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Models of attention

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In this article the question posed by Yve-Alain Bois via Hubert Damisch in Painting as Model, ‘what is the mode of thought of which painting is the stake?’ (1990) is shifted to what is the mode of attention? Informed by current cognitive and neuropsychological research, paintings combative art history is assessed through the lens of attention. The unravelling of modernist painting is proposed as a conflict between models of attention, and divergent attentional expectations. Modernist values of immediacy, presentness, wholeness are considered conditions of an ideal attentional experience, one that attempts to hold back a partial, fragmented and distracted counter experience of modernity. Painting as Model argued for painting’s specificity, pulling away from a formalism that reduces painting to the visual, and theoretical structures that bypass the made object. This article proposes an attentional-specificity for painting; the limits of attentional capacity, distinctions between focused, distributed and divided attention correlating with the cognitive complexity held by the structural, spatial and material conditions of painting.
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Keywords: Frank Stella; Painting as Model; Yve-Alain Bois; aesthetic experience; distributed attention; focused attention; painting

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University for the Creative Arts

Publication date: April 1, 2019

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  • 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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