In the representation of these glass bottles… if that is what it is… if that is what they are… (a representation)… if anything is being represented, if anything that can be represented is what is being expressed here.…(is being represented here).
The purity of form and the lucent texture from which it is inseparable. Two aspects of the means of expression of an image – especially important in augmenting the explicit content of a painting.
The real bottles are hidden by paint and an enveloping haze of light. Painted to show their ‘paintedness’, to show the light that must have an object in order to be shown (and what better than glass to trap it). But the light, like the bottles, is also finally in thrall to the layers of paint… paint and the reflexes of the viewer – decoder of codes, discoverer of mysteries. Bringer of mysteries, also in thrall to the layers of paint…
Priority of Form (I). Stylized, simplified. Perhaps a kind of minimalism, a formalism, with the ideal as result… The simplicity a reference to oriental art (not mimetic but representing a mood or ideal). The ‘minimal’ style as a blend of the Beautiful and the Sublime. Again as in Oriental art, where the abstract stylization of ‘decorative’ forms conveys a reference to eternal form (sublimity) along with the usual sense of Beauty. So these works, in their lightness and stylization, bathed in a light which is inseparable from the style, succeed in capturing a moment of beauty, a Still Life reduced to one kind of object, and yet, with their veiled resisting appearance, resisting reduction to a realistic object, leading to an extra layer of meaning. In all suggesting the mystery of the sublime… So, in plainer English, the visual pleasure of Morandi’s bottles is laced with more than a hint of the otherworldly.
Spirit world. Evoked by an array of bottles now largely emptied of spirit.
Comprehension always seems to require a measure of incomprehension, a moment of puzzlement (as in the meaningless ‘purple passages’ of classical rhetoric. Otherwise put, realism, the appearance of referentiality, requires a (not immediately recuperable) non-referential element to signal artistic value, a sense often carried by the texture or means of expression (black and white photography, brushstrokes). A kind of redundancy, in terms of communication theory, that turns representation into art (in the absence of a further en-framing institution).But more on the resisting, redundancy of texture below…
Priority of Form (II). Showing priority even in its moment of semi-evaporation, in the evaporation of form, in its purification, or transformation… its merging with light…beauty abstracted. Revealing the sublime element hidden in the everyday, hidden away as part of the ‘everyday’ object… as was… Now no longer so… Transformed by the codes of reading attending: the presence of a frame… and the illusionism of paint, of the two-dimensional image and the stylization that marks the type and individuality of the illusion, including its colour, line and texture. Simplification and evaporation of the line.
So a consideration of form offers a transition to the consideration of texture.
Texture: the aspect of the art work as ‘Thing’, its materiality, matter itself, not the object (represented, the content of expression) but the illusionism of the means of expression - the mood of the means of expression. For the beauty of these bottles is not a product, even a by-product, of the connotations of the bottles as content (nor the content of the bottles) but their painterly texture… their near evaporation into pure light, or simplified, rarified form. A theatre with paint as star! Foregrounding technique. Result: sacrality.
Whatever it is that matters most. The heart of the matter. What matters to us.
The value conferring gift of humanity; that we confer on our others as gift.
Content-led. An enquiry into the meaning of empty bottles…. No content; that is, to the bottles… Or we cannot know, only guess or assume as to previous (past) or intended (future) content… (with a trace of the utopian to be found in their possible content, now past, as alcoholic, as intoxicating…). Yet with respect to the bottles themselves, we only need to pose the question of their everydayness, or ‘as if’ part of a found moment of the everyday, to see the inadequateness of this approach: for whether represented as unreal (stylised) or as representations (their represented-ness fore-grounded in their texture) they appear as something lifted out of reality (as referent or as sign). Used (to be used again, in absentia, in effigy, in image). Discarded (to be recycled, reborn - on a symbolic plane). One kind of function (transport, storage) is past. Their aesthetic function is a matter of their existence as art. As artifice, framed.
So the search for content reference leads us to the nature of containers, of the frame. Of the significance of putting into frame. The most objective line of reference, or the most socially significant, not surprisingly leads back the most subjective of solutions. But an observation as to collective subjectivity as also an objective fact.
Leaving another kind of function… A refection on the value of waste; as beyond value as worthless, or as ‘priceless’ (if we go ‘up’ instead of ‘down’). The most valued… the sacrificial object… to be comprehended through ritual theory and art as ritual… the simplest route roots the . Evaporation (here the ‘going up’ of the depicted, en-framed, content) as the transformation of the thing as we witness it; its witnessing as the key ritual aspect of the artwork; our reconfirmation as amongst those who may perceive such acts of transformation, such surprising rediscoveries of value in the world… (so either denying or contrasting its fallen nature). As amongst those who may incite such acts of transformation, such surprising recreations of value in the world… (so either denying or contrasting our fallen nature)…
Culture as fallen Nature redeemed – if only through an appropriation of waste.
Culture as fallen
(The Romantic solution contains within itself this grain of truth; the positing of Nature as sacred value is such, if we would have it so… so justifying conservation, which just may be our salvation).
…if only through an appropriation of waste.
(As, technically, all that we do not appropriate to the cause of the commodity and its production, and the reason that subtends its organization, is waste…)
Valueless, as valued, as found containing the most valuable thing… Even here we can find the trace of the sacred. Even here we can offer the possibility of its transfiguration. Amid all the destruction and waste that is our species gift to the world we live in, we can do this; find beauty in the lowest of things. Our redemptive point; our species redemption?
But then a bottle is a container… holding out the promise of the content object as in our service, a promise of good things, and an echo of other spaces, our self, room, place in the world (both psychologically and experientially, as well as physically). Home. Whose home? The genie in the bottle. Another variation on genius loci?
Copyright Peter Nesteruk, 2012.