Painting, Discourse

Matthew Bowman, University of Suffolk, m.bowman@uos.ac.uk

Since the important As Painting exhibition held at the Wexner in 2001, there has been a growing reassessment of various currents of French painting that developed in the 1960s and 1970s. Collectives such as Supports/Surfaces and JANAPA have become better understood, as have the formative role of figures such as Simon Hantaï; further to this, well-established artists like Daniel Buren have been rescued from generalizing categories like “conceptual art” and the relevance of his practice as painting has been underscored.  Increasingly evident, too, is the conjunctions between these artists and a diverse conglomeration of intellectual positions—Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology, Blanchot’ writings, Althusserian structuralism, Lacanian psychoanalysis, and deconstruction—that became central to French “post-war” culture. Whilst these philosophies and theories conditioned developments in Anglo-American art, criticism, and history, the art practices that first engaged those theories remained obscure outside of the Francophone artworld.

This session understands the interrelations between painting and theory in the French scene as a ferment in which not only do painters respond to theoretical developments but those theories are determined by the practices of painting emergent in the period. Influential writings on art by figures such as Hubert Damisch, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Georges Didi-Huberman arguably cannot be fully understood without reference to those practices. Therefore, the hitherto scanty attention paid to French painting compels readdressing. Painting, Discourse thus invites scholars to contribute to overcome this art-historical lacuna. Moreover, it also encourages papers that explore the impact of this theory/painting ferment upon later art practices and theoretical understandings. 

Information about the speakers and papers on this panel will be posted shortly. 

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