Comments on: Provisional Painting, Three Hypotheses 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 By: Martin Mugar Tue, 01 Apr 2014 11:21:20 +0000 I have written a new essay that starts with the reality of provisional painting as grounded in weak metaphysics and suggests a way out to a new way of thinking.

By: Alan Pocaro Mon, 03 Mar 2014 19:39:00 +0000 This was originally posted to Brian’s site:

Brian, I don’t want to beleaguer this, but I do think you’ve mischaracterized my essay. While I conclude with the desire that we seek new avenues for discussion that escape last century’s critical structures, the purpose of my piece is to offer three hypotheses, of varying degrees of seriousness, that attempt to explain the phenomenon of provisional or casual or whatever-you-want-to-call it painting; its primary purpose is not, as you say, to “search for a way forward”.

Additionally, at no time in the essay do I suggest that these are the only possibilities which explain these strategies. My “limited set of options” has more to do with being mindful of a word-count than any “unimaginativeness” when it comes to the possibilities of painting or “unwillingness to consider a different point of view”. There is a palpable ad hominem character to some your statements. The underlying accusation being that I am a conservative and a reactionary, and by implying that I have the art-world equivalent of leprosy and I am keen on “Refusing the utility of careful looking and thinking” you can easily dismiss my criticism without really addressing it.

The irony of a writer complaining about art writing is not lost on me, in fact, it’s intentional, which is why I lead the essay with it. But you’re overstating my arguments. What I am implying is not that these manifestations are fictions “created from whole cloth” but rather that there are so many types of artistic practice in 2014 that anyone can cherry-pick a bunch of painters and then invent a stylistic development to suit it. If I were privileged enough to live in Manhattan or write for Art in America, my cherry-picked list of artists and subsequent essay linking them theoretically would carry a lot more weight than the ramblings of provincial mid-western discontent. That hierarchy which still places New York and New York artists at the center of the critical discourse is a major part of the problem.

And because it’s easy to make me look like a bad guy for relating a tongue-in-cheek anecdote about some former students, you completely ignore the charge that it’s setting up; which is that we live in an age where the idea of being something is more important than the reality of actually being it. Because visual art is a particularly nebulous human pursuit, it is highly susceptible to this phenomenon. Art which can be made quickly and effortlessly and is immune to criticism fits neatly into the idea of “creative artist as lifestyle choice”.

As to my unstated bias towards art history, theory, and technique; you’ve reduced my argument to a caricature that foolishly equates hard work and skill with good art, despite my belief to the contrary and the recognition in the essay that there is “no sweat equity in art”, and the numerous comments I made below which reinforce that statement. I would not presume to claim to know what type of art you like and what you think is good or bad, based on a single essay that you wrote. You don’t know what I like either, or why.

Finally, I am not sure how stating that “the old arguments of modernism and post-modernism are worn-out, unproductive and irrelevant to the art of the 21st century” is an argument for the status quo… and would cede authority back to the Established power structure by default of not allowing for an alternative.” You leave out the part where I specifically call for new paradigms for discussion and creation. The problem, as I see it, is precisely the lack of alternatives, not the abundance of them.

By: Brian Dupont Mon, 03 Mar 2014 12:22:56 +0000 Sam, Ben Street and I had planned additional writings on the Provisional in painting; with Alan’s piece serving as Abstract Critical’s opening engagement, my response is here:

While I did not agree with Alan on much of anything, responding to his piece did give me the impetus to put in writing some ideas about art writing & criticism/ history I’ve been thinking through for awhile.

By: Martin Olsson Sat, 01 Mar 2014 00:58:44 +0000 If “Provisional Painting” is weak because it is hastily thrown together and an element of informed consideration is missing, surely time will be the ultimate judge of this style’s viability. Speed of creation would perhaps attract more artists to have a go, especially if this style seems to not carry the demands of ponderous premeditation, and this could possibly lead to higher volumes of this particular style to be produced. If abstract output was getting saturated with such work, surely we’d all sooner reach some sort of idea of this particular style’s merits and demerits. If it is too “shallow”, time should judge it so, whether it finds favour in some camps at this moment. Conversely, if it’s here to stay, its viability must be intertwined with its nature and changing attitudes in the art world as well, whether we approve or not. More considered and informed work defends itself by constantly referring to its nature. Could, however, the ascent of Provisional Painting be a completely logical step into the future taken and applauded by them who feel the incessant need to “innovate” in absurdum and could it thus perhaps be one of the clearest indications yet that modernism has reached a cul-de-sac where forwards isn’t necessarily the only way to go?

By: CR Houghton Fri, 28 Feb 2014 17:05:13 +0000 Cheers to that! The 10,000 hours in the studio really does matter.

By: Alan Pocaro Fri, 28 Feb 2014 01:36:23 +0000 I’d just like to point out that my interest in “defining art” is directed towards defining the activities which we might call art-making. I have no historical model for art or artistic quality that I’d like to revert to.

