I presuppose appearance. ( Before the first glimpse, before the first hint of its arrival, I know, or act as though I know the conditions of a particular painting's appearance (ing). I am before a painting as though the inscrutable workings of my vision conceive its appearance, as though knowledge of what it means to appear inhabits (already) my eyes. Of course, I have no such knowledge - I have instead a vacancy. Elsewhere I have written that I've started to think of painting in less material, medium-oriented terms (as a skin) and now wonder about it as an absence - a without. But the fundamental nature of this withdrawal seems less specific to the medium paint, and even to the genre of painting (which, as the place of the picture, is the most salient example of the kind of withdrawal that interests me), but belongs instead to the remove of the visible, to the dissolution of objects as appearances.2 It occurs to me now that I must retouch this statement. I must recall it, and recast it to account for the question of appearances. What does it mean then to say that a painting appears? Is it useful to think of appearance as something like the figuring of entities - and if we find figures in the world must we also find (or must we first find) faces? Or perhaps appearances designate an absolute perimeter, a barrier that restricts the probing touch of perception with the supple intervention of a mutable skin. If so, is it tenable to argue for the existence of paintings behind their appearances - for paintings which are, at once, both concealed beyond and constitutive of their own visibility? Or, in the final analysis, does the problem of appearances call to mind, as I have already suggested, "a skin without a lining"3? If we take Heidegger seriously, the very nature of a painting's visibility precludes our understanding of it as concealed beyond and constitutive of within its own appearing. To take this route is to commit a double-error. On the one hand, this way of thinking (past the visible) tells us nothing about a painting that it does not also tell us about a toothbrush, or a lampshade, or a hubcap 4. To regard the question of a painting's appearance as one of certain import is to presuppose that a painting distinguishes itself from other things-bearing-aspects, or, more precisely, that our relatedness to a painting (to a painting that we take to be important) is fundamentally a matter of distinction. On the other hand, having established such a ratio5 (a thing to its characteristics) we come no closer to an essential understanding of appearance, and only give sense to the visible in so far as we cause it to imbibe a kind of meter .6 Thinking of the appearance of a painting as the figuring of an entity also leaves us vulnerable to error. The most salient instance of this hinges on a particular understanding of how figuring corresponds to the visibility of the thing. If we take this figuring to be a calling forth, on the part of consciousness, of our most proximal experience - that of the body - then we are left in the end to account for a presence that institutes figuring without first having prior notice. A painting, in other words, is always in the world before it is perceived, and is pre-figured in this sense. If, however, we do not take this figuring to be the creative faculty of a subject making objects in its image - if, instead we understand the figuring of a painting as issuing from an inviolable elsewhere, then what concerns us here is not at all figuring , but instead pre-figuring.. In other words, the question of how a painting appears comes to rest at the lip of the inviolable elsewhere - at the precipice of all appearance.7 How, then, do we describe this elsewhere? It is the event of arrival. It is "the lighting clearing of the There"8 (It is, for me, both the occurrence of the painting - the There of the painting - and the absolutely coincidental event of its being viewed. Or, more precisely, it is the cohabitation of a painting and a viewer in the visible. The appearance of a painting is therefore an event of relation - one that is compromised if I consider the painting as merely another object (in which case its visibility withers, ushered from sight by the trenchant demands of the object/subject model). But the relation is also strained if I take the painting to be the sum of its sensible attributes, in which case the painting becomes too proximal, too open to touch, and is lost in the self-concerned recesses of the body. (The gap between too far and too near is the space of extraordinary painting. It is this gap that inaugurates the dissolution of objects as appearances. It is a place of drifting - a hesitation between concealing proximity and disclosing withdrawal.
