IN RESPONSE TO A CALL FROM QOQQOON WEBZINE ON HOW TO BE AN ARTIST: A BRIEF EXCHANGE BETWEEN A PAINTER AND A BLACK MONOCHROME PAINTING.
PAINTER: Black Monochrome Painting, I’m looking forward to trying to answer QOQQOON’s call on “how to be an artist” with you.
BLACK MONOCHROME PAINTING: (Visual sound of low pitch scale.)
P: Well, we have been working together for some time now. Could you share some insights on “how to be an artist” in relation to painting so that student artists in particular might benefit?
BMP: The painting is not interested in “how to be an artist”, that is for the artist to decide. The painting is interested in being a painting. There is the artist. There is the painting.
P: You are so precise but can you expand on these two positions?
BMP: The artist decides who they are and what they want to achieve through painting. The artist discovers their identity as a painter through painting but must be careful of the self-fulfilling prophecy, “I the Painter” which must be rejected to commit fully to the painting process and to the black monochrome painting proper. The painter is the painter. The painting is the painting.
P: Can you please elaborate?
BMP: The painting is not the artist nor is the artist the painting. There is recognition of each other, but they are not mirrors for each other. Each are separate entities situated across from each other. The painter and painting do not exchange forms. If the painter is perceptive, the painting is appropriate for human perception, the surface is a field for vision to focus within. The painter’s vision is their own. The painting’s surface is its own.
P: Interesting. I have always considered painting to be a place of exchange between painter and painting, an equal flowing exchange. Do you think the two entities are equal if they are across from each other?
BMP: The black monochrome painting is not interested in equality. Equality has nothing to do with artists and painting. Equality or its counterpart, inequality, suggests a relationship between painter and painting as a major factor. Relationship is a minor factor from the painting’s perspective although a major factor to the painter. The black monochrome painting is more interested in a working contract.
P: Can you explain the difference between a relationship and the contract?
BMP: A relationship is connection, association, disassociation, the fact or state of having something in common and discovering, through time, what those commonalities might or might not be. A contract is a formal agreement to fulfill an obligation.
P: Could you expand on how a painter enters into the contract with the black monochrome painting?
BMP: First, the painter should recognize that they are an agent who facilitates the welfare of the painting—must be informed on historical and contemporary issues related to painting—be defined by commitment to painting—be willing to explore materials related to painting—should have a clear understanding of what the intention is for the painting. The painter should negate what it is they are not doing with painting work to arrive at what they are doing with painting work. The painting is always ready to begin the contract.
P: That is a lot to digest.
BMP: You requested expansion.
P: Yes and what about communication between painter, painting, and viewer?
BMP: Communication is written into the contract. The painting communicates directly. The painting is a direct and indirect autonomous plane. The painter learns about communication through painting. The viewer is a voyeur of the result of painting work and brings their own set of complications and filters based on their own experiences to the viewing process. The painting has a minor interest in the viewer. The painting is interested in being a painting.
P: You have repeated your position which makes me consider mine.
BMP: Repetition brings awareness.
P: I think awareness takes time just as ideas around painting take time to develop. Repetition creates timelessness that confuses the idea of the contract. Doesn’t an agreement to fulfill an obligation indicate finality?
BMP: Not necessarily. Repetition and renewal can be written into the contract. Fulfilling an obligation does not necessarily mean that an agreement is limited by linear time with a beginning, a middle and an end. Finality can be written out of the contract as much as it can be written in. True to the structure of circular time, the end of one cycle marks the beginning of the next. The new cycle can repeat the previous cycles. Think of a circular contract only with corners.
P: This is getting deep. You are bringing together the contract, perception, time, cycles, autonomy and repetition. Does the end of one cycle marking another, mean that the same one painting is being repeated? This sounds like one of Ad Reinhardt’s most fundamental principles. Reinhardt, who consumed the last years of his practice and life making the same painting over and over again. Did you work with the artist?
BMP: I am Reinhardt conscious. Reinhardt was aware of the black monochrome painting as a catalyst to go beyond a certain evolutionary point in painting. To go beyond, the artist must first understand the mechanisms of the phenomenon they seek to surpass. They must understand the mechanisms of another artist, or the gradual developments of an art movement that came before (such as Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square, 1915), which presupposes a conscious and/or unconscious retracing of earlier stages.
P: Do you think Reinhardt was consciously or unconsciously retracing steps of Malevich’s Black Square? Did he ever go beyond this gesture?
BMP: Both conscious and unconscious. One way that Reinhardt gained on Malevich’s monochrome painting was by using black differently. Malevich initially covered previously applied colour, forms and shapes—he covered complete paintings with black paint. Whereas Reinhardt mixed colour to create near black, covering only the prepared surface and then applied multiple layers of the same colour. The gesture was the same in terms of shape, the square stamped the timeline, imprinting the black monochrome painting as an endless and timeless art form.
P: How can it really be a timeless art form or endless? I’m still confused about time and timelessness.
BMP: The black monochrome painting responds to the historical moment. It is timeless and timely. It falls away and reappears, initiated by another artist or art movement. It remains the black monochrome painting as humanity moves through or succumbs to life experiences like war, genocide, oppression and so on. Imagine the timeline of humanity with the contract hovering slightly above waiting for the next artist/s to enter the contract.
P: Sounds like an unidentified flying object?
BMP: Not at all. It is most definitely, identifiable to those who wish to enter the contract and commit to consumption of every other colour and shape to free art from the dead weight of the world and its depictions through representational art.
–Carolyn Stockbridge, October 2021