:: Soul Of The Devil Did Ye Think Me Dead?! ::

Shape    Soul    Ubiquity    Swift    Liminal    Out There    Vitality    Beyond    Evo Beauty

:: 2016 :: 25cm x 35cm :: Acrylics, Inks, Markers and UV Lacquer on Canvas ::

There is now a vast array of archaeological data - largely ignored by contemporary art theory and criticism - which supports the idea that painting in one form or another (including body painting with red ochre as perhaps the earliest practice) is coterminous with the emergence of the cognitively-modern human species in Southern Africa some 110-130 thousand years ago. When one compares the enormous time depth of this evidence with the superficial, hundred-year-old Modernist proposal that painting is now dead (inexplicably so from cognitive and anthropological perspectives), it often seems like the 'death' of painting is not so much an empirical observation so much as an ideological and iconoclastic killing. This is evoked here, where an episode from James Joyce's 'Finnegans Wake' is used to suggest that contemporary art critics are actively seeking to suppress painting.

Towards the beginning of Joyce's complex, mythical and dreamlike novel, a wake is held for the primordial giant Finnegan just as a new world is unfolding. One of the attendees accidentally spills whiskey (Old Irish, uisce beatha, 'water of life') on the corpse and he awakes in surprise, attempting to get up - "Anam muck an dhoul! Did you drink me doornail?!", which Joseph Campbell and Henry Morton Robinson interpret as 'Soul of the devil! Did you think me dead?' - but they hold him down and tell him to rest now, to return to sleep and into death. As Campbell and Morton Robinson conclude, in the creation of a new world, it would be unthinkable for the old giant, on whose corpse the new world is built, to come alive again.

The resonance with the Modernist ideology of the 'death' of painting should be obvious: critics seek to kill painting regardless of its deep salience for artistic practice because it no longer fits with their ideologies of how artists should be, their narrow art theoretical purviews unable to penetrate into wider and deeper domains which demonstrate what humans, artists included, are actually like. This artwork thus depicts the scene in Finnegans Wake, with critics as the attendees and the waking Finnegan symbolising painting. In the UV image, Finnegan is fully awake, departing from the Joycean episode, intimating that unlike poor Finnegan, painting cannot be so easily suppressed.

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Shape Of A Mind

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