Abstract/monochromatic paintings and geometry-oriented work often irritate people. I always hear comments like “This isn’t art”, or “Any 3 year old child can do this shit”, and that “it’s all the same” from people in modern art galleries who feel they have been conned, and that their consciousnesses have been hijacked.

I personally find monochrome and abstract paintings annoying because there is usually very little to say about them, due to their lack of “differance” – the fact that they rupture the fluidity of communication by deferring to nothing else except for themselves. Representational paintings, like language, can be seen as a system of differences in which the objects depicted are always deferred to signs, words, texts, discourses, or other objects outside of themselves to create their respective meaning and context. Because signs and objects always contain traces of other signs and other objects, they have no “essential” meaning of their own. It is similar to looking up a word in a dictionary. It always leads to other words that you need to find; we are always deferred to other signs. I think the same concept of differentiation can be applied images that contain tangible objects. When you look at an image of a flower, your perception of the flower usually activates and leads to images of other flowers, as well as texts and signs that are used to describe a flower (or other texts, objects, and discourses that are associated with flowers). Therefore, meaning is forever deferred, and signs and images are meaningful only through the differentiation between itself and other signs or images that it is deferred to. When I’m presented with an abstract painting however, I am faced with the painting’s bare essence, and I find myself unable to engage in the production of differentiation and an avenue of deferring the way language and representational images do. In other words, I fail to make sense of the painting because no obvious texts and discourses are arising and activating through relational differences.

But why are monochrome paintings valued? I think it has to do with their lack of ulterior and commercial motifs – a belief that “high art” somehow exists outside of ordinary life and ways of thinking, and that the way to appreciate and “get in touch” with the minimal essence of its abstraction and aesthetic is to phenomenologically deconstruct our very own being and the world we are embedded in. When I look at a monochrome painting, I experience something that I like to call “spiritual automaton” – a view from an omnipresent position by an “inhuman” eye, wherein the act of abstraction provokes the viewers a “thought beyond thought”, as I cut myself away from the common sensational notion of the sensory-motor schema, which is exempt from the laws of causality. Indeed, the aim of “high art” is to be intrinsically and qualitatively different from all objects in physical reality, and anytime its refined sensibility is spilled over to the economic and social fabrics of mainstream culture, it ceases to be transcendental and sophisticated.

In other words, abstract paintings are supposed to exist in their own spatial and temporal plane, governed by metaphysical rules outside of our physical reality, language, and contemporary mass culture and its materiality. They are not supposed to justify themselves in terms of its use, and are free from social, moral, political, or economic conventions. Art is just art, and nothing else. It should stray as far away from reality as possible, for any paintings that represent worldly objects, tells a story, or imitates 3 dimensionality or temporality is a failure on its own part to be viewed on its own terms for the sake of itself. Monochrome paintings partake in nothing of the quantifiable world, but their indefinite sensibility and subjectivity is formless and timeless… they call for complete receptivity from the viewers without linguistic filtering and cultural as well as material biases. This is why abstract paintings abandon all elements that would represent nature – from the shaded modeling perspective to human or animal figures, and instead emphasize on inorganic elements such as lines, geometrical forms, harsh colors, and mechanistic compositions to represent itself with its own form – as a better, and more ideal reality. Any aesthetic judgment or questions of worthiness of monochrome art can only be framed under the context of, and in relation to the specific properties, conventions, and history of the work itself. Therefore, modern art is the result of the struggle of artists to create works that are stripped down to their barest essence in order to achieve genuine quality and spiritual purity.

Advertisements