Painting of time: duration emergence sensation

Jervis, Ian
Jackson, Mark
Bryant, Jan
Cullen, Paul
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

‘Painting of time: duration, emergence, sensation’ investigates a methodological conundrum where a painter is unable to orientate painting towards its objective, because the object of ‘pursuit’ is the absolutely new whose terms will emerge only as they are created in a future. The absolutely new, which is not a recombination of extant qualities but a difference in kind, can be neither preconceived nor recognised when it emerges, and so the dilemma for a painter is not only how to conduct painting, but also how to decide when painting should finish. Problematically, the orientation needed is towards the future, and so a trajectory for painting could only be conceived retrospectively once it is already possible, and so is redundant. This conundrum is a legacy of Modernism and its avant-gardes, where an ideology of progress mandates the creation of the new as the purpose for contemporary art practice, especially within Western understandings of practice, so that painting’s given aim is to create a new image that will lead to new directions in art history. If responsibility for creating the new lies with the painter, how could invention be conceived as happening, and what are the implications for method in painting?

This study explores, through practice and theory, how painting conducts invention. Henri Bergson’s method of intuition is employed in order to examine the terms of the problem, to reveal that the conundrum results from confusing heterogeneous time with homogeneous space. By bringing image, perception, matter, and memory together into a conception of time as duration, Bergson distinguishes discontinuous measured time from the continuum of qualitative change that is the living experience of duration. The study finds that it is in this qualitative change that the new emerges, in the virtual and actual movements that constitute a differing in kind of psychic states intensive to a painter. Here invention happens unpredictably, unaccountably, and continuously. What a painter ‘pursues’, then, is a no-thing that Bergson calls everything in a work of art, and which creates itself as form. This radical discounting of the material aspect of painting by reframing it in duration dissolves the temporal conundrum, and also absolves a painter of responsibility for invention. In this ontology of becoming, painting emerges continuously as an intensive image-of-emergence, so that the question coming out of the study is: Does painting happen?

Painting, however, is a process of both temporal and spatial emergence. In exploring how a painter manages to negotiate between the dual and incongruent realities of time and space, Gilles Deleuze’s notion of a crystal image provides a means to conceive how emergence, the becoming-image, is in both intensive and extensive movements. Bergson’s philosophy is brought together with Jan Verwoert’s conception for how painting is conducted as a process that has no preconceived outcome, but where criteria for decision-making emerge as painting proceeds. A logic of latency and retroaction in painting, developed by Verwoert as a rationale for such emergence, is investigated for its potential to evade teleology, retrospection, and representation—and so to mitigate the dilemma that opened this study. As an approach taken to painting, Deleuze’s notion of a process of clearing givens and creating compounds of sensation is explored in practice, where an image-of-emergence coming out of chromatic and achromatic sensation creates affects and percepts that inform decision-making about what action to take next in painting.

The exegesis, in three chapters, engages initially with an understanding of Bergson’s ontology of duration, image, and movement, as well as his method of intuition. A second chapter engages a critical account of late twentieth and early twenty-first century engagements with avant-gardism in light of a Bergsonian temporality. The third chapter engages my painting practice in detail in light of Bergson’s understanding of nuance and Jan Verwoert’s understanding of emergence. The thesis aims at finding a synthetic moment between nuance and emergence that seemed essential to my research-through-painting.

Painting , Time , Duration , Emergence , Sensation
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