Human Face

There is something about paintings that I don’t like. From one perspective I like almost all paintings, they are after all paintings and that’s quite nice. There’s usually something to pick up and play with or allow to be reformulated, and if there isn’t then that’s even more interesting and something already.

Somebody might consider that a paintings responsibility is to tell the viewer something, perhaps even something important. I rather think that a painting that tells something also guides and diminishes the scope of what can be interesting, what can be picked up. It’s difficult to make paintings that withdraw from having anything to tell, especially that withdraws from saying something like “confirm me”. It’s not a paintings responsibility to convince me, neither is it my job to convince it but instead to let it be and that is a difficult and demanding undertaking.

Somebody might propose that to engage with painting is some sort of detective work. So wrong. Painting is not a matter of alibi, evidence, deduction or getting it. Detectives might be able to see the bigger picture. The problem is just that it’s that bigger picture and already there tant pis.

From another perspective I hardly enjoy a single painting. Almost all of them get lost and end up wanting to something way too much. The more paintings I see the more of them is a waste of time, the more of them appear to be painted in order to please the artist’s subject, and the easiest way for that is for the artist to aim at pleasing the viewer. It is really disappointing to look at paintings that are playing hard to get.

But there is something particular about paintings that I don’t like. In all of them, I think. It’s time. Time is the problem that painting has to overcome.

There is always time in paintings, in some or other way, always time and it’s always human time. It seems that paintings always look at back at us or me with a human face. It’s never the time of painting, it is our time. I don’t mean that there is a little face in the painting but that they always look back at us with a sense of confirmation. They tell us we are humans and good subjects. You look at me and I look back. In this way paintings become correlational. They tell us who we are and are at best probabilistic. Evidently a correlationist aspiration to art undoes the possibility for aesthetic experience, and doesn’t it even transform art into sociology where the art work has been degraded to a token for social behaviour and interaction.

Sometimes they (paintings) are just illustrations, too often –  and illustration is not bad but not in paintings that think they are not.

I want to look at a painting that looks back with it’s own gaze or whatever it looks back with. Or perhaps better I want to look at paintings that don’t respond, that are minimally interesting and at the same time suck me in like a black whole. I want paintings without identity but that still are paintings or not not paintings.

Things that look back, with a human face (most things) are great because they don’t ask any other questions than those to which you have an answer. It might not be a pleasant answer but definitely an answer. Those things demand little and what they ask for can be calculated. They ask questions and therefore they stay in the realm of the probable. The make a bit of fuzz, nothing more than a little bit this or that, and nothing is really at stake. We can pretend but as long as something is recognisable it will not change anything, not for real.

I like paintings that doesn’t look back, that doesn’t whisper its name when I come closer. The best moment: it’s a painting but what is that painting?

In a lot of paintings, or are they just illustrations, I can’t even half avoid time. It’s there, full stop. A group of people have a heated conversation over a meal, candle light. Aha – detective work, it’s supper or if not it’s probably winter and the people in the picture (whose age is always easy to depict) are having a late lunch.

Other paintings, maybe those are even worse, are paintings that abandon time in the sense of motif, what is in the painting so to say. These paintings speak time in respect of when a certain style or ideology was present. American modernism was the specialist. Newman’s kabbalah or Daniel Buren’s 8,7 cm. Please.

It is not a matter of erasing time but the painter’s responsibility is to give way to paintings time, but as that is a time that – at least initially – does not have representation one can never know what that time is and that’s why it’s urgent.