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  • The condition of painting: reconsidering medium specificity

Palin, Thomas (Tom), 2018, Thesis, The condition of painting: reconsidering medium specificity PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

The aim of this investigation is to consider the extent to which the processes and material stuff of painting remain central to its identity and meaning. Within writing that supports painting, the role played by the medium of paint is too often sidestepped—sidestepped within writings that take as their starting point the interdisciplinary assumption that the message owes little of consequence to the medium through which it becomes disclosed. The retreat from medium specificity, in the 1970s – a move largely made in opposition to the hegemonic force of Greenbergian formalism and the expanded field ushered in by studio practices, as well as an embrace of the text (promoted through theory) – dislocated image from that from which the image is constituted. To a significant extent, particularly in the most vibrant approaches to the medium, the iconographic possibilities of a painting came to be situated in opposition to the characteristics of the painted object.
This project addresses how the reduction of painting to linguistic schemas has rendered the material object of painting redundant. The conception of painting as image – free of material baggage and operable through language alone – serves to disguise the temporal nature of the manner by which a painting is constructed. A painting’s surface is built incrementally and, in its stillness, offers clues to what it has been—perhaps the only clues to what it is. I will redress this in two ways. First, through a body of studio practice I will demonstrate the indispensability of spatiotemporal concerns in respect of the processes and object of painting. My painting is reliant on responsiveness to methods of making, and I will foreground the image’s construction, staging it as an imbrication of language and material in time.
Secondly, I will engage in a written inquiry comprising of five chapters. In Chapter 1, I attest to my concerns as a painter. Chapter 2 embarks on an investigation into the notion of a medium within the post-medium condition. Chapter 3 will consider the positioning of painting: examining philosophical omissions and historiographical oversights, which have, together, contributed to misunderstandings. Chapter 4 seeks, through the work of Martin Heidegger and Friedrich Hölderlin, to negotiate a new ontological model for the medium of painting, and Chapter 5 re-considers my recent practice – and position on medium – through the lens of the aforementioned inquiry.
The context for this work is the realm in which painting’s ontological status is questioned—targeting the nodal point where there is recourse to consider the extent to which the meaning of a painting is dependent on the specificity of its material conditions. To that end, I argue that Heidegger’s notion of truth (and of equipmentality) – developed in “The Origin of the Work of Art” and the Hölderlin Lectures – offers the possibility of replacing the redundancy of the medium with a notion of regeneration, against the backdrop of the endism that haunts painting.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W100 Fine Art > W120 Painting
School or Centre: School of Fine Art
Date Deposited: 22 May 2018 15:34
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2018 11:57
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/3443

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