Comments on: Georges Vantongerloo and the Anxiety of Meaning http://abstractcritical.com/article/georges-vantongerloo-and-the-anxiety-of-meaning/ Abstract Critical is a not-for profit company aiming to establish a new critical context for all generations of artists involved with ambitious abstract art. Sun, 09 Nov 2014 17:23:33 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 By: John Holland http://abstractcritical.com/article/georges-vantongerloo-and-the-anxiety-of-meaning/#comment-55467 Fri, 12 Oct 2012 11:08:04 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=article&p=6129#comment-55467 I don’t regard the pictures as failures at all, any more than a painting of a crucifixion is a failure if the contemporary viewer is not converted to Christianity.
The ‘spiritual’ content is either there for you in the painting or it’s not. If it’s not, then you’re talking about biography.

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By: Sam Cornish http://abstractcritical.com/article/georges-vantongerloo-and-the-anxiety-of-meaning/#comment-54879 Mon, 08 Oct 2012 06:33:30 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=article&p=6129#comment-54879 Isn’t the point that John is making about trying to see how the work can be useful, meaningful for us, rather than trying to tie it back to its original context?

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By: Danila Rumold http://abstractcritical.com/article/georges-vantongerloo-and-the-anxiety-of-meaning/#comment-54630 Fri, 05 Oct 2012 16:01:35 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=article&p=6129#comment-54630 Although I agree with Holland’s comment about the reality of the artwork abiding in the materiality of the object and that the interpretation is outside of the control of artist, from a non dualistic perspective (such as theosophists, and the other mystic religions that these artists were working from) one cannot separate the subject from the object- thus the artist from the object.

Holland’s school of thought is obviously coming from a different perspective than these Modernists, but I think it is utterly important when looking at this work, to offer some objective points in context to the intention of the artists of this time. Perhaps we have become more cynical and skeptical, but to dismiss everything as failure shines perhaps only a light on what our state of mind is today.

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By: John Holland http://abstractcritical.com/article/georges-vantongerloo-and-the-anxiety-of-meaning/#comment-54478 Wed, 03 Oct 2012 06:29:48 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=article&p=6129#comment-54478 Thanks for your response Ashley. I think the point about the artist’s ‘ideas ‘ is that ultimately only what is before us in the work itself can really be important I think.
The artwork is a separate thing from the artist- once the thing is made it has its own life, beyond the artist’s control. This is why a decent painting is the opposite of an illustration. If a painting is reduced to ‘decoration ‘ when the viewer is not being reminded of the.philosophy of its maker, then it has failed.

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By: Ashley West http://abstractcritical.com/article/georges-vantongerloo-and-the-anxiety-of-meaning/#comment-53566 Sat, 15 Sep 2012 20:16:48 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=article&p=6129#comment-53566 I meant to ask Sam – what do you mean exactly by ‘untying of visual content from meaning’? Do you mean meaning extrinsic to what we actually see in front of us? I’ve been thinking about it and can’t get it clear in my own head – and it’s perhaps central to a lot of recent discussion.

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By: Ashley West http://abstractcritical.com/article/georges-vantongerloo-and-the-anxiety-of-meaning/#comment-53565 Sat, 15 Sep 2012 19:47:56 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=article&p=6129#comment-53565 An intriguing painting – this instability and incompleteness you talk about John, I find very interesting – contingency too (if I understand your use of these words correctly) – looking around my room I see four mixed media pieces where in each I have placed a single object (a pebble, a tennis ball) on the top edge, so they are part of the piece, yet at the same time suggest a relationship with something beyond the edge. For me these go against the notion of the painting representing wholeness (in itself).

I do find a sort of expansiveness in this Vantongerloo piece as, read in one way, it looks like part of a genealogical tree, as if a continuation in a diagonal direction, upwards (right) toward further multiplicity, and downwards (left) toward a common ‘root’, which would in turn suggests a hierarchical ‘tree of life’, connecting to theosophical ideas. But the puzzling nature of the image, in some ways, keeps it rooted in this world – certainly not utopian.

I also find interesting this idea that institutions perhaps conveniently ignore the wider intentions of the artist in favour of their own narrative (again, if I understand you right). Isn’t it important that the link between an artist, such as Beuys, and ‘where he or she is coming from’ be maintained? This may for some mean that the work becomes too far fetched – so be it; for others it would be enriched, depending on your inclinations. Could it be said that Modernism could only have become so ‘popularised’ through a reduction to some extent, to decoration or commodity?

There was an interesting discussion about John Cage on Radio 3 this afternoon in which someone suggested that it doesn’t make any sense to separate his work from the ideas he espoused (apparently Cage had wished that he had channelled his ideas into more worthwhile fields such as technology and ecology which could have effected more significant change) – that’s quite a statement given the objectivity and democratic nature of his music (with its chance procedures and open endedness), but I can see his point.

Another thought I had during the week which relates to this and other threads, was that if one leans towards the idea that a work only exists or functions in relation to the artist’s and viewer’s frame of reference (which I think I do), then the idea that it could exist independently (as a meaningful object) is almost akin to the kind of wishful thinking/fantasy that the utopianism of De Stijl is criticised for, and surely it cannot be verified. It would be good if someone more expert than I could bring some knowledge to bear on this contextualisation business (my apologies if I’m getting terms mixed up here – I’m no theorist).

I do think that perhaps a lot (but not all) of the ‘spirituality’ associated with modernism is about belief , fantasy, call it what you will, and is anathema to me, given that, at its heart (underneath the shit), it is a search for truth which calls into question not just what you are painting, but also one’s own perception and consciousness. That investigation is about as down to earth as it gets. The texts of some of the great teachers of the past are not irrelevant to such questions, if one is inclined in that direction, but even without them, I do think many artists take ‘reflectivity’ to a very deep level in their practice. This is I think most productive where the content of the work is embedded in the its materiality and visual objectivity, which is perhaps the case with this piece by Vantongerloo.

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By: Sam Cornish http://abstractcritical.com/article/georges-vantongerloo-and-the-anxiety-of-meaning/#comment-53549 Sat, 15 Sep 2012 07:46:50 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=article&p=6129#comment-53549 The point about De Stijl as the beginning of the untying of visual content from meaning is a good one; though how much does a small u utopia lurk in all the design which stems from their example? The personal engagement with what ‘stands in front of you’ which John describes is in part also a testing of prior assumptions about how a picture is made or how it might communicate. I wonder where the line might be drawn between these assumptions and ‘the noise surrounding … personal engagement’?

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