Specifics of Doubt (reflections on a minimal art)

It appears to be a question of trying to contain it, of paring it down to a manageable size. Most of what went before was comprised of lines, horizontal, vertical, grids, linearities, a series of circles and before these portraits, of self and other, or even that of the terrain. There were also words, the failure of which we are only too aware. So it appears to have come to this – space and absence – gap upon gap, row upon row, wall after wall of absence. Expanses of absence, known hence incomplete, bordered by the absence of necessity, total, unfounded; the base, which is not a base, upon which to build one’s home, the home in which we shall never live.

Inside me, just at the point
Where most painfully one says, never
(Paul Celan)

Through this patterning, and perhaps only through this patterning, can the vastness of such homelessness be hinted at, the merest implying of its infinitude, of its extensions without, as well as within.

But what of the purity of the white, the gap and space between? In one sense I can see how it should remain pristine, the border lines sharp and precise, such a view is not without precedent, yet on the other hand the sense of presence, so absolute, brings one to an understanding, an awareness, beyond that of clarity.

Presence: a vague defining of that subtle immensity, that deep pervasion of the most hidden intimacy, pristine in its perception, unrelenting, and so being, rendering itself invisible through the profundity of seeing.

The vision of presence as the essence of absence? Not something from which absence is born, or from which it is created, not as a presence denied, but part and parcel the same. Not a dichotomy but a unity, as that of fire and its heat or water and its wetness.

In actuality the lines ruled with such clarity and confidence should never be trusted – the space upon which they intrude is far too pervasive not to overwhelm us, to bear down upon us with insistence and wonder. The failure of art, when it does fail, is in taking that space for granted, the blank canvas, the white page merely being seen as something to be filled. To violate such is a breech, a betrayal of the most extreme kind, an existential rape on the most fundamental level, a callous shunning and abuse of the most elemental sensitivity. There are vast expanses through which we move, tracing our own invisible lines, etching our lives as insubstantially as trailing a finger across the sky. Yet still, somehow, there is an embrace and tenderness which lies at the root of all existence, a care which expresses itself in the awareness of being and all the attendant joys and sorrows which arise from such ontology. In such intensity of living colour, the finer shades and gentler lines are easily effaced or passed over, buried or rejected in favour of the strong line and bold hue. Purity of vision, like that of love, demands a sensitivity of emotion easily throttled by the joys and anguish of living, no matter its adventure or its banality.

If our lives, and hence our art, are to have any value beyond that of the fodder which they have come to be, then perhaps it lies in taking a steady hard look at ourselves, reflecting upon such a glance’s incumbent ramifications within a life free of the burdens of preconceptions and the habits of loneliness. Perhaps it is a question of breaking out of the confines of depression and struggling joyfully to find a new language. A language with which to express the same landscape now seen bright with a different light. Not withdrawing but projecting, coupled with an all too real need not to manipulate, no matter the context.

All of which is just trying to say that sometimes it is just so damn difficult to simply act, in full awareness of a certain absence, to spew forth what may appear as a mere fester of the heart, saying knowing full well that maybe our fears are justified. These very words we wrest being the stake in the coffin and our behaviour a mere signature of ignorance: the blindness which comes from embrace and tears so readily shed upon the bursting forth of gratitude.