Words on GO 2
Tamar GetterApril, 2010
Meeting the public at the Tel Aviv Museum
The turn in my work, during the last decade, from conventional painting to painting –installations, has to do with the intensification of my disposition towards photography and cinema. Incautiously one could say that I paint "frozen" films. More incautious would be to say that I paint "frozen" screens. Evidently, it is not cautious to describe the works in this fashion, for that which constantly runs in our minds is no movie, and occurs on no screen. (Even if the use of daily language has made us forget this: the words 'episode' and 'story' seem to cover a lot of our inner activities)
Life is not episodes, or "cuts" or "parts". To begin with, it is to add, life is not ordered. What could be thought of as ordered, is a question not simple, and not obvious at all.
Here, maybe, is a starting point for telling you something about my work. For sure, it bothers itself with the arrest of action, or with a stoppage.
Lapidification of an action, and more than this, the fate of an action to freeze, is at the center of the big painting installations, and the very case of my video works, which literally are "frozen screens".
I deal with fragments, with "flashes", examining possible contiguities, juxtapositions… The inherent diffluence and temporariness of associations is a constant fascination for me, their ever-shifting spectrums… their flexibility.
Physically, my painting is made of estimations: distances approximations, placing choices, thoughts about scale, tools, performing body. I think it all amounts to an inquiry into potential rhetorical structures. (A band painting, or chain painting - - you may choose – like in the GO 2 piece, I call a rhetorical structure. A single painting has another rhetorical structure). I say 'potential ', because of the provisional, impermanent and, transient character of my paintings. It has to do with the meaning implied by the recurrent erasures, repetitions, or the remaking of 'the same'. All these are internal to my work method from the very first years and are inscribed both in the final appearance of the works and in my reflections on their preparatory procedures. By this, I refer to how I may study a form: doing it hundreds of times, until I do it in the work, a manner by which I question notions such as 'preparation study', or 'plan', for it is difficult to say that my studies prepare anything for me. Quite the opposite; in fact, any 'do it again' ever presents me with next time as first time… I can say that this is a subject in my work.
Probably herewith arises the public concern on the piece GO 2 (it gave its name to the show as a whole) when I am asked about why band painting? Why not hang paintings 'normally', put a unit and then another unit, and another…
One possible answer: Because of pieces of continuity; because of a cut succession, because continuity of cuts, because cutting a cut, because of a cut of a cutting, because of a cut of non-piece of non-continuum, in non-cut succession that is being cut….
… Because such are the traits and the questions composing GO2.
Here from, thoughts on the segment and the whole, a fragment and continuity, I become curious in a phrase from "The Last Days" of the French author Raymond Queneau:
“History is a flow that does not move.”
History is a flow, and it does not move. A still flow.
Already the name "Tel-Hai" – Tel (mound) --- Hai (alive), (Tel: does not move, Hai: a flow) encapsulates the issue hinted in Queneau's phrase. Indeed the oxymoron meets a painter in the face, so to speak: A person, living in a given time, he/she has a body, a spendable organism, a one becoming less and less, stands in front of his still, "Morte" canvas, the object that is literally devoid of movement, and time. (By saying so, I do not forget that paintings too are one way or the other spendable…) So, what is Time, and what is Life, and what is Movement in front of this inanimate, still, mute, fixated frozen object?
But the declarative “History is a flow that does not move”, resonates far beyond Art or artistic issues, and its main force, for me, is that it is altogether 'outside' Art. Thereby I may confront it when I make paintings.
Chronology and causality, (what we call "History"), lack the power to put reality - the evaporating living stuff, the rustle of flux and vortex of sights and sounds which is us - in order. Life materia lacks transcription, edit. It does not lend itself to documentation. It does not lend itself to any story, any narrative. Or: there are infinite stories, infinite narratives, pieces that never add up to a whole, circles that will never close...
Circles in my paintings are no metaphor; they are present events: a situation.
Now: the "This" of that which is present (either in front of you or in your memory) is fated to collapse in an attempt to be reconstructed, to be told. It is collapsed from the beginning. If it is thought of as a structure than it is in advance - a ruin. This is the thing (in fact it is hardly 'a thing' at all) which collapses in advance in each attempt to create an order: we and our lives, we and our memories, we and now, we and this.
From what I say, you may feel why I get suspicious and restless once a common conversation about "images" of a/the Painting takes place. Because it assumes that the images are in the world before the painting, that they are prior to it as if coming from some 'outside' into it, where they are supposed to undergo this or that "artistic treatment". Even in religious Painting, text or myth bound as it is, the painter and the painting are never importers of images. The event of Painting and the act that it is are fundamentally different. Alas, we have been taught otherwise, and thus our gaze at paintings has been castrated.
An image, once thought of separately from its regular designation as storage of schemes, is a strange being: it is more than representation and less than a thing, as Bergson says. This thought builds on the idea and on the assumption that there is a reality of the mind, and there is a reality of the matter. The memory is an intersection of mind and matter.
"Tel-Hai" and "GO 2" are names of paintings – from the inside so to say: Painting is a Tel-Hai, (a living ruin).When it is successful - so I mean it - in its best chance, in its desire, in its desire to be. To be – that is – that which is outside history, or not in history. Outside history – I say – is not in a story. The desire to be is bound by the acknowledgement of that which obeys no telling. So, while Painting, on the other hand, is none else but a 'story' try, it wants, and wants nothing other than to order something… This is, then, its inherent paradox: it is possible to say that Painting wants exactly what it is not. So: Tel/Hai. And the chance? Where resides the chance of Painting in such a hapless situation? Is it when Painting succeeds to reflect its condition, see itself, see to itself? It seems to me that if a painting I make comes out right, than it is : Tel-Hai. If it fails, than it is only a Tel (ruin, mound). Most paintings in the world are no more than Tel.
