ABSTRACT

PAINTING AS GAZE: ON THE REVELATORY FORCE OF THE ARABESQUE


That painting is understood as being visual cannot really be contested. Even when Duchamp introduced his disavowal of painting and the schema of the chessboard to indicate an anti-retinal strategy, the implication of visual imaginary was still in place.

Indeed the link between knowing and seeing is not only at the root of metaphysical (the desire to know is the desire to see —Aristotle) thinking itself, but persists even within the disavowal of it within Late Modernity.

At present, its presence does still persist and continues to fuel its relevance. This research develops as a speculation on the relation between an ontological understanding of the image and the ornamental.

In contrast to the usual understanding of ornament, the ornamental is elaborated as a force and process for the proliferation of forms out of forms. The arabesque is the structuring principle of this research and the figure it presents.

The revelatory force of the arabesque lies not in giving a schema of visual revelation, but it is touching upon a force that transforms and changes, the very ‘plasticity’ (C. Malabou) inherent in every being and image. Trough the recollection of the arabesque, the ornamental is invoked as a principle of drift in becoming. As a double, paradoxical device the arabesque enables a play between oblique and transparent things, between what can be said or known and what cannot be said, what remains unknown —and whatever lies in between. As a figure of thought, it sets out a play of plastic and graphic imminence.

Characteristic for the Islamic culture, the arabesque is more a mode or idea than a form or pattern, and it was formative for this culture from its very early ways of manifestation. The idea of the arabesque is in and for itself, a ‘motor of thought’ (C. Malabou).

The tension between representation and presentation, between symbolic, iconographic or legible meaning and a-signifying, prelinguistic or ornamental meaning is at the heart of understanding the image. The image is understood as a mode of being and is encountered in different ways. Through the ornamental as a force of mediation (O. Grabar) this understanding is infiltrated with an ethical dimension.

The route taken is one of conceptual risk, of invention and the fantastic.

Method itself is addressed as something to be found —and not as something already given or pre-established.

This research in painting inflects painting from within, from its relation to presence and the image. Caught in this by its inflammatory autoaffection, painting explodes and de-forms, it trans-forms itself — it consciously receives and simultaneously it gives form. The research itself is manifested as a concatenation of heterogeneous elements that belong to different registers such as written texts, show installation, and different technologies.