounding space, giving it new meaning, a new sense of art in life.

G.E. Lessing, Laocoonte [or. ed. Laokoon, 1766], Aesthetica, Palermo, 1991.

[1] Author’s translation of «variazioni di lumi» from Leon Battista Alberti, De Pictura, 1435.

[2] P. Francastel, Peinture et société, Paris, Audin, 1952.

  • Oilithreach (Pellegrino), 2018. Oil on canvas, 81x73cm

Ph credits & courtesy Colm MacAthlaoich, Gillian Lawler and Denis Kelly.

Colm Mac AthlaoichThe Waiting Game (20th September – 27th October 2018)

Gillian Lawler, This Entropic Order (31st October – 8th December 2018)

Denis KellyA Sense of Order. A Sense of Disorder. (13th December 2018 – 2nd February 2019)

Galleria Weber & Weber, Turin (IT).

The exhibitions were supported by

Selected press:

Colm MacAthlaoich 

Gillian Lawler

Denis Kelly