• PAINTING BACKWARDS or how my fool encountered the melancholic

Peasnall, Eve, 2013, Thesis, PAINTING BACKWARDS or how my fool encountered the melancholic PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

‘Uncompanionable’ is the word Leo Steinberg used to describe the female figures in Pablo Picasso’s paintings of the early forties. This project demonstrates a series of attempts to imagine acts of companionship in an area of tension between art history and fine art, which it constructs anew.
The object I’ve most tried to companion is the reproduction of a small portrait picture, Picasso’s Weeping Woman (1937), which developed from work surrounding his celebrated political mural, Guernica. The effort of companionship makes a fool of me and I take my fool as methodology, understood as a set of principles or procedures according to which something is done. A key principle of my fool is a logic of encounter in which what’s conscientiously sought gives way to something else that emerges, repeats, insists; it is to this level of experience that my project addresses itself. For my fool’s procedures, I turn to a number of others, including Picasso’s lover in 1937, the photographer and painter Dora Maar (of whom Weeping Woman is a portrait) who made her own enigmatic companion to Weeping Woman, a half-painted copy known as Woman in a Red Hat; and psychoanalysis, whose own development might be seen as a sustained effort to companion the seemingly uncompanionable in the human subject.
I’ve engaged with the PhD as an educational site through which to expose and reconstitute previous moments in my education as an artist and art historian. Reaching back to my childhood bedroom, the project opens to a reproduction of Weeping Woman in one of two art books I owned in my pre- to early teens, around 1986 to 1992. The other book is a monograph on Dürer, open at plate 38, Melencolia I (1514). Rather than becoming involved in this image’s details, my fool turns from it towards the field of melancholy, ultimately coming to the art historical literature of the eighties and early nineties that derogated melancholy as a pathological attitude to the end of painting, and which informed the discourse of art history to which I was exposed as an undergraduate student. My fool speculates as to whether painting’s sickness might have been misdiagnosed and the search for a cure misguided; following psychoanalytic insights, a slightly different problem for painting is proposed, one that Dora Maar’s copy of Picasso’s Weeping Woman is seen as a response to.
The bedroom setting, two images, and several historical moments, cross the painting Weeping Woman with what is experienced as uncompanionable in me. This is a kind of pleasure, felt as both strange and intimate, which I take in this and other modernist paintings, and which my work continues to circle. Given this pleasure troubles as much as supports the working ‘I’, the project adopts the first person as the preferred pronoun of my fool and bearer of its principal problems. Here, by way of the lacunary autobiographical subject, art history and fine art find their interaction, not in fusional plenitude but in restive exchanges that precipitate a series of blind fields.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W100 Fine Art > W120 Painting
School or Centre: School of Arts & Humanities
Date Deposited: 14 Oct 2014 10:19
Last Modified: 09 Nov 2018 15:45
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/1650
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