The distinction between intentional object and natural object could appear as a reference to a specific act as constitutive of its mode of being, i.e. intentional object is man made.
However, artist’s intention is not like a decision, it is akin to a multitude of possibilities operating at the same time, not in any order, rather chaotically. As I write, I read in a current email an interesting parallel to it.
Kader Attia proposes the obvious: that in all existence, including art, not all can be understood and explained, while the known and unknown converge into one.
Music’s structure can indeed be explained with mathematics, but what cannot be explained is the irrational origin of the urge that triggers the process through which it will move in a certain direction and then renew itself indefinitely.
(accessed on http://supercommunity.e-flux.com/texts/the-loop/
How this convergence happens is endlessly fascinating. One of the happy descriptions offered by Gould avoids a mention of chaos:
‘Little quirks at the outset, occurring for no particular reason, unleash cascades of consequences that make a particular future seem inevitable in retrospect,’ he wrote. ‘But the slightest early nudge contacts a different groove, and history veers into another plausible channel, diverging continually from its original pathway.(Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History (1989)).
The final state appears inevitable, the pathway to it are choices of plausible divergence from or convergence with the initial intention. Once a painting is finished it is intended.
This “intention of the painting” terminates the constitutive process the artist iniciated, and opens one for the viewers, whose viewing introduces another intentional act, appropriate to any interpretation.When asked how viewers should relate to his work, M Heizer replied:
“You don’t have to relate to it. It’s not a requirement. All you have to do is just be there. It doesn’t matter what you think when you see it. The point is, it’s work of an artist. I’m an artist. That’s my business. That’s what I do all the time. So, what you’re looking at is a work of art. You’ve got to understand that a lot of my thinking is based on preliterate societies. I’m very conscious of the preliterate tradition. So, when you talk about relating to my work . . . well, how do you relate to Maya or Egyptian pyramids?”(see http://www.artnews.com/2015/06/26/theres-no-understanding-of-my-work-michael-heizer-on-his-monumental-art-in-1977)
All you have to do is just to be there….
Does Heizer admits the visual power as stronger than a conscious attention?
Among the supporting theories I recall those of V Shklovskij, O. Hostinsky and J. Mukarovsky.
Viktor Shklovskij (1893-1984) conceived a work of art as a collection of stylistic and formal devices that force the reader to view the world afresh by presenting old ideas or mundane experiences in new, unusual ways. He coined the term ostranenie, or “making it strange” as a trigger for aesthetic experience.
.The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar,’ to make forms difficult to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. (Shklovskij, Art as Device, 16)….we find everywhere the artistic trademark – that is, we find material obviously created to remove the automatism of perception; the author’s purpose is to create the vision which results from that deautomatized perception. A work is created “artistically” so that its perception is impeded and the greatest possible effect is produced through the slowness of the perception. (Shklovskij, op.cit 19)
In other words foregrounding is a key the artist offers to achieve impeded perception, which is worse having. A constant shuttling between what is there and what is emerging as diverging from it implies shifts, slippages, and fluency, position the meaning to Bergson’s becoming.
Shklovskij posits artist’s intention as permeating (determining?) the intention of the intended work and of intended perception. The process allows for both convergence of the three or divergence. There is no one pattern, even if asking “what does the artist mean, what does it mean” is ubiquitous.
Otakar Hostinsky (1847 – 1910) zooms on experience as a ground for aesthetic judgement, which in turn evokes again the notion of slow perception as a protection against arrogance: „Proto buďme shovívaví a snášenliví, nezatracujme, co známe jen povrchně, nechme nejprve až do posledního slova domluviti toho, koho souditi chceme.“( Let us be patient and tolerant, let us not condemn what we know only superficially, let first speak without interrupting that which we wish to judge.(O.Hostinsky, O Umeni, Praha, 1956:121) Art and experience of art have their sources in life and play . Amusingly, he mentions fleetingly boredom as another source. All three are presented as powers to create an independent world according to the laws and taste of the maker. ( Otakar Hostinský a jeho odkaz pedagogice. Ed. Hana Schneiderová. Praha: Státní pedagogické nakladatelství, 1986, s. 131.) The salient point in Hostinsky’s thinking is privileging the ordinary life’s needs and a veiled invitation to play. For him. aetshetics in its narrower concept deals with theories of art, in its wider concept it embraces, nature, work, objects, feelings and relationships. (Spousta, V. Krása, umění a výchova. Brno: Masarykova univerzita, 1995, s. 31-35)
In 1936 Jan Mukarovsky cleverly defined the aesthetic function as transparent, capable of containing religious, biological, social, political meanings or be disinterested. Which of those the aesthetic function will turn into depends on convergence with the viewer’s world view, convergence that appears as aesthetic judgement.
A. Ghenie’s series of numerous Pie Fight Studies foregrounds the event when the pie hits the target, all are three quarters male bust, mostly in a business attire, suit, shirt and a tie. It is a formulaic painting.
This small composition is made up of an abstract distant stain on the left, man’s head and shoulder and gesturally painted dark ground with blobs of red, blue, white and siena at the top of dark modulated ground. Perhaps it is a a wall…
The eclectic formula evokes both Baroque and Modernism. It feels like a lens based shot painted around and over. It resonates with old art in placing its highest pale light on the intersection of two golden sections. The en-face turns towards the left edge of the canvas receiving light from a source outside the lower left frame. The difference in tonality on the face and the hand is both measurable and – irrational, even if the hues are related. The cold, still, evenly spread light powders the hand in dead greyish white – more flour or gypsum, than custard.His hand is not marked by manual labour
Dark – brown/black jacket and hair dutifully define a man who cares about appearance. . The shirt’s cuff is a sliver of class. He appears well fed and cared for. He may be a businessman, perhaps an art dealer, or an art critic? It may be a self-portrait. It may be an appropriated anonymous image. Ghenie rules out the clear identification. Consequently, viewing is free to approximate someone similar yet different… It is not a gift of freedom, it is a gift of uncertainty and a game. If the identity of the man is not central to the meaning of the pie fight – what is? Reluctance to identify the target? If not who, what is the target? Anxiety about cultural borrowing? Generosity to the viewer to supply target of own choice? I seek an answer in the painting, in its materiality.
