The paintings are about perception. or they make use of perception. perception of spaces, which are then reconfigured in the drawing/painting of the painting. attention to textures.
But they are not painted perceptually. possibly in parts, like to get the light in the mirror, etc. But I see a lot of love in the making of the painting, to get everything to sit, to make everything important, to show a range of textures and surfaces.
I think the small scale has to do with the control of the painting. of making the painting. intimist painting. push pull, the faces to the spaces, also has to do with it. looks like optical illusions are at play, like the corner of the table sitting in front of the guys pants, but sits on the floor behind the same guy. the guy with the striped shirt (maybe i am looking at it wrong). there is interest in the way we move through the space here. contrasts of light, light sources and pockets of light.
i have a better time agreeing with the pastiche, to call it that. chuck close comes in as the grasshopper on the bottom left, and sits in front of the figure behind. flattened in. but the painter is aware of that here. a play between the absurd spaces and the percieved perspectival spaces.
the paintings make me think of john koch and stanley spencer. like spencer if he had worked from photo reference rather than drawings in his invented paintings. …how do we define narrative? i don’t know that a story is taking place here, at least in this specific painting. but they are involved with relationships, both between the figures in the painting and..between the model and artist. these are his friends, family. chuck close is obviously a good buddy. i bet the bug spike thing is an inside joke. like when lennart anderson painted a ladder for laderman.
there is more of a narrative with the other paintings off the link. i assume the recurring figure on the left is him, and on the right is a wife. in their house….
they are narrative. gregory gillespie kinda thing. the one with the open bathrobe make me think of a gillespie where he is seated with arms raised in a victory pose. cool lights, warm lights. male female, floating grounded. real world perceptual vs. fantastic imagery. alligator tails. sharp and soft. lots of consideration here. i can enjoy the painting without being overwhelmed with the wierdness. the way we move through the contrasts.
There’s a sense that he’s chosen a format at the outset, and then deliberately contradicted it at every small juncture: this is a 1) real/natural/perception-based painting, 2) with some kind of ‘read’ implied, of 3) people 4) in a space.
(these numbers aren’t related to the questions in my last post)
i guess there isn’t a larger image available. we need some hi res. is that an orange in his hand?
says that these aren’t his house, or even a real observed living space, but that the interiors come in parts, from interior design magazines. which I, for example, have no problem with. the fact that it is all from photographs, figures and spaces.
i really like these. a lot. they seem really distinct and fresh.
i think they are small to notch up the tension of the illusion. to keep them hovering in that photographic territory and to make the precision of the rendering really satisfying on a level that pushes them beyond the photo.
they feel a bit like finding some contraband family photo album. the one where you keep your embarrasing pictures you know, the ones from the mid-eighties. pegged jeans, colored plastic-framed glasses, mullets, and the odd naked baby pictures (or in this case, naked old man pictures). and the pictures of crazy relatives.
Four for four, so far; everyone likes these paintings. I don’t have much to add about what I like about them. Everyone else has put in good stuff.
So, instead, I’ll just ask: What ARE these paintings about, anyway?
Bill Hawk here at MU has a way of talking of the ‘Aboutness’ of artwork. It’s a great way to think about it (maybe related to the Umberto Eco book Matt B. recommends?). The aboutness could be the intended meaning, symbolism, allegory, narrative/parable. It could be a mindset of the maker, reflected in the work, that speaks to a way of thinking. It could be a position in an ideological battle that a work appears to be taking. It could be the reaction of viewer to the work. It seems like there is an infinite number of possible things that the aboutness of a work could be.
What is the aboutness of Mark Greenwold’s paintings?
The narratives seem too personal.
The use of the photo seems to me like a given.
What is the aboutness?
frankly, I don’t know that I have ever heard a satisfying answer to a question like that….
