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2007 02 26
Angle of Incident #42: Seminar 4, Rethinking the Status of the Natural, Part 7
Lisa Hirmer brought to the table some useful material by the extraordinary Octavio Paz:
“Nature has no history, but its forms are the living embodiment of all the styles of the past, present, and future. I have seen the birth, the full flowering, and the decline of the Gothic style in rocks in the valley of Kabul. In a pond covered with green scum – full of little stones, aquatic plants, frogs, tiny monsters – I have recognized both the temple sculpture of the Bayon at Angkor and one of the periods of Max Ernst. The form and plan of the buildings of Teotihuacán are a replica of the Valley of Mexico, but this landscape is also a prefiguration of Sung painting. The microscope reveals that the formula of the Tibetan tankas is already hidden in certain cells. The telescope shows me that Tamayo is not only a poet but also an astronomer. White clouds are the quarries of the Greeks and the Arabs. I am bemused by planta encantada, obsidian covered with a vitreous, opalescent white substance: Monet and his followers. There is no escaping the fact: nature is better at abstract art than at figurative art.

Modern abstract painting has taken one of two forms: a search for essences (Kandinsky, Mondrian), or the naturalism of Anglo-American abstract expressionists. The founders of the school wanted to get away from nature, to create a world of pure forms or reduce all forms to their essence. In this sense, the first abstract painters could be called idealists. Americans have not taken their inspiration from nature, but they have decided to work in the same way as nature. The act or the gesture of painting is more or less the ritual double of the natural phenomenon. Painting is like the action of sun, water, salt, fire, or time on things. To a certain degree abstract painting and natural phenomena are an accident: the sudden, unforeseen intersection of two or more series of events. Many times the result is striking: these paintings are fragments of living matter, chunks sliced out of the cosmos or heated to a seething boil.”

Octavio Paz, Alternating Current (New York: Arcade Publishing, 1990), pp.28-29.

Georgia Ydreos finished the afternoon with her presentation of the essence of an extraordinarily exciting article in The Architectural Review, Vol.207, May 2000, by Juhani Pallasmaa titled “Hapticity and Time”.

And then we all made our various ways into Reading Week. An abstract of Seminar 5 will appear here on Wednesday, February 28.

[email this story] Posted by Gary Michael Dault on 02/26 at 06:20 AM

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