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Imagining a ‘relational’ painting

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This article presents a discussion around the idea of painting as a ‘relational’ practice, which has evolved from the invited correspondence between Catherine Ferguson (as Painter) and Ken Wilder (as Non-Painter), facilitated by Agnieszka Mlicka. Their responses to envisaging such a relational painting reflect distinct artistic practices and philosophical traditions, which diverge and converge throughout the writing. For the Painter, on the one hand, painting becomes relational by virtue of its life and process, as an autopoietic entity in a dynamic relation with its environment. For the Non-Painter, on the other hand, the very terms relational and autopoiesis are treated with suspicion, in that it is argued that any critically inclined collaborative painting must reveal the actualities of the genesis of a work’s spatial and temporal performance. In juxtaposing these two trajectories through the process of co-responding, an analogy is created to the idea of a relational painting practice as a dynamic process of negotiation. The emerging interface generates an energy that has more significance than the notion of a completed or realized work. Reflecting on this collaborative experiment, this article suggests that the creation of an agonistic space for discourse is fundamental to imagining how a relational painting might unfold.
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Keywords: agonism; autopoiesis; beholder; co-response; collaborative practice; relational painting

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of the Arts London

Publication date: 01 October 2016

More about this publication?
  • Journal of Contemporary Painting responds to the territory and practice of contemporary painting in its broadest sense, viewing painting as a context for discussion, exploring its sphere of history and influence, rather than as a medium specific debate. The JCP combines a thematic approach with an open call, each issue opening up and problematising pressing concerns in contemporary painting.

    As well as contributions to current debates on contemporary art, a particular feature of the Journal of Contemporary Painting is the publication of archival or newly translated texts alongside current responsive articles, based on the premise that contemporary painting cannot be understood without reflecting on its history. Dedication to understanding the nature and forms of painting research has also led to the inclusions of an original visual essay for every edition. Additionally we respond to current exhibitions, books and symposia, nationally and internationally, in our reviews section.

    Our aim is to be responsive to current debates in painting and related art practices, drawing from a wide geographical field and across discipline boundaries to provide a discursive space in which a range of subject specialisms can be brought to bear on the culture of painting. We are particularly interested in writing emerging from practice-based research as well as from academics working in different disciplines.

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