Vincent van Gogh, 1888, oil on canvas, 28.5 × 36.3 inches (Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven)
Considering works by Van Gogh, Kandinsky, and Frank Stella, Mark Stone muses on the ongoing tension between figuration and pure abstraction in abstract painting.
Stone wrties: "What our abstract painting lacks is a more comprehensive way of seeing and producing imagery that accomodates both our lens-based dematerialised culture and the physical life we live. Our painting should define a different kind of visual engagement and understanding, one that moves us beyond the detrimental influence of our mannered Modernism. At this point in Post-modern cultural history we painters must begin to resolve the problem of illusionistic thickness defined in Stella’s early Black Paintings and the legacy of that shadow cast by van Gogh’s table. Yet, we choose to remain forever elsewhere, floating in Kandinsky’s nebulous universe."
An essay by Mark Stone on vision - the vital sign of contemporary painting.
Stone writes "How we see things is the most important place to start. There are many of us who... want something more visually stimulating, thoughtful and resonant. We want to use our eyes informed by our technologies instead of relying on the technologies to dictate to our eyes. We are all visual hybrids at this point. We work both online through the lens-based programs and in the flesh and blood world... We do not see in the open world as an Impressionist did. We focus on specifics, isolate details, scan for patterns and then suddenly if we move beyond the program, we are able to comprehend a larger picture, fall into older ways of linear seeing, a to b to c, rather than being stuck in the loop from zero to one, one to zero. When we paint we should work through the lens to our own physical structures of vision, not the other way around."
To introduce his article on the "the visual anxiety that American painters feel when confronted with the European visual traditions," Mark Stone posts a revealing (and poignant) video of Clement Greenberg discussing Jackson Pollock's anxiety about whether his all-over drip technique was really "Painting."
Stone proposes that Pollock's inner-struggle is one that continues to affect contemporary American painters. He writes that Greenberg "makes clear that Pollock wanted to return to the Impressionists, to learn from them. And for me this points to our own continuing conundrum about painting. Pollock wanted to learn about painterly vision in Nature, about the way the Impressionists would see and paint through time instead of seeing and painting in time – visual culture versus experiential culture."
Mark Stone questions the future of painting as our connection to nature and the direct experience of the physical world yields to technology, social media, and the 24 hour news cycle:
"... because visual painting can no longer be engaged outside the mediated experience, what we are given instead are “painted” objects, things to encounter, things to purchase, stockpile and trade, in the moment that we look up from our screens... The "painted" object finds its meaning not in its being, not as it's revealed, or in its experience, but as it's re-presented, contextualized through other media. This third generation of Postmodern Neo-Abstraction, can and does, reproduce painting-like products without addressing first person visual involvement with originality, talent, quality, beauty, ugliness, specificity, thought, critique or irony."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.