Reference painting-object (Vlasta Čiháková Noshiro)

The word allusion is an opposite to illusion, being a reference excluding all the imagination and subjective interpretation. The structuralists perceived it as a simple reference to another word, text or social reality. Once, I used this term in an exhibition title in the 1970s in Japan, with the intention to express a des+criptive capacity of the photography, film or video to capture the performance objectively without prettifying the record in an expressional way. At that time, however, the mainstream tended to consist in minimalism, also allusive in its nature. Michael Fried, its spiritual guru, characterised it, in relation to painting, as follows (1):
– Excluding the image illusion and illusionism in the conventional painting space; – The image is a unique entity. The whole of the image does not consist of the composition of individual parts, since there is no organisation of the image surface, being compact; – The colour creates the image surface by establishing it as a spatial quantity; – An rectangle is an initial form of the painting, also identifying and delineating the surface; – Working on a surface is replaced by the object’s three-dimensionality in the space.
The outcome is a painting-object that remains a painting as long as it is conceptually linked to it, thus delineating its “minimal” conditions. The allusion of the painting towards the object gives rise to the confrontation of the shape as the object’s essential quality (shape) and the form as the essential painting’s expression (form). The painting’s identity is subsequently decided by the confrontation with its expression shape (form), so that the painting is not perceived only as an object (shape) but discovers its objectiveness through its form.

Clement Greenberg, teacher of Michael Fried, mentioned that in minimalism, “the already stretched canvas exists as a painting, yet not quite successful, since the visual aspect of “non-art” is no longer innovative for painting.”(2) Greenberg also considered delineating its surface as the minimalist condition of the painting. He considers a rectangle as determining for maintaining the painting’s identity provided that the painting is supposed to be viewed as an object. Greenberg associated the minimal painting with the anthropomorphic unity of the “theatrical gestalt”, as a gesture on stage. The painting-object becomes the focus of the situation (spatial installation), which belongs to the viewer perceiving the form, though.

In the 1970s, the minimalist painting was represented by Jules Olitzki, Frank Stella, Kenneth Noland, and others. They were closely related to sculptors Donald Judd, Robert Morris, Tony Smith, and others. Nowadays, we live in a post-minimalist period, yet it was the allusion principle that influenced the series of paintings-objects entitled “Transformers”, by Petr Dub and his colleagues Tomáš Moravec and Matěj Al-Alí, in the spatial adaptation of the installation “Echoes of Entropy”.

Petr Dub attacks the conventions of the medium of a suspension painting, its format, areal character, material, captions, and installation options. His colleagues complement him by incorporating new forms into the space of the installation of the painting-object, taking into account the change in the routine perception. The installation is conceived as “site-specific”. In addition to this, Petr Dub defines the shape of the painting-object by the colour canvas used as a packaging material for the object, covering the “waste” of the inner content. In the closed shape, the inner content is constant, hypothetically being able to change or recycle the shape, though. Through this transformation of the shape of the painting-object, the entropy of indefiniteness and openness of the mutation plot rises. Its rise tends to have a negative character, since upon maintaining the allusive character to the object, the meaning of shape is quickly exhausted. What remains positive is the reference to the viewer and their perception in the spatial installation, since by entering the installation, the viewer creates an option for a new meaning relation to the painting-object, suppressing the allusion and the reflections of entropy.

Notes 1 and 2 – the key essays of M. Fried, Art and Objectiveness, and C. Greenberg, After the Abstract Expressionism, were translated into Czech by Tomáš Pospiszyl in the collection “In front of the Painting”, OSVU, Prague 1998.

Allusive painting-object, a text of the guided tour of the exhibition entitled Echoes of Entropy, Vlasta Čiháková Noshiro, 24 July 2011)