If we are talking about subject it’s one thing: “I wrote a novel about…the civil war”. aboutness(in this case)= description, basically.
with painting, there is the subject and then there is the painting of the painting. these paintings are dense little poems, very personal, intimate relationships. inside jokes. art historical references, symbols and gestures. not that they are rebus puzzles to be solved.
is the aboutness question stemming from the private-ness of Greenwold’s work? It seems to me that the more conscious, and the more public a work of art is, the more apparent (the more open to discussion) is the ‘aboutness’.
what IS albert york about vs. Hirst…etc
I did try some of Dave Hickey Air Guitar, and he was talking about Cezanne in one essay, one where he compared the experience of looking at Cezanne to seeing a Siegfried and Roy show. Whatever that comparison was about….Hickey described Cezanne from an “aboutness” point of view. This involved all of his art history education: Cezanne as being about the picture plane, as a figure between impressionism and cubism, about volume as shape, etc. …all of the aboutness kept him from experiencing/enjoying the Cezanne. I have a lot of trouble believing painting should be analyzed in such a way.
I think these paintings are impenetrable. While they seem to promise a ‘read’ in the prose sense of the word, they’re actually more like poems. I can’t take them apart and examine the pieces in any way that enriches my experience. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy them.
They do seem full of the logic (we’ll call it logic) of the subconscious, back-brain, individual experience. Dream-like. David Lynch-like.
I agree they are impenetrable. That’s why the term “aboutness”. What resonates? What matters? In spite of the fact that the actual intended meaning is opaque.
Also, any type of analysis has the potential to take the fun out of looking. Plenty of people are turned off by formal analysis too, for just this reason. Still, I can’t imagine how speculating about how a painting as an object fits into the overall culture of similar objects, is something that one wouldn’t want to do…especially if, like most of us, one is engaged in the project of making said objects.
“aboutness” is about a lot of things… yes, it’s about subject matter, but it’s also about the painting of the painting (or making of any work), and about the conditions under which the work was made as well as the notions, constraints, and pressures that the artist felt in their making.
for instance, i was at ruschman yesterday delivering my paintings, and was super excited to get to take a short look at jen’s small works. immediately i felt an “aboutness” in them in regards to the abstracted inner tensions, sort of vignette-like, pushing and pulling, and vortex motions… reminded me of ghiberti’s door panels, actually. so beyond the subject matter of representational depiction, the active design of the work came to my eye in an “about” kind of way.
at ann nathan gallery today i was struck by how much i don’t – in a sense – even SEE the subject matter of majumdar’s work. what i SEE is the making of it – the planar forces, chromatic placement and how colors key off one another, shaping of descriptive, illusion-making elements versus the play of mark-making, pastel and charcoal lines, knifing, masses of neutrally-laid paint next to active, broken areas, etc, etc. all of this stuff is absolutely the ABOUT in his paintings. the subject matter may seem (in my opinion) to be about the transience of people in spaces and how we almost anonymously negotiate these places, and the subtle poetry of all of that. but more than this is the similar transience of the painter’s play in paint, the “music” he’s hearing in the making, and the obvious nuance and clarity he brings to it all. that stuff is very much the aboutness for me…
so the intensity and specificity of the invention going on in greenwold’s work is, for me, the aboutness of the work… perhaps even more than the idiosyncratic depictions. i just find the translation of the disparate elements and references into the works pretty interesting and really the core of the aboutness…
but doesn’t it just seem redundant when we say those things? There is such a fine line, if there is a line at all, between this ‘aboutness’ and the fact of the painting. the color, the tension , the music, the brushwork…IS the painting.
I used to write artist statements that basically stated that I am trying to “get it right.” Makes me think of cooking show chefs who always say “you don’t wanna overcook the pasta (etc.)”….you wanna cook it just right
‘aboutness’ is such a conscious term. I see all those things that most paintings are about: the music, the color, the making of the painting….as being really unconscious. the meaning comes about in the making of the painting. all those formal decisions aren’t premeditated, but come about when the painter is lost in the process of building. That is when the discovery comes in. And that thinking doesn’t feel like ‘aboutness’ to me. Matisse is about color, but he doesnt wake up and decide to make a painting about color. he just paints with color.
and again, doesn’t it seem redundant when we say such a thing? Like saying a novel is how the words flow into sentences and the sentences flow into paragraphs. Like saying music is about the notes, the strumming of the guitar, how the guitar plays off of the bass. artists in any medium respond to the work of others who work in the same medium via the making of the work. painters respond to the making of the painting. the subject is invisible, if not always, or even usually, then very, very, very often. or…painters look past the subject.
