by Emilia Wrelton
When we think of art we think of images, of colours, of people, of objects. We think of stories, of understanding, of meaning and of intention. We think of experiencing the art in relation to the visual cues, so what happens when the visual cues are removed?
For centuries artists have created monochrome works by using different shades of brown or black. Grey oil paint in varying shades could be used to create such paintings, a technique known as grisaille, derived from the French word ‘gris’. In such work the element of chiaroscuro allowed the artist to create form and make an image.
In the twentieth century, with the rise of abstract art, monochrome paintings rose again to the forefront of the artistic sphere with galleries all over the globe hosting exhibitions of “invisible” art such as Paris’s Centre Pompidou and London’s Hayward Gallery. Artists such as Robert Ryman, Gianni Motti, Yves Klein, Lee Ufan all experimented with the method and ultimately, whether intentionally or unintentionally, created a new way of experiencing art that rendered the artist redundant.
Artist’s belonging to the movement had their own reasons for utilising this style, for example, the Korean monochrome movement, the Danseakhwa, rejected realism and formalism etc in favour of monochrome painting to highlight the post-war struggle within Korea over national identity, belonging and tradition by creating an aesthetic stye that was universal and belonged to no one.
However, if the art belongs to no one it is implied it also no longer belongs to the artist, or to the gallery or to the movement. A painting without context or without any content as such creates an absence. The blank canvases meaning then consists of absence and omission. The paradox created here is that if absence becomes the meaning, then the artwork is overflowing with meaning, meaning projected from the individual perceiving it, meaning inferred from the title, supposed meanings that can only be guessed at or perceived subjectively. The artwork then can no longer hold absence as its meaning, which illustrates the present/absent oscillation in the search for meaning in art itself.
Through creating a form that transcends identification it is thus exposed to apperception, the mental process by which a person makes sense of an idea by assimilating it to the body of ideas he or she already possesses. The art thus becomes a projection of the individual who is experiencing the art, thus the individual can only perceive their subjectivity towards the image or object. From this perspective, the influence of the author is a destructive presence in art. It can be seen as an attack on intentional reading, an illustration that any appeal made to the artist’s intention obscures and drowns out the potential of that work, the artist’s intention would overthrow any other possible and personal meanings that could be drawn from the work.