Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Expressionism. WTF?

You sit down and you work on eye hand coordination, using the pen as a guide to work out the angles. 

You train yourself to identify geometric forms in 'empty spaces'.

You use the wash brush to apply water-colour in wide sweeps of colour.

I keep coming back to the question of technique, of 'mastery', individual 'mastery'. 

Aside: 'Surely I can find an app called 'individual mastery'?'
Aside 2: 'Do they imagine that the web is a means of mastery of the individual? Fools!!!"

Sorry, I digress.

Nature morte.

However much I school my dexterity to depict 'still life' there still appears something missing.

How much dexterity do you need to express life?

How big a microscope should I find?

To my eyes, this is 'nature morte', still life, stuffed life.

Dead is not my preferred state.

I am happy to find that, naturally, without going to art gym, I evolve...(seriously, I do ;-)

It is only recently, via this space, that I have really begun to work through this conflict. 

Expression versus Illustration.

Much of my work in any space is taken up by an expression of absent presence. 

I shouldn't take responsibility for such work.

No work is much too serious a word for it. 

This is play.
(A play is a political act.)

What is it that I am doing here?
What is it that you are doing here?
What is it that we are making here?

  • There is the act.
  • There is the gesture.
  • There is the feeling.
  • There is the presence.
  • There is the framing.

I am not sure whether one can separate or order any of this.

Improbably, I have been reading up about expressionism, abstract expressionism and started curating artefacts on my iphone home screen. 

(That means its personal...). 

I even did that twice.

(That means its important to me.)


There is one article which is open in another tab in this browser, linked below:

I found these lines which jumped out at me:

1) "Heidegger‟s concepts of Being-in-the-world and Being-with take the individual outside of a psychoanalytic understanding of the self and place him or her in the world with others. For Heidegger, as one of his commentators explained, Dasein—literally Being-there—is not an ego with “a stream of private experiences” but “a moving center of pragmatic activity in the midst of a shared world.”

and these here:

2) "With its emphasis on the awareness of the here and now, Zen echoed the Abstract Expressionists‟ own concerns with spontaneity and awareness, and Zen, too, is invested in the communal. The act of meditation is the attempt to quiet the self so that one‟s relation to otherness is made clear, so that one may perceive the connectedness of all life."

and then this: 

3) “We are in the presence not of a work of art which is a thing but of an action which is implicitly nothing.” John Cage.

and finally this:

 4) “a practice that involves a break with the familiar, the routine ways of seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding things so that the organism may become receptive to the potential forms of a nonaggressive, non-exploitative world.”


Since blogging regularly after #rhizo14, I have been regularly reflecting on this practice (writing/drawing/scribbling et al).

1) Without listing the posts, I have repeatedly spoken of a sensation that much of this writing is not of 'myself'.  (Sorry, like preparatory sketches this is repetitive). 

It really is 'a pragmatic activity' in the 'midst of a shared world'.  

Furthermore, (did I really use that word??) it exudes momentary presence, which could be described as 'stream of consciousness.' 

However, this 'absent presence' is certainly not mine alone. 

There are others scribbling here. 

Is this a 'stream of connected consciousness.' ?

A few observations:

Alone, I would not be reading about 'abstract expressionism'. 

Alone, I would probably not direct my attention towards the work of Nick Sousanis.

Alone, I would not be recognising the name Heidegger.

I am reminded of comments he makes in this hangout about the handicap of templates which prevents one's art from really being 'embodied.'

A lack of gesture, a 'flattening' frame of web media, insidious small print contracts have at times been a source of claustrophobia, or even Kafkaesque paraonoia which comes out in other posts here.

2) The growing links with Zen Buddhism, I have noticed running through my choice of avatar, the importance of 'enso', my experience of 'Ki' via Aikido, the insistence on 'losing oneself' in a gesture. I must admit that such a discovery is still a novelty to me. 

How can I not 'perceive the connectedness' of this act here? 
How can I not 'perceive the connectedness' in the emergence of this act?
How can I not 'perceive the connectedness' in clmooc, rhizo14/14, et al?

3) This is not a finished article, it is a journey, it is a step.  

I am thrown back to fractals. 

What was it that I was looking at? 
What was it that I was looking at?
What was it that I was looking at?

Of course, it comes into focus... 

'Unflattening" of Nick Sousanis.

4) What is this new way of thinking, writing, seeing, understanding that we are experiencing here?

How can I not see that this is not about a post, or a Zeega, or a remix poem, or an adhoc voice?

These are not 'works of art', 'things', they are 'actions', 'voices', 'bits' of something greater and unfamiliar to us all.

These are like assembled elements of a comic page...

They are all and nothing...

Perhaps we should be looking out from all these diversely connected, perspectives?

What is our connected state of flux?

What is this culture which is unfamiliar to us?

Pollock comes back to me:

"There was a reviewer a while back who wrote that my pictures didn't have any beginning or any end. He didn't mean it as a compliment. But it was."


Are we developing:

"a practice that involves a break with the familiar, the routine ways of seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding things so that the organism may become receptive to the potential forms of a nonaggressive, non-exploitative world." ?


  1. I love the non-analytical analysis of this.

    1. Thanks Susan for dropping by here. I am ever amazed at what unfurls.

  2. Thank you, Simon. This is a wonderful essay (in the original sense, an attempt) at expressing the inexpressible, communicating the incommunicable... I could go on in a similar vein, but you've already gotten the point (a node, a brief moment of intersection among...)

    1. Thank you Fred. I remain attached to these brief moments :-)

  3. Thanks, Simon. The empty space is where all the fun is. It's where the new stuff happens, surprising us, sometimes terrifying us. I'm always surprised by your writing, and that is most pleasing to me. Of course, the empty spaces are never empty, but we don't know that going in.

  4. Simon, the idea of being receptive itself creates unease. How can I prepare, rehearse or apply a strategy to a situation that is unfamiliar? Life isn't safely unpredictable like adding blue when you have a brush and a whole tube of blue in your hand.