Beyond Evocation
The evocative object emerged out of the condition of viewing the painting as a thing produced by the human mind, as painting through which the human mind could contemplate itself.
Stylistic forms would vary, of course, and there were several differences and rifts between the methods and constructions of this kind of painting. However, a general tendency can be outlined. The problem was no longer to re-produce a reality perceived visually, but to project a complex inner experience of reality for which the inner relation of the artist to the natural world was of greater importance than observation and re-production as visible nature.
Hence there arose within the personality of the artist specific spiritual or intellectual relationships, attitudes to the world or to what can be seen or experienced, and concepts of making-a-world. The contention rests in having painting perform to the challenge of defining a ground of reality in visual terms. Painting became a field of projection.
All the old pictorial categories advanced since the Renaissance were displaced, but something of the ground of reality was nevertheless to be visually rendered. The reproduction of a visible world was relieved and in its place was substituted the function of evocation. This basic approach to the object resulted in the transformation of painting into an ‘autonomous picture’ – a picture largely independent of visible nature.
The modern painters undertook several different trajectories via the approach of the object as an evocative thing, from rational examination and harmonization of painting to sounding the irrational depths and expressions of romantic emotion, to the elucidation of ‘deeper’ unconscious realities, all of which combined to give painting multiple tendencies and stylistic expressions. At bottom, all trajectories shared a similar root irrespective of geometric or surrealistic deviations and it lay in the notion of painting as a new psychology of things where the old familiar attitude towards objects was displaced in favor of an endeavor to establish a pictorial expression of reality stemming from the artist’s active consciousness (or unconscious).
At its most austere or reductive, analyzing pictorial laws by ‘pure means’ to reduce all their possible combinations to elementary basis, the relation to the object reflective of the relation to nature is made manifest in Mondrian’s words as “concrete.” The particular shapes of natural objects become an impediment to the generalized harmony which the artist’s mind was seeking to establish in correspondence to nature, demonstrating that at its most reductive the tendency of such painting is as a counter-reality that stands in opposition to nature. It is a painting that is implicitly anti-nature, mirroring the attitude towards nature as a raw material. This idealistic scheme of an absolute forgets the site Earth, which is always shifting and never suspended into a clean totality.
As the concern of the personality of the artist or the artist’s self as it reconciled its atttitude towards nature, evocation may be summed up against the backdrop arising out of modern psychology towards containment of nature into a massive regime of signs. The reality is different; it is unmade. All our representations fail to adequately open up our view towards nature-naturing, whose sheer potency drives the novely continuum.
Can painting go beyond evocation?
Materiality is not a passive substance: it is continually transforming, continually agitating against itself. There is no such thing as ‘dead matter.’
The genuine tendency of painting does not stray away from the Earth but instead acts as the Earth acts. It recognizes that the fact of earth is the place of painting, as experiencing earth as facticity itself. It is through the geologic that painting gains passage to the abosolute.
The mistake of modernist painting was that it thought it could achieve privy into the absolute by “breaking free of the Earth” [Malevich]. This not only denies that the stuff of painting itself is earth, but more fundamentally it denies the truth of the surface as a sedimentary and erosional plane. The geologic in painting transforms painting once again, this time out of abstractionist ideology which would purport that the function of painting is evocation, stemming from the content of the artist’s psyche, and instead presents to us a realist ontology of excited matter.

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