Shaped canvas 4

I’m happily surprised to find that this blog can be very productive for my work. I open my mouth to express what I believe, and find that I don’t believe it any more. I’ve been too doctrinaire about the organic unity of the work, and the recent discussion of Tiepolo and Stella has taught me a thing or two, specifically that a “ready-made” format might be very enabling. The Tiepolo used in an earlier post is more instructive than this one, although

Gian Battista Tiepolo, The glorification of the Barbaro family c.1750

Tiepolo’s use of curves, so different from the normally straight edged shaped canvases of today, is worth dwelling on. The two curves at top and bottom make a large ellipse, and the curves at the right and left hand edges are segments of other shapes, circles or flatter ellipses. The idea of adding spaces to spaces, like soap bubbles piled on top of each other, is beautiful. And the intervening bits of business with straight lines and vertices, necessary to make transitions between the curves, are also very thought provoking. But what I want to come back to is T.J.Clark’s insight, discussed in an earlier post, that an art that presents a distinct whole develops that wholeness out of internal relations. It rings true to me, but I’m asking myself what do we have when we have a clearly stamped out shape and a complexly ordered interior, and isn’t it the independence of those two things that is most interesting? Astonishing that Stella’s Polish Villages support this thought.

Frank Stella, Michapol 1 1971

Maybe Fried’s arguments contra composition are just not to the point at all. But also, maybe this is the way to have done with the problem of the grid. Autonomy, wholeness and presence (if one wants to call it that) come about not by affirming the support but by treating it as if it doesn’t exist. What a crazy idea. But that’s how I’ve worked with the rectangle all along.

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