The Tel-Hai paintings (1974-78) are not a historical document, and they are not an historical Kommentar. Essentially, Painting is neither this nor that. Now, what happens when a painting, which is neither this nor that, addresses a historical event? Here, it necessarily stumbles upon itself, its 'body', and me, on my part, upon my own body. Thus, we are stuck against together; body against body. In this encounter, may be, there will be created (formed) an image. Will be created – maybe – that which is more than representation (Darstellung), and less than a thing (Ding).
In a certain sense, from here all start for me, the game of my paintings opens. This is its playing ground. That is also the reason why I chose to include parts of my Tel-Hai cycle from the 70's in the GO 2 show.
I should also tell you that the GO 2 show is not a retrospective, but rather a selection of ideas and thoughts active in my work over the years.
As the name "Tel-Hai" is literally written in the paintings, also the name "GO" is inscribed in many of them, not only in those present here, in this show.
Already for to write with a brush, smooth and continuously, flowing, simple, exact, with no drippings etc' etc', a word so short as 'GO', and do it in big letters, first the 'G', and then the 'O', there are problems to be solved. The dragging of paint by a brush is limited; the paint runs out before the form is done, before I finish the movement to make it… In the midst of the 'G', my 'G' is lost, and with it gone is my 'GO'. The painting announces from within move, get on, go, while it is already "stuck". Already a halt, stoppage, already no precession, already a question: how to get on? Already an hindrance, already a fixation, already a cut, already a seam, a suture, already punctuation, already spacing, already partition, segmentation, fragmentation…. And already repetition. I think you follow what I am telling you. Already my body, and already the material of the painting body are in a strange encounter. It is my labor to introduce, to visualize this encounter.
Here's the 'G'. Three brush movements make this 'G': the straight line over the curve of the half circle is a real barrier; the end of the half circle, that which will not let this circle to roll.
From the 70's until now, I build and nourish my paintings on the gaze into, and performance of such simple events. That is what I do, and show; I invent all sorts of very simple painting events, and wonder about them.
I do not like layered paintings, encoded painting, "overcooked" paintings. I like paintings of one layer, of a floating line, a painting that all of it is skeletal and thin as possible: a membrane at level zero, lacking depth, erasable… The surface of my painting is always zeroed towards a primal act: "hit (exactly) and run".
And NO story. The movement is that of the viewer. The viewer is to stumble upon the question of movement, the question of Tel/Hai.
Few more remarks:
There is no space between the divine speech "Let there be light", and the divine action "and there was light". The phrase from book of Genesis is grand in what it opens and in what it seals. It is a marvel storing our envy, desire and utmost zeal: how to lessen the gap between an idea and an act. In our human state, divine it shall not be ever; because of the body.
The body, the body in space, the body in action, has instructed my painting over the years. Most of my thoughts in the paintings pertain to the body.
It is met on their immediate appearance, what habitually, and as said before, not too happily, is called "the image": what is there to see is some relation between a body and a structure, often an abode. Chalices and Corpses deals literally with a body – a human corpse, and a geometrical body – the chalice. (In Hebrew, the word for 'body' is 'Goof', and 'corpse' is 'Goofa'.)
When I say 'divine it shall not be ever', it is the last thing on my mind to make you think of the case of the body in terms of disillusionment, or downfall. To the contrary, in fact, in my paintings the body never lets down. Given my vast collection of amputees, I should add; in none of its states; not in its beauty, and not in its ugliness, not in its perfection, and not in its imperfection, not in its vitality and not in its disintegration.
(In this context let me add: Giotto's circle is merely a colossal silly joke for me. None else than Vasari's lack of imagination when it gets to give an account of the greatness of a spirit of a painter. Every idiot can draw a perfect circle free-hand! Even me.)
Imperfection, ugliness and disintegration are perceived in our world, as horrors. Not so in my paintings. About 'none of its states' - trust my word - I bother a great deal… It is my deal. And it is my task to show it through and by most of my inventions: those pertaining to the choice of tools and modes of the works, those in regard with the formats sizes as well as the figures put on it, against which I set up my body at work.
The issue is not the downfall of man. The corporal is explicatory, instructive, its worth as a motor, as a compressor of the spirit. This is where I take interest in the body.
You might have come across the popular exegesis according to which the world had been created in the mouth, ('Phhéh', in Hebrew). In this particular orifice, as well as in this two letters – in Hebrew – 'p' and 'h', which in Hebraic graphics can be folded one into the other.
“History is a flow that does not move” is an expression of incapability by the same measure that it is an expression of desire for that fold of the 'Ph' in the 'H'.
Here, in this fold, where there is no space between creator and creation, (where atmen/utterance and being are one and the same) resides the question of beauty. Once you have aimed yourself here -- and that is a feeling, no less and no more than a feeling - - you are struck by the curse of History. Art is made towards the 'P', and the 'H', and by this, it sees the nakedness of History.
Eric Rohmer once said that what enchants him is what liberates him from an obsession, that is, justifies the obsession in that it establishes a relation between him and the world – a relation that can be revealed only through a feeling for beauty.
This speaks my heart; between him and the world; it is not a story of the self, but of the world.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is my last remark for this evening:
That all these paintings are indeed about beauty. I am not sure I can identify here another desire. There have been plenty of attempts to shift the discourse about Painting, art in general, to other domains. At times successful, they remain partial, and often untrue. If Painting seeks the metaphysical, it has the one choice to settle in the aesthetic. So that you do not get me wrong, let me add this: Marcel Duchamp or Goya belong in this region.
I look into the rustle of flux and vortex of sights and sounds refusing an order, I deal with fragments and fragmentation, and I invent rhetorical structures in a wish for beauty: the hope not to be in history.
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