The way the image stretches between “the brown source” of the Baroque images of saints and the modernist abstraction , pivoting on golden sections with the light source coming from below and beneath the frame, i.e. from the viewer’s space, that way is a collection of devices inherited from the history of Western painting. Supporting the shift of subject matter from an event to how it is visible, how it is painted, the brushstrokes that cover the face are placed so ,that the eyes, organ of sight, are invisible. Covered. The hand is rendered impotent. The character of the wide pastose brushstrokes aligns the image to a well known style- Western abstract expressionism. It works as an admission that Ghenie knows and trusts the technique Modernism evolved. In other series Ghenie would promote a different Modernist tradition, e.g. high key palette and light brushstrokes.
The dedication to the intention to proof his identity as a painter is even more pronounced in those pie fights where he erases not just the eyes, but the whole face. Whereas, the clean shirt, tie and brown jacket, as signs of social characteristics, are clearly visible.
Ghenie’s painting would easily invite a comment similar to this:
Paints and scrapes, paints and scrapes to get something right, the something that is not there at the outset but reveals itself slowly, and then completely, having traveled an arduous route during which vision and image come together, for a while, until dissatisfaction sets in, and the painting and scraping begin again. But what is it that determines the success of the final work? The coincidence of vision—his idea, vague at first, of what the painting might be—and the brute fact of the subject, its plain obdurate existence, just “out there” with an absolutely insular existence. (From the essay by Mark Strand was originally written for The New York Review of Books as a review of the exhibition of Edward Hopper’s drawings at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2013. It was found as a handwritten text in his notebook after he died in November 2014 and transcribed by his literary executor, Mary Jo Salter.)
Ghenie reminds me of Richard Strauss, who in Ein Heldenleben(1898) singled out notes standing for the initials of the name of a hated critic in particular disrespectful intervals of dissonance. Ghenie denies his “sitters” for a portrait to be portrayed – in a significant dissonance between verbal intention and visual finish. Instead, he positions his harvesting of painterly mastery of his predecessors as a subject. In doing so – he makes portrait as a category strangely empty( i.e. de-familiairization) and plays with ways recognised painters of 20th C worked (thus asking me to tolerate appropriations as his own).
A quote atributed to R Motherwell comes to mind:
Every intelligent painter carries the whole culture of modern painting in his head. It is his real subject, of which everything he paints in both an homage and a critique, and everything he says is a gloss.”
A very different de-familiarization is offered by Robert Motherwell. By chance I found two of his works that communicate how artist’s intention may be a memory of another intention. The link is visual.
Not quite a whole decade apart – the similarities between a melodic quick black drawing and the confidently incorrect painting of a studio point to shared intention. It being the most abstract remembrance of objects that belong to a space, which in turn is defined by its prescribed purpose, a space to paint (the stretched rectangle on a sturdy easel ) or watch the print coming through ( head hovering over the press table) – or developing photographs under a strangely shaped lamp….
Shklovskij ostranenie is visible as a difference inside similarity, or vice versa. Motherwell increases uncertainty, and thus impedes the perception. The reward is a delicious clash between the first impression – of magic that begins to animate, playfully to evoke associations and memories- and the sincere admission of not knowing ….The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known (Shklovskij cited above comes to mind)
Those wiggly animal – like creatures on the left of each composition have the confidence of the invented nature. Undoubtedly they exist – but in which/whose world? I trespass into it under dionysian intoxication my perception/ imagination imposes on the fluent images.
What if the relationship between optical/visible/imagined is mediated by a lens?
The two photographs below present artist’s intention as a controlled process. Tony Hill is both inside and outside the image. He is its first viewer before it even exists and immediately after it exists. The possible later cropping is an open chance of shifting the intention to join the artist’s response as the first viewer.
Hostinsky would approve Hill’s obvious respect for and faithfulness to truth – to ordinary life, as well as the play of the incongruence between the majestic land and the banal hand holding a found dry stick. Held by a hand the stick is small. Projected under a horizon it takes on the size of the landscape. The play between the two never abandons truth, while effortlessly approves a beautiful lie.
The craving for that which is outside our ability to measure is appeased by the imperfection of nature perceived as its beauty. Hill rejects that kind of rivalry and seemingly repeats Poe’s ” all that we see or seem Is but a dream within a dream”…. An intrepid opponent of any art orthodoxy Hill crowns intuition as the moment to act. In a stark negation of Poe’s flight from the ugliness of commonplace, he presents ordinary world as poesis. Not as a superb extreme of Modernism, rather as humble acceptance of elusive favour of the lived moment. Above all, I perceive the silence of these two images as exceptional gift. Absence of words. The inappropriate tool of measuring a distance de-familiarises the subject matter, allowing it to become transparent. Easily interpreted as worship, child like play, dadaist humour or dream like state of mind , the image offers the same place to the artist and a viewer. That displacement unleashes a cascade of particular implications – perceived now as inevitable.
Ghenie’ art subscribes to a hierarchy with the artist’s intention above the other two. Motherwell trusts the prominent image, Hill weaves a trap to catch the elusive viewer’s intentions. (Echo of the reason why Joseph makes a mousetrap visible on a right wing of the Merode Altarpiece by Robert Campin)
Tony Hill’s photographs courtesy of the artist.