basically, the trickiness of aboutness has to do with painter/viewer.
i dig some of what you are saying here, but i call BS on saying matisse didn’t get up thinking about color. that’s like saying monet got up thinking about waterlilies and NOT about color, or image, or paint. yeah, i love disappearing into the intuitive building of the work, but for damn sure i think that my painting is as much about the way color and paint and shape and value and surface happen when i paint as it is about the subject matter.
the logic can be turned around. is a novel about words or about story, or about the way the story is told, OR about the implications of all these things together?
that’s right: it’s about it all together. that’s what i’m saying.
One more part of aboutness. I think it’s an aspect of what Matt calls “implications”, but worth singling out:
“The mystery of the work isn’t what it means or how it speaks, but why it is. How come it’s made that way, as opposed to another way? What are the implications of the existence of that work within the much larger lexicon or image bank that people have access to? Those are the questions that people want the work to answer for them.”
–Kerry James Marshall, from a conversation with Luc Tuymans published by BOMB, Summer 2005
Matisse definitely woke up thinking about color. dreamt, slept, shit, pist, and ate thinking about color. but, as i meant, did he make paintings that are ‘about’ color? Just as the novelist doesn’t think: I am going to make a novel about words.
Monet, Matisse, you, I, painters…would all define their work as being about the handling of the medium and the decision making (color, shape, proportion, tool, and so on). But that is a definition…the specifics are a different thing. If one puts in an artist statement that their work is ‘about the color,’ it doesn’t say much. the aboutness is the specifics: which color exactly, in which place on the canvas exactly, in which relationship exactly, in which shape. And these are decisions that are made in the painting. the result is the painting. in other words, Mondrian isn’t ABOUT tension….he (his painting) is tension. that specific note/tension in that instance.
the definition vs. the thing. aboutness. if we ask what mark greenwold’s painting is about, and answer ‘it’s the way that it is painted’ ….ultimately the aboutness can’t be put into words
Okay, Matisse: is about a choice not to be an academic; is about a choice not to be an impressionist; is about a relationship to the work of Picasso; is about a choice to employ sophisticated understanding of European pictorial traditions combined with a choice to employ a less sophisticated understanding of non-European pictorial traditions that excited many artists of the era; is about choosing to make paintings about emotive responses to color, line, pattern; is about a choice to continue making decorative and beautiful images during 2 different wars.
(I’m not naming these things to overstate and art historical read of Matisse. I’m just saying that Matisse made choices; choices have meaning and consequence.)
Matisse’s painting is about the fact that paintings about color, line, movement, pattern are felt to be important things to make paintings about. Matisse’s painting is about the fact that human beings want sensual experience to be in some way transcendent.
None of these things are an attempt to ultimately define Matisse’s paintings. Or to take away the mystery and magic.
Aboutness would just be an attempt to describe the fact that paintings have value that exists outside of form and content. Aboutness would just be an attempt to expand the valuation of painting to include the conditions of its making and the context, or discourse, in which it exists.
Once again I see alot of….well over analyzing of a painting. Did one ever stop to think that perhaps the artist is placing the figures in the space just to fill it for the sake of painting. I think the works are more about tricking people into believing they are more than they are. The artist is in every piece – why he knows himself well, the other characters are family and friends from photos he takes, no set up images either, photos taken at events, picnics, etc. The backgrounds are from magazines. To me these paintings are about the pure joy of creating a “full” image in a small space. They are more or less painted collages.
a bit late in the game perhaps (when was this thread written?) but I have been checking out Mark Greenwolds work today having never seen or heard of it, and was immediately taken into the realm of a VAN Eyck attitude towards painting,,,specifically the moral universe of the Arnolfini portrait updated to the late 20th early 21st century…I see his work coming more out of an attitude of great painting in history than a philosophical approach,,in the sense of about ness or what have you..
good work has these themes swirling around it and good painting survives poorly online,,,I would love to see these in person..