Maurice Merleau-Ponty

#11. Craig Staff writes on ‘Real Painting’

Angela de la Cruz, "Compressed 1", 2010

Angela de la Cruz, “Compressed 1”, 2010

With thanks to the Castlefield Gallery, Manchester, who commissioned this essay to coincide with their exhibition: Real Painting,12 June 2015 — 2 August 2015 with work by Simon Callery, Adriano Costa, Deb Covell, Angela de la Cruz, Lydia Gifford, David Goerk, Alexis Harding, Jo McGonigal, DJ Simpson, Finbar Ward

Painting qua painting (as noun and verb)

Tell him of things. He will stand astonished.1

Writing in Hapticity and Time: Notes on Fragile Architecture, Juhani Pallasmaa speaks of the need, at least in relation to the experiential basis of the discipline the paper was originally directed towards, to reinstate “opacity and depth, sensory invitation and discovery, mystery and shadow.”2 As a way of highlighting this apparent sensory gap or caesura, Pallasmaa seeks recourse to, inter alia, the writings of Maurice Merleau-Ponty (philosopher and author of Phenomenology of Perception, 1945):

“My perception is [therefore] not a sum of visual, tactile, and audible givens: I perceive in a total way with my whole being: I grasp a unique structure of the thing, a unique way of being, which speaks to all my senses at once.” 3

On one level, Pallasmaa’s foregrounding of embodied experience, an emphasis he sought to inscribe as the means whereby the perceived “loss of materiality and temporal experience” could be countered, rehearses a particular set of debates that marked the project of late modernism and more specifically, Minimalism.4 Whilst the latter’s adoption of Merleau-Ponty’s ideas have been well rehearsed, the conditions of possibility for the continuation of this approach after Minimalism remains a compelling question.

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