We live in an age where feeding the homeless or donating blood -all noble efforts- are frequently conflated with artistic practices. They’re not. I seek to define the limitations of artistic practice as an activity rooted in materials transformation because it clarifies the discussion. I have no interest in defining the result, indeed it cannot be defined beforehand.

By: Peter Stott Thu, 27 Feb 2014 20:20:35 +0000 2D surface = form representation =image of, that’s ALL 2D surfaces, call it what you want, but to deny that state of things is a joke, and it is, Jonathan Lasker doing everything he can to deny that fact, but only artfully, knowingly… incidentally draws
preparatory studies beforehand (see vimeo) (one of my favourite artists) is this not-provisional painting?

By: Robin Greenwood Thu, 27 Feb 2014 20:00:24 +0000 Michael, (and Alan P),
If you are attempting to nudge art toward solving or salving the problematic fragmentation of modern life, as you (Michael) put it (but speak for yourself), then I think you are on a double-loser. First, it won’t have any impact; second, the art just won’t improve from such efforts, because you are addressing issues that are extrinsic. The crux of this matter is – how do we make better abstract art? My life in the studio may be difficult at times, but it is not fragmented or atomised and not a reflection of problems in society or culture. Nor, I imagine is the studio-life of thousands of other abstract artists. Artists can and should make their own culture. Broad cultural definitions from commentators (you or me) on the whole don’t help much, which is where Alan and I previously parted company on his wanting to define what “art” is in order to revert to some better model from the past based on fixed limits. I’d rather let abstract painting and sculpture at their most active and exciting in the present tense define themselves.

I’d make two very clear points: firstly, real abstract art now is a very different animal from historical “abstraction”, because it is not derived from anything, or seeking to be an image of anything, or represent in any way anything, whether figurative or metaphysical or symbolic. In fact, my experience is that it’s attempting to shed more and more of that stuff. And secondly, real abstract art I don’t see at all as being a result of art’s atomisation, I see it as an inevitable and logical progression out of, and displacement of, figurative art (a continuation and focus on the “abstract-ness”, or what is genuinely “visual” in the best figurative art). Your definition of abstraction as some kind of “extraction” from the world is a very literal (verging on literary) and passive kind of distinction which has little to do with painting or sculpture at the coal-face. The most important thing is to realise that there is a lot further to go with abstract art; it could get more abstract – that is, less literal, less of everything that holds it back from being the great and exciting thing it could be. Wanting to bring back metaphysics or subject matter or figuration won’t help. We need to look and look again at the work we call abstract, and understand better how it works and what it does. Then get back in the studio and try to act on those impulses to improve it. This, of course, (to get back on topic) is the problem with Provisional painting etc. – its complacency about all such issues. But to focus on theory and definitions too much, and not focus on the work itself, on analysing and discussing the activity or “abstract content”, is another kind of complacency. There exists, in fact, a great need for writers on art such as yourself to focus very specifically on what the best abstract art is doing, and what it could do in the future. From where I stand (and ignoring the irrelevances of said Provisionalism etc.), abstract art has not lost its way; it’s just not very far down it. We don’t know the answers to lots of questions about abstract art, but that makes it very exciting.

By: Noela Thu, 27 Feb 2014 17:04:01 +0000 Just thinking about Michael and Peter wondering what abstraction is. As far as painting goes, I rather like Pete Hoida’s remark ( in his video ) talking about ‘incidents in paint’. Think of it as one incident after another, with a bit of scrutiny in between.

By: Michael Paraskos Thu, 27 Feb 2014 15:45:23 +0000 Robin, I think my point is that Alan (if I can presume to speak on his behalf a moment) and myself do do abstraction, we just don’t see it as being synonymous with abstract painting and that is what makes it in a sense a (and I do stress the indefinite article) logical development of twentieth-century abstraction.

Isn’t there a case to be made that abstraction, and other modernist phenomena, represented an atomisation of art into its constituent parts. That was, as someone else sensibly mentioned in this discussion, an inevitable response to the fragmentation of modern life, but the question then is whether we should remain atomised, or attempt a Herbert Read-ian style reintegration.

If so, then the issue is what do we mean by the word abstract, and related to that, what Alan has discussed here, what do we mean by abstract painting?

Do we really, or only, mean forms that are non-figurative insofar as they do not look like things in the world, or do we mean something more fundamental to do with a wider range of art, as something that is abstracted outwith the world. I admit “extraction” might be a more accurate term for what I am describing, but that sounds too much like a visit to the dentist to catch on, so I am sticking to my guns and sticking with abstraction.

Don’t forget the strange dissident Chinese newspaper booted me out for not writing on figurative art enough, or rather I was given an ultimatum to only cover figurative art (in the sense I think you mean the word) and avoid anything too contemporary. I chose to get out, so I am a dissident from the dissidents!

As for Ghostbusters, be careful, there’s a huge cemetery in West Norwood – you don’t know what you might raise from its murky depths!