Vividness

It might be possible to propose a theory as to why modern art, in its later stage, has been preoccupied with scale and shape. Reduction of elements and simplification of form has the effect of making what is left more emphatic, clearer, more vivid. And more a function of a conscious art. What appear to be new formal frontiers are perhaps rather a consequence of the weakening of art as it sheds possibilities. Greater vividness is a constant requirement in a world with too much of everything, and growing. So life scale, which was once one option, is now the best and hence only option. Of course, I don’t believe that, since I make work on a smaller scale myself, but it is easy to see how any scale other than life scale is naturally more literary, and lends itself to a more inward, reflective, allusive and imaginatively involved art. Mental spaces are infinite. Life scale is for a public art, one that takes hold of our entire self instead of just our inner self. Both kinds can be narrative, since “subjects in the public world” is the narrative theme par excellence. Perhaps we could say that works in which the parts do not reach to human scale are more poetic, and those that do are novelistic. But in that case abstract painting has a big problem because it’s very hard to keep it from becoming one voice; in fact it’s hard to imagine how an abstract picture can have more than one voice at all. Unity is a predicament for all visual art, and the technique of montage cannot resolve it. Novels and symphonic music have many voices and that is how they can become all enveloping worlds; pictures seem to be irredeemably lyric, and hence small despite their size. A picture is graspable in its entirety as it is visible all at once. One solution is to make multi-part works that cannot be taken in at a single glance. This blog has talked about R.H.Quaytman, and probably will again; my own Geomorphic Fantasy is a work that combines the vividness of large abstractions with the involuted, ruminative complexity of smaller lyrical works. It reaches for many voices, but I’m still not sure how successfully.

Robert Linsley, Installation of A Geomorphic Fantasy, 2002-2007 (second study for the same piece on the left wall)

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