As Stella said, “There are two problems in painting. One is to find out what painting is and the other is to find out how to make a painting. The first is learning something and the second is making something.”1

All painters have to come up with their own solutions to the problems of painting, and from this solution unfolds the possibility of understanding the metaphysics of painting. It is through plastic activity that we uncover a method and it cannot be otherwise.

The process – as filled with all sorts of action, reaction, interaction – is essential to discover the Object. This discovery crosses boundaries between what painting is and how to make a painting.  The origin of art is this discrepancy between the physical fact of the Object and the psychic affect. And the measure of the art, in the sense of conveying an expression, explanation or unfolding of the Object, is the ratio of this effort of the plastic material to the affect. So I would respond to Stella by saying that his two problems are essentially the same thing, because it is through the making of the painting that we learn about what painting is.  We cannot find out what painting is without being engaged with the process or procedure of the making, so the dual problem is essentially a single problem.


The aim of painting is to become an instrument in the understanding which occurs as a rift between the physical fact and the psychic affect, and which is in any case, a mystery.

Metaphysics, J Mason








[1] Frank Stella, excerpt from Pratt Lecture (Jan/Feb 1960)


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