I have often said that I require abstraction to be specific - to its appearance, to its situation. ( It seems to me now that this specificity - the requisite quality that causes me to look to photography and film for source material - is what calls to the body from the recesses of abstraction. It is that which opens itself to be sensed, which makes itself available for interrogation by the body, and which reveals something of the nature of the body's coincidence with the world. Put simply, the kind of specificity * require of my marks insures that they carry with them an odor of the extant, thereby making them available, if only obliquely, to the senses. But this in turn begs a further question: how are we to imagine a kind of appearance that makes itself available to something other than the senses? In this regard, some simple definitions of my own are in order. ( To begin with, we might ask how we are to understand the odor of the extant ? It is, in its usage here, the aspect of appearance that invites the visible to the realm of the familiar. Insofar as the familiar is proximal, it is also lucid and is consumed, accordingly, in its own transparency. The word "is" is familiar, as is the cup on the table. A weather report is familiar, and also the visage we see in the mirror when we brush our teeth. The familiar is that which vanishes into its use - whether this use is fundamentally semiotic, or to do, more precisely, with a task of the body extended in its world is of little distinction here. What is important to the conception of the familiar that I am now advancing is that it implicates, at its most essential level, the daily exchanges between a being and a world. (The other kind of experience that makes itself available to us we shall designate the "abstract". Our experience here is not untouched by our always-immanent relation to a world, yet the character of our proximity has changed, and so has our relation to the visible. Deleuze has termed this distinction between the familiar and the abstract as a difference between figure and abstraction. Accordingly, he has stated that "Figure is the sensible form related to sensation; it acts immediately on the nervous system, which is of the flesh. Abstract form, on the other hand is directed to the brain, and acts through the brain closer to the bone."10 Abstract form does not exist apart from the body, but it subsists on duration, and is characterized by being visible and remaining visible, by not vanishing into a subjugating task or register, but by sustaining itself as a contingency within a larger set of things that are. But the abstract cannot sustain itself, as itself, indefinitely. It is compelled to negotiate, to correspond with the familiar. It is made to take into itself the measure of the world, and to become, therefore, familiar. But in becoming thus familiar, the abstract has not decayed, it has merely drifted, and returns again to its own reserve, even as the perceiving consciousness attempts to fix it in place. But the familiar and the formal open again to other sets - the peculiar and the familiar or the particular and the historical - or perhaps it would be appropriate to designate this difference as the painting -itself and the object "painting". The first set, the painting-itself, is that which we might in turn designate the in frame . It is literally that which shows itself, demonstrates a presence and occasions our viewing (from within the gap). But it is also that which intimates the other set, the set of possible paintings, of paintings already made but out of sight and therefore out of frame - of paintings not yet made but nevertheless wholly imaginable - of, in other words, the object "painting" . In turn, the object "painting" constitutes the ground against which imaginable paintings are made manifest, ( and it is this exchange, between the in frame and out of frame (which is, at its heart, the valence of the visible and the imaginable) that calls my work to a mood of narration. It is the reciprocity between the in frame and out of frame that inaugurates a narrative space within my work, and that distinguishes this space from, but is contiguous with, a painting's visible, sensible space. ( It makes of each painting a kind of simultaneous arrival and departure - both within the space of abstract painting, and on the face of particular works. The extent to which a sense of narrative sustains itself within a given work - as opposed to a narrative drift across a body of work - is attributable both to the inward regression of sets and subsets within a painting and to the stuttering of particular marks, which themselves vacillate between possible readings and imaginable sets. But these perambulations are already giving rise to another question: if, as I have proposed we can speak of the visible, and the not-yet-visible in painting, how should we regard the utterly nonvisible. In this respect, Deleuze states the following: In itself, or as such, the out of field already has two qualitatively different aspects: a relative aspect by means of which a closed system refers in space to a set which is not seen, and which can in turn be seen, even if this gives rise to a new unseen set, on to infinity; and an absolute aspect by which the closed system opens onto a duration which is immanent to the whole universe, which is no longer a set and does not belong to the order of the visible... In one case, the out-of-field designates that which exists elsewhere, to one side or around; in the other case, the out-of-field testifies to a more disturbing presence, one which cannot even be said to exist, but rather to 'insist' or 'subsist', a more radical elsewhere, outside homogenous space and time.11 This notion of a "radical elsewhere" is essential to the way ( understand my work. At its extreme limits, painting has the capacity to intimate the possibility of an unknowable sublime, of the painting which can never be made and which belongs to an order beyond the visible that nevertheless makes seeing possible, and extends the act of framing into infinite duration.
Hard, hard plastic